Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Lent has kind of snuck up on me this year! But it's Ash Wednesday already. Papa Rooster will go up to Kenosha after work to conduct their first Ash Wednesday service, and I'll take the kids to our home church this evening. We all look forward to this beautifully sober service, rich in symbolism and appeal to the senses--kneeling, silence, darkness, the ashes of last year's Palm Sunday palms, the mark of the cross on the forehead.

On Ash Wednesday we are reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. It is the ultimate humbling, if we are willing to accept it. Our pride doesn’t want to admit we are nothing; it wants to cling in self-righteousness to our own achievements. But if we want to be raised up with Christ, then we must first humble ourselves. We must admit that without Him, we are nothing. Beth Moore, in her Bible study Breaking Free, says that she makes it a point to confess pride and self-sufficiency daily. It is the point of daily confession in liturgical traditions. But Ash Wednesday is a service set aside for believers to celebrate their identity as frail, weak, mortal, created beings. It is a profound humbling.

Celebrate our weakness? One of my favorite Scriptures is Psalm 103:14: “He knows our frame; He knows that we are but dust.” I hold up a strong exterior before the world. I look capable, confident, happy, “together.” But God knows my weak interior—and I find comfort in being known. I find peace in accepting my weaknesses—instead of rejecting them as I strive for perfection in my life. (Yes, I am a recovering perfectionist.) It is a relief to acknowledge my limitations—of time, of energy, of circumstances. God knows the weakness of my frame, He knows I am dust, and yet He loves me and wants me to lean on him for support. I don’t have to be my own strength. (So why do I try, so often?)

Ash Wednesday celebrates my weakness and dependence on God. And He never appears bigger and stronger than when I am feeling small and weak. It is good to be humbled and contrite before him, sure of his grace and his mercy—and his help!

Litany of Penitence

The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

The Celebrant continues

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

(The entire service is here.)

(Most of this post was taken from the archives.)


Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

Would you be willing to guest blog at Enjoy the Journey and talk about why Protestants should care about Lent? I'm getting SO many questions! :) You are perfect for the job. Let me know if interested.

At A Hen's Pace said...

(I answered Lindsey in an email.)