Ash Wednesday: a liturgy of stones

Based on Psalm 51 and John 8:1-11

Call to worship (based on Psalm 51)
Have mercy on us O God,
according to Your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to Your great compassion!
Wash us completely clean of our guilt.
Purify us from our sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
my guilt weighs heavily within my hands.
We’ve sinned against You – You alone,
committed evil in Your sight.
Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin;
from the moment my mother conceived me I’ve wanted to go my own way.
That’s why You are justified when You render Your verdict,
completely correct when You issue Your judgment.
Purify me with hyssop
and I will be clean.
Wash me and I will be
whiter than snow.
Create a clean heart for me, O God;
and put a new and faithful spirit
deep inside me!

Prayer
O Lord, Your love for us is too vast for us to comprehend;
its height and width and length and breadth
beyond our shallow imaginings.
Your glory is indescribable,
Your mercy incomparable,
Your faithfulness like nothing
we have ever known.

When we consider who You are
and what You have done for our sake,
we should fall to our knees
in awe and trembling,
knowing how unworthy we are
to enter into Your Holy presence –
so full of sin and selfish ambition.
Instead, we spend our days trying to
build our own kingdoms,
elevating ourselves above all others,
isolating ourselves in a tower of Babel
built stone by stone with selfish hands.

When we consider who You are
and what You have done for our sake,
we should fall to our knees
in awe and trembling,
knowing how unworthy we are
to enter into Your Loving Presence –
so full of judgement and hatred and envy.
Instead, we spend our days casting stones at others:
Words designed to hurt and harm,
Slurs and slander to tear down what we have not earned and do not have,
Judgements and criticisms that cover our own fears and inadequacies.

When we consider who You are
and what You have done for our sake,
we should fall to our knees
in awe and trembling,
knowing how unworthy we are
to enter into Your Perfect Presence –
so full of half-hearted commitment and excuses for not following in Your way.

Instead, we harden our hearts against You and tell You to take us just as we are.
We deafen our ears through the noise of our lives
that Your still, small voice may not disturb us in our guilty pleasure.
We justify our failures, our bad choices, our addictions
though they keep us from wholeness and newness and real life.

Here, at the start of this season of Lent, we sit with the weight of our choices,
our sinfulness, our selfishness in the palm of our hand.
And we know that we are unworthy –
unholy, unloving, imperfect.

Silence is kept

But we remember how on the night that You were betrayed,
You took bread and broke it and gave it
to those who would follow, to those who would fail,
to those who would deny and betray.
This is Your body – broken for me.
I will eat in remembrance of You.

In the same way You took the cup, gave thanks and gave it
to those who would falter, to those who would fall,
to those who would doubt and hide away.
This is Your blood – poured out for me, for the forgiveness of my sin.
I will drink in remembrance of You.

Here, at the start of this season of Lent,
we come to Your table, Lord, knowing that we are unworthy, unholy, unloving and imperfect,
and we fall on our knees in awe and in trembling at who You are
and at what You have done for our sake …
… for my sake.
Amen.

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