Ash Wednesday and Lent

Dear Church Family

Greetings on this Shrove Tuesday. Carol and I hope you enjoy your lockdown pancakes.

Bishop Paul is producing  a brief thought for each week in Lent. They focus on caring for ourselves, physically emotionally and spiritually. As you will have noticed he likes to get outside whenever possible and this reflection is presented in the snow!

(323) Living Well in Lent // Week 1: Bishop Paul Williams – YouTube

I have downloaded and adapted an act of worship that you might like to use on Ash Wednesday. I have added some personal thoughts and also some worship links.

A Home based act of worship for Ash Wednesday

Opening Hymn 40 Days and 40 Nights

(319) Forty Days And Forty Nights – YouTube

If you are using this as a household use it in this form otherwise you can use ‘I’ instead of ‘We’ as appropriate.

Opening Prayer

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good
His love endures forever. Into your presence we come, Lord
a few moments of quietness
in a busy world
that demands our attention
Breathe on us now
that we might know your presence
and your power
to see this day through.

Psalm 51

This is a familiar psalm but in a modern translation. Read it slowly. Does this translation bring out things you have never seen in the psalm before? I have always like this psalm’s image of making a clean and fresh start. It is particularly relevant as we approach a slow rebooting of normal life after lockdown.

(Psalm 51:1)  A David psalm, after he was confronted by Nathan about the affair with Bathsheba. Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.

(2)  Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.

(3)  I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down.

(4)  You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil. You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.

(5)  I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born.

(6)  What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

(7)  Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

(8)  Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing.

(9)  Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health.

(10)  God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

(11)  Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.

(12)  Bring me back from dark exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!

(13)  Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home.

(14)  Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.

(15)  Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise.

(16)  Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.

(17)  I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

(18)  Make Zion the place you delight in, repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.

(19)  Then you’ll get real worship from us, acts of worship small and large, Including all the bulls they can heave onto your altar!

Read the following prayer at your own pace. Pause to reflect. As well as reading the words, ask God to make them real for you in your current context.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;

According to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,

So that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Confession and Forgiveness

In the blazing light of your love
our failings are illuminated
our failure to give
our failure to love
our failure to follow
our failure to serve
our failure to be the people
you would have us be.
Forgive us and renew us.
You know our nature
know our failings
Enfold us in your arms
that we might daily know
your forgiveness and healing love.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness. Psalm 103.8

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

(322) Dear Lord and Father of mankind Hymn – Westminster Abbey (with lyrics) – YouTube

Reading – Matthew 4 1-11

(Mat 4:1)  Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil.

(Mat 4:2)  After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry.

(Mat 4:3)  Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”

(Mat 4:4)  But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’ “

(Mat 4:5)  Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple,

(Mat 4:6)  and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says, ‘God will give orders to his angels about you; they will hold you up with their hands, so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’ “

(Mat 4:7)  Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ “

(Mat 4:8)  Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness.

(Mat 4:9)  “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”

(Mat 4:10)  Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’ “

(Mat 4:11)  Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.

One thought struck me from this very familiar reading. Verse 11 tells us that the angels came and helped Jesus when he was exhausted after his time of trial. Many of my extended family members speak of the fatigue of this past 11 months. Those with young children and school age children feel it most. In a way it is an encouragement that Jesus, who showed such immense strength and fortitude through his 40 days of trial, needed support as it drew to an end.

For us help comes in many forms. We are helped by the support of others in all the creative ways that that support is shown. We are helped by our experience of faith and of coping with other crises that have come our way. We are helped by scripture and by personal worship as well as online resources. I saw on the news yesterday that one firm that caters for the needs of those with dementia has produced a doll designed to simulate a hug! Jesus received an angelic supportive embrace. By the power of the Spirit, we can ask for that kind of spiritual enfolding to envelope us in the love and affirmation of God.

This hymn talks of being enfolded in ‘His arms alone’.

(323) O God, Our Help in Ages P  ast (Grace Community Church) – YouTube

Lord, grant us simplicity of faith
And a generosity of service
That gives without counting cost
A life overflowing with Grace
Poured out from the One
Who gave everything
That we might show
The power of love
To a broken world
And share the truth
From a living Word
Lord, grant us simplicity of faith
And a yearning to share it


May we know the love of the heavenly Father deep in our hearts
May we understand our significance in the centre of His family,
and the bonds that hold us so close as brother and sister
May we understand the lengths that He was prepared to go for all mankind
and freely respond in the Today which he has given for us to cherish.
All: Amen
Let us bless the Lord.
ALL: Thanks be to God.

May God Bless you during Lent.

Alan Howe