FAST: Ash Wednesday: Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the traditional 40 days of prayer, fasting, reflection and repentance that precedes the great Easter celebrations. Just as Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness learning to overcome the Enemy, so we set this time aside for spiritual warfare and renewal. It is common during this time to imitate the simplicity of Jesus in the wilderness by abstaining from rich foods and strong drink, and to devote extra time to the practice of the spiritual disciplines.
Ash Wednesday, being the first day of this season is marked by a Greater Fast, where it is common to abstain from all food and drink (with the exception of water) and devote as much time as you can to prayer, the examination of the conscience and to repentance, confession and putting things right with other people. The daily intercessions throughout the entire Lenten season reflect this focus, and drill deeply into our selfish attitudes and sinful actions.
CALL TO WORSHIP
God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
A psalm of David.
Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory. Interlude
The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
(A short time of worship and thanksgiving, led or spontaneous. Alternatively a devotional song may be played and listened to.)
OLD TESTAMENT READING
Change Your Hearts
The Lord says, “Even now, come back to me with all your heart.
Fast, cry, and be sad.”
Tearing your clothes is not enough to show you are sad;
let your heart be broken.
Come back to the Lord your God,
because he is kind and shows mercy.
He doesn’t become angry quickly,
and he has great love.
He can change his mind about doing harm.
Who knows? Maybe he will turn back to you
and leave behind a blessing for you.
Grain and drink offerings belong to the Lord your God.
Blow the trumpet in Jerusalem;
call for a day when everyone fasts.
Tell everyone to stop work.
Bring the people together
and make the meeting holy for the Lord.
Bring together the elders,
as well as the children,
and even babies that still feed at their mothers’ breasts.
The bridegroom should come from his room,
the bride from her bedroom.
The priests, the Lord’s servants, should cry
between the altar and the entrance to the Temple.
They should say, “Lord, have mercy on your people.
Don’t let them be put to shame;
don’t let other nations make fun of them.
Don’t let people in other nations ask,
‘Where is their God?’”
The Lord Restores the Land
Then the Lord became concerned about his land
and felt sorry for his people.
He said to them:
“I will send you grain, new wine, and olive oil,
so that you will have plenty.
No more will I shame you
among the nations.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Pause for Reflection……
(Take a moment to bring to God any issues that have arisen during the morning. You may like to end with the following prayer…)
Holy Spirit, guide us through the rest of our day.
May we know your wisdom in our hearts,
Your strength in our bodies,
And your peace in our lives. Amen
Lord God, we thank you for your gift to us of this food;
Produce of earth, sky, many living beings, and much hard work.
May we eat with prayerfulness, gratitude and moderation;
With renewed minds and spirit-controlled appetites.
May we eat with compassion for those who hunger today,
And in such a way that reduces the suffering of all creatures;
Healing and preserving our precious planet.
Use this food to strengthen our bodies, revive our spirits,
Nurture our family and nourish our resolve;
That we may continue to serve all that lives with all our life. Amen
Psalms in Bold – Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved
All other Psalms – Scripture quotations are taken from The Living Bible copyright © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
All other Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.