Ash Wednesday Year B

February 14, 2024
Ash Wednesday

Say No Lenten Series: “Hypocrisy”

Gathering Moment Ritual “Say No”
*Note: invite the assembly (onsite and online) to a time of quiet and stillness. Complete silence is not necessary, but use of clearly recognizable music may interfere with the quieting of the mind. Use of a simple drumbeat, singing bowl, or sounds of nature would help set a meditative tone. Distribute small sheets of paper with the following instruction:

Say No. During the season of Lent, we will embark on a journey of exploring the sacredness of saying “No” to what does not serve us or God. In preparation, please write a word or two sharing what you might commit to saying “no” to during this season.

You have the option of collecting these as a communal practice or encourage worshippers to keep these sheets during Lent as a reminder. Foster participation by online worshippers by copying the instructions in the comments or chat of your broadcast platform and/or creating a digital version of the handout to print.

This activity may also be used in an “Ashes to Go” ministry along with the Prayer for Transformation and New Life.

Call to Worship (Inspired by Joel 2)
Gather the people. Prepare a holy meeting.
Today, we acknowledge the fragility and preciousness of life.
Gather the people. Return to God with our whole selves–mind, body, and spirit.
We rend our hearts not our clothes. We open ourselves to the pain of the world with compassion and grace in the way of Jesus.
Gather the people. Seek the Holy One gathered with us.
We offer a sacrifice of praise. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, we are here to worship!

Giver of Life, we honor your presence among us. Receive our words praising you, our prayers seeking you, and our hopes needing you. Bind us as a community that declares the greatness of your name, affirms the belovedness of your holy creation, and witnesses and workers in the kindom. Dwell in the places that we gather as we encounter you anew. Amen.

Prayer for Transformation and New Life (inspired by Psalm 51)
Holy One, have mercy upon us, according to your faithful love. Create in us a heart for love, justice, and righteousness. Replace any guilt or shame with the hope of new life teeming with mercy and grace. Send your Spirit to be our companion in the choices we make and the ways that we relate to one another. Let hypocrisy be offensive to us, and honesty, humility, and truth become irresistible in our being. You have turned our dust into something marvelous. Let us honor you by living our days in faith, in connection, and in covenant with you and human siblings. Renew us, O God, we pray.

Words of Grace (inspired by Psalm 51)
Children of God, the faithful and loving embrace of Creator knows our hidden places and wants our truth. Our Comforter knows our struggles and sadness and restores joy and celebration in our lives. The One who comes to us creates the newness of life in us. The God who delivers saves us from the injustice, hopelessness, and violence of the world by renewing our spirit, expanding our voice, and receiving our broken spirits as the canvas of a new creation.

Pastoral Prayer
Righteous and Just God, your kindom is everlasting. You reign with truth and compassion. The grief of the world resonates within our bones. We ask you to intervene in the hearts and minds that have been hardened by comfort and complacency, by avarice and greed, by power and violence. We seek a world in which the needs of all are met by the sharing of the abundance you have created. We believe in the ministry of healing in which all are well–mentally, physically, relationally, financially, and spiritually. We lift up every concern that we carry in the recesses of our being, trusting that you know our needs and care for our condition. Redeeming God, release your power among us so that we may be instruments and ambassadors in your kindom. Reconcile us to your ministry so that we may be faithful and break out like the dawn proclaiming the day of salvation and abiding peace.
Committed to your good news, we pray as Jesus taught us, saying:
Our [Parent] who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
10 Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth
as it’s done in heaven.
11 Give us the bread we need for today.
12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those
who have wronged us.
13 And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
(Matthew 6:9-13 CEB)

*Note: Using a different translation encourages worshippers to show down and consider the meaning of the prayer.

Communion and Marking with Ashes
Beloved, the Holy One has set the table before us with bread and wine and offered the gift of Holy Presence among us. Like that first supper, we bring uncertainty of our future, the heaviness of the world, and the hope that following Jesus makes a difference. Whatever you carry or hold, know that this table has a place for you, all of us, to be who we are and hope for what we hope to be. Welcome to the hospitality of the One Who Was, and Is, and Is to Come.

We accept the invitation to commune with Jesus and one another as a community of God’s people.

Holy, holy, holy is our Redeemer, Sibling, and Friend who lives and reigns. Blessed is our God who comes to us!

On the night of betrayal, desertion, and despair, Jesus gathered with disciples for a meal. Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples, saying: “This is my body, which is for you. Eat this bread in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper, Jesus took the cup, gave thanks for it, and gave it to the disciples, saying: “This is the cup of the new covenant. Drink this cup in remembrance of me.”

As we receive the bread and the cup, we proclaim that Christ lived and died, Christ rose and lived, Christ lives and will come again.

Eternal God, the table has been spread with divine mercy and favor, creation’s bounty, and human effort. Please send the Holy Spirit to bless and consecrate these gifts as you bless and sanctify your people who gather among you this day. Restore to us the joy of salvation and the sacredness of our lives in spirit and in truth.

Bless this feast as we dine with you, Source, Christ, and Spirit.

Sharing of Bread and Cup:
Receive the bread of heaven. Receive the cup of blessing.

Marking with Ashes
*Note: All are invited to come forward to receive ashes on their foreheads or hands; the leaders say to each:

“Remember that you are God’s beloved dust, and to God’s beloved dust you shall return.”

Let us pray: Loving God, thank you for your presence and provision at this holy meal. Renew and strengthen our connections with human siblings throughout the world and your church. Make us faithful in proclaiming the mystery of faith, the gospel of liberation, and the fullness of life in the way of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Invitation to Generosity
In Isaiah 58, the prophet reminds us that God does not ask us to engage in meaningless sacrifice. Rather, The Holy One says,

7 Isn’t it sharing your bread
with the hungry
and bringing the homeless poor
into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family? (Isaiah 58:7)

May the gifts that we bring be more than sacrifice. May they be acceptable to the Holy One and provision to those in parched places.

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication
Generous God, we thank you for opening our hearts to those in need, for providing abundantly for our needs, and for using us to water your garden and as menders of brokenness. Amen.

Go into the world marked internally and externally by the reminder that you have been crafted by God, you are a vessel of God, and you are beloved by God. Fill the world with that love. Say no to hypocrisy. Say no to meaningless sacrifice. Say yes to God’s guidance, peace, and restoration.

Hypocrisy: Service Prayers for Ash Wednesday Year B was written by The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology, United Church of Christ.