Last night night our church hosted an Ash Wednesday service. It was one of two in our community. The other was at the Catholic church. We promoted the service as a time of repentance – renewal – reconciliation. The Wesleyan Church is more of a free-worship tradition rather than a liturgical tradition, but this is one of several services during the year that I stick with a solid liturgy. The liturgy that we used was based on the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer. It was an amazing service as we sang songs together…read the scriptures…looked that what those scriptures meant – by the way the text of the homily is in the post below this one. Then we proceeded to impose the ashes. One of the things that I did differently was made the sign of the cross on the back of the hands of the people. One of the reasons for that was a conviction that I have that we shouldn’t do these things in a showy way.
Since we don’t usually say things by rote the imposition of ashes was interesting as we tried to recall the words “You are dust and to dust you will return. Repent from your sin and be faithful to the Gospel” as we made the sign of the cross. It was a reminder of the mark that sin makes in our lives, but in the sign of a cross that points to our salvation. It was powerful as I watched members of our community (many from other churches) and our own congregation come forward.
One of the thoughts I had was the mess that the ashes made. It is true that sin in our life can cause a mess, without the help of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to rid ourselves of the mess that sin makes in our lives. I almost imagine how the priests in the Old Testament felt, when people would come time and time again to repent of their sins.
Following the imposition of ashes and reading corporately Psalm 51, we entered a time around the Lord’s Table. One of the highlights for me was reading the litany called “The Great Thanksgiving.” I normally don’t get emotional while doing that, but the words were so powerful.
Like I said, it was a powerful and moving service for all who attended and I believe it will be part of a growing tradition in our community.B