Ash Wednesday Confession, NL Year 2

Prayer of Confession (based on Psalm 32:1-5)

One: When the psalmists did not know what to say, they built pauses into their prayers with the word “Selah.” (Say-lah.) As we enter a time of prayer, we will mark our silences with the same word. Selah.

Many: Selah.

One: Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Many: It is a good feeling to be forgiven, to know God cares for us enough to take care of everything.

One: Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Many: When we have done things well, God can see it. When we have been honest, God will know.

One: While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

Many: O God, you knew all the things on my mind, but they still weighed heavily on me. 

One: For day and night your hand was heavy upon me.

Many: I cannot hide things from you.

One: My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

All: Selah

(A time of silence.)

One: Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity.

Many: I opened my heart to you, Lord.

One: I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

Many: I did confess. I do confess.

One: And you forgave the guilt of my sin. 

All: Selah

(A time of silence.)

*Imposition of Ashes

Please come forward for ashes if you wish.  (We sang a Kyrie during the imposition of Ashes.)

Assurance of Pardon

One: Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Many: It is a good feeling to be forgiven.

One: God hears our prayers and forgives us. This is the Good News that brings new life.

All: We thank God for it. 

A cross drawn in ashes
Ash Wednesday, Lent, Reflectionary

Charred Hosannas

Sunday before last, someone sitting close wore cologne that irritated a tickle in my throat. In these first months of my unintentional retirement from parish ministry, I have moments of missing the refuge of the chancel, where we have become allergy-sensitive, even ordering stamen-free Easter lilies.

When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear. (Luke 1:12, CEB)
Yet Zechariah went into the Lord’s sanctuary for the hour of burning incense, to thicken the air with scent, as pungent as the cloud that startled me the first time I burned the previous year’s palms in my fireplace.
blackened-hosannasSweet and acrid, it filled my head: caramelized palm, charred hosannas.
You can buy a pouch of tidy ashes from Amazon – I have – but I long for those inefficiently rendered fronds, smoldering on a piece of foil while I sat overcome near the fireplace grate.

Holy One, may the fragrance of Your presence never cease to startle and overcome us. Amen.

I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? I’m using the Common English Bible; tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 1:26-56. Full schedule can be found here.

Ash Wednesday, Prayers for Pastors

Where did I put the ashes? (An Ash Wednesday Prayer for Pastors)

It’s the opposite of Christmas.
I wake up with a feeling of dread.
Where did I put the ashes?
How will I coordinate bread and cup and bowl?
Oh, no, is that the cat throwing up?

Meanwhile, the child prepares for school,
and I flash back to older children,
standing with their backpacks on,
that time we tried an early morning service
and no one else came.

Foreheads marked with smudges,
up and down, and left to right,
they disappeared into their schools,
carrying something of us and You
into a place where few understood.

Not that we understood completely,
how the ashes of last year’s palms,
palms we burned ourselves in the fireplace,
become extraordinary, ineffable,
by mixing with oil.

I’m terrible at the mechanics of it,
but I love the idea that we mark
the season and move with Jesus
toward that week in Jerusalem,
reading and praying his story.

I love the idea, but I worry about
the proportion of ash to oil,
how the people will move from
bread and cup to bowl,
or bowl to bread and cup.

AshesMeanwhile, outside my head,
a biome project is planned,
and someone is texting me,
and it’s time to get out of bed
and clean up the mess

and hunt up the pouch of ashes,
this year ordered on the Internet,
yet still a wonder, still a sign
that we are dust, Your dust,
and to dust we will return.