Worship Connection: Ash Wednesday

January 14th, 2019


Call to Worship #1:

L: Let all the inhabitants of the earth tremble, for the Lord is near!
P: Have mercy upon us, O Lord.
L: The night of darkness is upon us - we await in fear.
P: Have mercy upon us, O Lord.
L: Spare your people, O Lord. Heal and prepare us for service.
P: Let your love and healing mercies flood through us, Lord. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2:

L: This is a night for contemplation.
P: There is little rejoicing this night.
L: The time of learning and testing is at hand.
P: Strengthen us and give us courage, O Lord. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3:

[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2273 “Jesus, We Are Here”, have a soloist sing each verse as directed]
L: In the midst of darkness we have come.
P: Heal us, Lord Jesus.
Soloist: singing verse 1 “Jesus, we are here”
L: Save us from the darkness of our souls.
P: Save us, Lord Jesus.
Soloist: singing verse 2 “Savior, we are here”
L: Let us follow you and obey your commands
P: Direct and guide us, Lord Jesus.
Soloist: singing verse 3 “Master, we are here”
L: Brighten our lives and lift our spirits.
P: Bring us to your glorious presence, Lord Jesus.
Soloist: singing verse 4 “Spirit, we are here”

Call to Worship #4:

L: Come into the light!
P: We know the darkness better. The Light frightens us.
L: Come into the presence of Love.
P: Our fears and doubts overwhelm us. We feel unable to move.
L: Come let God’s love wash away your sorrow.
P: Please help us. We are filled with fear and sorrow. Bring us healing. AMEN.


Opening Prayer:

Lord, help us to know your powerful presence this night. We have come to this place shrouded in darkness both of night and of spirit. Bring us to your healing light. Lift our souls and spirits to receive your direction. In Christ’s Name, we pray. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession:

Just last Sunday we experienced such joy! We were on the mountain top with Jesus, witnessing his conversation with Moses and Elijah. Now we have been cast into the darkness. And this darkness is deeper than night - it is the darkness of the unknown. Tonight we will hear words that will chill our spirits. We will receive the mark of the ashes and be reminded of the sacrifice and commitment we are about to make for the journey. Forgive us for our fears and hesitancy, Lord. Heal our spirits. Enable us to enter into this time of learning and testing with courage and trust. For we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Words of Assurance:

The night is dark, but there is a Light which has overcome the darkness. He is the Light of the World - he will illuminate your pathway. Place your trust in him. AMEN.

Pastoral Prayer:

Tonight we receive the smudges of ashes. We come forward and are marked as disciples, as those who have been called, cleansed, forgiven, and healed. We do not step foot on this journey lightly - for it will not be easy. There will be times of great joy and wonder; and there will be times of confusion and fear. But through all of this, God is with us, guiding, comforting, leading us. We have raised in prayer names of those we love who need your healing mercies, O Lord. We have lifted up situations of pain, loneliness in confidence of your amazing grace. Though the night is dark, and there is much darkness in the world, we will place our trust in your Son, whom you have blessed and given to us. Help us to follow in His steps and place our trust in Him as we enter this Lenten journey; for it is in His name that we pray. AMEN.


[Note: this may be used as the prelude to the imposition of the ashes, and should be done very thoughtfully, not rushed, shouted, or whispered]

Leader: Tonight you have heard the words of instruction, to pray in sincerity, to give of yourself and your substance for the benefit of others and not for your own recognition, to reach out in service expecting no reward, to face honestly who you are. We all have instances in our lives that bring us sorrow, shame, sadness. We all feel unworthy of following Christ into the Lenten journey. But Jesus has proclaimed us ready. He has offered to us the path of Light and hope.

Reader 1: I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly. I have given to you treasures, which are not to be collected, stored, and locked up - they are gifts to be used for others, for hope, healing, restoration.

Reader 2: Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew right and wholesome spirits within us. Restore us to the joy of your salvation, for it is in you that we place our hope.

Leader: Come, now to the place where you will receive the mark of forgiveness and discipleship. Enter the journey which will lead to your healing and hope. Come, for all is ready.

Note: Have the ushers lead the people forward to where they will receive the mark of the ashes, either on their forehead or on the back of their left hand. The Worship Leader or the Pastor will place the ashes on the communicant, then they will return to their seat. When all have received the ashes, you may offer the following words:

Leader: God so loved God’s world, that the Son was sent to it, that healing and hope may be found. He is the Light of the World and in His Name, you have received the mark of discipleship. Lord, bless these people, who have received this mark. Heal and restore them. Help them to become true disciples, serving you all their days. In Jesus’ Name we pray. AMEN

Benediction: Though the night is dark, the Light of the world goes before you. God guides your steps and surrounds your life. Go in peace, ready to serve the One who has always loved you. AMEN.


The traditional color for this evening is PURPLE or GRAY

Note: Consider putting a brief paragraph describing or explaining the symbolism used in your visual display in the worship bulletin. This a good teaching tool for the congregation.


Risers: Any structure or support which will raise a portion of worship center above the main level. Some risers may be a stack of books; others may be made from wood or whatever will give the necessary support to the object which is going to be placed on the riser. I also refer to benches or tables which may be placed to the side or in front of the worship center as risers. I have used pieces of 2”x 4” wood, stacked on top of each other to achieve the height I desired. Most of the time, the risers will be covered with fabric.

Worship Center: Because so many churches have different worship spaces, I have chosen to call the main space for worship display: the worship center. In some instances it may be referred to as the altar, the communion table, a platform - whatever is the focal point of the worship area.

Flowers/plants: I am not a “purist”, if the definition means having only live flowers and plants in the chancel/worship area. I believe that there are some really beautiful silk flowers which will suffice in times when live plants are not available. However, go with the tradition of your local church. Generally speaking, I like to use foliage plants (non-flowering or minimally flowering) as accent pieces. “Spiky” plants, such as: mother-in-law’s tongue, snake plant, are good when you desire a harsh, hard, angular effect. Fern (especially asparagus or Boston) are wonderful along with some ivys, to soften the effect.

Puddling the fabric: Currently interior decorators use the technique with draperies of letting the fabric spill to the floor in a heap, sort of a puddle. It is a less formal design. Puddling the fabric means not creating even, smooth edges (creating a flat panel).


SURFACE: Place several risers on the worship center. The tallest riser, approximately 1 foot above the main level of the worship center, should be placed to the upper left as you are facing the worship center. The other risers, about 4-6” high, may be placed, one at the center and the other slightly to the right of the middle one.

FABRIC: Cover the worship center with dark, purple fabric, so that it puddles down onto the floor. .

CANDLES: On the middle riser, place a white pillar candle, about 10” high, representing Christ. .Place a votive candle on each of the other risers

FLOWERS/PLANTS: No plants should be placed on the worship center.

ROCKS/WOOD: Piles of rocks and sticks may be placed at the base of the worship center near the dark fabric, to represent roughness and rubble.

OTHER: A brass cross may be placed on the top riser on the worship center with the Christ Candle. Place a layer of plastic wrap down on the worship center, carefully so that the ashes will not spill onto the fabric. Place an earthen ware pot or bowl on its side and have some ashes spilling out of it onto the plastic wrap. Have another bowl with ashes placed on a stand for the Pastor, so that he/she may be able to place the marks on each member of the congregation.

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