Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday Liturgy & Songs

From dust we were made and to dust we return (Ecclesiastes 3:20). Apart from Christ ("Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made," John 1:3), our lives are a struggle in the smoke, often revealed as brittle and burnt to ash by the fires of our selfishness, sin, and apathy (Genesis 18:27; Job 34:14-15). This is the vivid reminder of Ash Wednesday with its imposition of ashes onto our foreheads. With Christ, however, we rise like the phoenix from the ashes into something ever new and everlasting ("For if we have been united with Christ in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His," Romans 6:5; "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17). 

Lenten Liturgy of Prayer, Song, Word, Ashes, Spirit, and Life

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of self-examination, reflection, and preparation for seeing with unveiled eyes the death and resurrection of Jesus. While it is an ancient tradition, it also powerfully speaks to our modern condition because it calls us to engage in renewal. Theologian Robert Webber reminds us:

We too easily forget our Maker and Redeemer, replacing God with things and ambition. Lent is the season that calls us back to God, back to basics, back to the spiritual realities of life. It calls us to put to death the sin and the indifference we have in our hearts toward God and our fellow persons. And it beckons us to enter once again into the joy of the Lord, the joy of a new life born out of a death to the old life. Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year

Call to Worship

We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life. But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy—your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. + Isaiah 26:18-19

I Need Thee Every Hour

Annie Hawks, 1872 A.D.

I need Thee every hour, 
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine 

Can peace afford.

I need Thee every hour, 
Stay Thou near by;
Temptations lose their power 

When Thou art nigh.

I need Thee, O I need Thee, 
Every hour I need Thee!
I need Thee, I need Thee, 
I need Thee every hour!
I need Thee, I need Thee, 
I need Thee every hour!

I need Thee every hour, 
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide 

Or life's in vain. (Chorus)

Oh, bless me now, my Savior, 

I come to Thee,
Oh, bless me now, my Savior, 

I come to Thee!
I need Thee every hour, 

Teach me Thy will,
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill!

Invitation to the Observance of the Lenten Discipline
Children and adults, young and old: This season of Lent is a time of preparation, a time to make room in our lives for the Spirit of God to renew us. We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need to turn back to Jesus, the Creator and Redeemer of our lives, to admit again our need for the love and forgiveness of God shown to us in the One who became flesh for us. We invite each other together in the name of Christ to observe this season of Lent, by reading and reflecting on God's Holy Word, by being still in solitude and self-examination, by prayer and fasting, and by practicing works of generosity and love.

Silent Reflection

Father, fill us with Your love and show us Your mercy as we begin this journey into Lent. We seek to follow You, Jesus. Lead us by Your Spirit into a season of preparation and of growing faith. Amen. 

Homily: United with Jesus & Relenting from Life on Our Own

1) Lent is Being United with Jesus in the Desert Spaces + Matthew 3:16–4:2:
 As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After He had fasted forty days and forty nights ...

+ Lent is wilderness space we enter into to depend on God rather than earthly comforts. But we never do it alone. Jesus can use Lent to disciple us to take on this dangerous, dusty journey with Him by power of the Holy Spirit instead of just our own strength.
+ Actions: Fast from desires we think we need; fast from testing God; fast from shortcuts to control

2) Lent is Being United with Jesus in Fasting for Freeing Others (and Ourselves) + Isaiah 58:6-7: 
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

+ Fasting is not about what we can give up for God to earn His attention or approval. Fasting is about pulling back the veil and revealing what God has already given us. … When we give up something we use for comfort or stability regularly, we then have regular reminders throughout the day of our need to reach out to God and each other rather than our wallets, stomachs, phones, etc. Jesus can use Lent to disciple us to loosen the chains of self-focus and selflessly give to others. 
+ Action: Save $ Spent on a Meal to Give to IJM, World Renew, Resonate, PLC, Underground, Lunch w/ Co-Worker

3) Lent is Being United with Jesus in Our Commissioning + Acts 13:1-3: Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Lent disciples us to focus on who we already are as God’s people, witnesses sent to neighbors and nations. 
+ Action: Pray at 9:38 a.m. &/or p.m. to become laborer with Jesus and of Jesus for Worcester; pray at 11:08 a.m. &/or p.m. with shameless boldness and persistence for the Holy Spirit to fill you during Lent

Thy Mercy My God

John Stocker, 1776 A.D.

Thy mercy, my God,
Is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart, 
And the boast of my tongue.
Thy free grace alone, 
From the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, 
And bound my soul fast.

Without Thy sweet mercy 
I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me 
To utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, 
My spirits revive,
And He that first made me 
Still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than 
A match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel 
Its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, 
I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise 
Of the mercy I've found.

Great Father of mercies, 
Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of 
Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit 
Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, 
And righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit 
Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, 
And righteousness mine!

Prayer: Almighty God, You have created us out of the dust of the earth: May these ashes be a sign of our mortality, humility, and need. Help us always remember that it is only by Your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Imposition of Ashes + Genesis 3:19Romans 6:11
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.

Lord, I Need You
Chris Tomlin, 2011 A.D.

Lord, I come, I confess,
Bowing here I find my rest.
Without You I fall apart.
You're the One that guides my heart.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You,
Every hour I need You;
My one defense,
My righteousness,
Oh God, how I need You!

Where sin runs deep,
Your grace is more.
Where grace is found is
Where You are.
And where You are,
Lord, I am free,
Holiness is Christ in me!

Teach my song to rise to You.
When temptation comes my way,
And when I cannot stand, I'll fall on You.
Jesus, You're my hope and stay! (Chorus)

Call: Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we, free from sins, might live for righteousness; by His wounds we have been healed.” Know that you are forgiven, and be at peace (I Peter 2:24)
Response: Thanks be to God!

Call: Ever mindful of our need and through humble reliance on Christ alone, now let us go forth to serve the world as those who love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
Response: Thanks be to God!

Benediction: Almighty God, You have created us out of the dust of the earth. May these ashes be a sign of our mortality and need for Your resurrection, and a reminder that only by your gracious gift are we given everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Savior. Now may God the Father, who does not despise the broken spirit, give each of you a contrite heart. May Christ, who bore our sins in His body on the tree, heal each of you by His wounds. May the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth, speak to you words of pardon and peace. And may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

To read more about Lent, check out: Bread & Wine | An Introduction to Lent.

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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