Ash Wednesday 2012

Below are the prayer stations I used last week for my church's ( Ash Wednesday service. There were five stations total. To begin the service we had a time of worship with music. I then explained the stations and allowed everyone to flow at their own pace to which ever stations they wanted. Afterward we gathered back together for a time of communion. It was probably one of the most powerful Ash Wednesday services I have ever been a part of.

Psalm 51:10-12
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right  spirit within me
11Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit

Reflection: One of the ways in which we can understand Lent is to see it as “Spring Cleaning.” Just as we will clean our houses in preparation for a visit from a special guest, so we take time to examine our lives in preparation for our encounter with the risen Christ at Easter. Are there closets where you store past resentments? Clean them out! Is there a sink full of dishes with the residue of negative behaviors? Start scrubbing!

Action: Dip your hands into the water in the bowl on the table before you, and wipe your hands dry on the cloth provided. As you do so, reflect on what your life could be like, thoroughly rinsed with God’s love. Take a marble as a reminder of God’s cleansing love.

Lamentations 3:19-23
19The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
20My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
21But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Reflection: The author of Lamentations spends most of his time complaining, both about the world’s afflictions and his own. One thought gives him or her peace: the steadfast love of God. The knowledge of God’s unshakable love, even in the midst of trouble, is finally the grease which makes the squeaky wheel of lamentation fall silent.

Action: Dip your finger in the oil in the bowl on the table before you and smooth it onto the back of your hand. As you do, reflect on the parts of your life which are stiff and squeaky – places where you are stuck, places which give you cause for continual complaint. Consider how the love of God might lubricate these parts of your life, renewing them, making them usable in a way they have not been before.

Genesis 3:19c
19 “…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Reflection: Ash Wednesday used to begin a season of 40 days of deadly serious penance. It included a type of fasting far stricter than most diets today, embracing the absence of all life’s pleasures and enjoyments. There is evidence that marking the face or body with ashes began in Gaul in the 6th century and was at first confined to public penitents doing penance for grace and notorious sin, whom the clergy tried to comfort and encourage by submitting themselves to the same public humiliation. For our spiritual ancestors, the people of Jewish and other Near Eastern cultures, wearing ashes was a sign of mourning and lamenting. Ashes were usually associated with sackcloth, which was the clothing worn to mourn the death of a beloved or to lament a personal or communal disaster. Humans are the only species we know of who are capable of contemplating their own death. Yet few of us do. Ash Wednesday challenges us to reflect on our own death so that we can truly embrace life. The mark of ashes reminds us that only by a Christ-like death can we experience the promise of Easter’s life.

Action: Dip your finger in the charcoal and make a cross on the back of your hand. Press firmly. (It may work best in the same spot where you have already rubbed in the oil.) Reflect on the gift of life over death symbolized by the cross. Offer this prayer: O God, may I often remember the symbol of the cross upon my hand and say, “I am dust that will return to dust, yet in You I trust.”

Isaiah 35:1-10
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and those the LORD has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Reflection: What areas of your life are dry? Your relationship with God? Your relationship with others? Do you often feel as though you are lost in a desert with no water in sight? Often our lives remain dry because we refuse to let go and allow God to fill us with His refreshing water.

Action: Pick up a  handful of sand and grip it tightly. Think about the things in your life you have been gripping to tightly. How have those things contributed to your dryness? As you open your hand and allow the sand to run through your fingers, pray for God to bring a wellspring of life and living waters to the areas of your life that are dry.

Romans 6:4-10
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Reflection: To many times we try to move past the things in our lives that are holding us back. We attempt this on our own power and never ask God to help. What would it be like if we finally gave God the control and freedom to do whatever it takes to free us from our sins and burdens? As we give these things God what can you take on in it’s place? What can be done to fill the void left in your spirit to draw you closer to Christ.

Action: Take your commitments that you wrote on your paper and roll it up. Place it in the cross as a symbol of what you are giving to God this lent season.


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