Come with me into the sanctuary tonight for the Ash Wednesday Service, the start of Lent. Read with me two important bulletin notes which help set the appropriate spiritual mood and atmosphere for this service and this season.
First, a note about our music tonight: “One of the unique characteristics of Lent is its music. The words and melodies of Lenten music are often more solemn and reverent, reflecting the repentant nature of the season. Tonight our hymns and music during Communion are all from the selection of music specifically designated as Lenten music. Please pay particular attention and let our Lenten music enhance your spiritual journey through this dynamic liturgical season.”
Second, a note about our paraments (altar “hangings”): “The deep purple color is symbolic of the repentant and reflective mood of the Lenten season. Dominant is the cross, which is our focus particularly in Lent. Also depicted are the remnant of cloth, the crown of thorns, and the letters I N R I, which stand for the sign above Jesus’s head as he hung on the cross: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.’ These paraments will remain until they are ‘stripped’ from their places for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, leaving the stark, bare absence of color, representing Jesus in the tomb. Of course, Easter morning gives rise to the brilliance of the white paraments and Easter lilies.”
Besides Scripture, the imposition of ashes to our foreheads, and Holy Communion, the heart of this worship is the time of Confession and Forgiveness. We join it here:
Pastor: Brothers and sisters, God created us to experience joy in communion with Him, to love all humanity, and to live in harmony with all of His creation. But sin separates us from God, our neighbors, and creation, and so we do not enjoy the life of our Creator intended for us. Also, by our sin we grieve our Father, who does not desire us to come under His judgment, but to turn to Him and live. As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are called to struggle against everything that leads us away from the love of God and neighbor. Repentance, fasting, prayer, and works of love — the disciplines of Lent — help us to wage our spiritual warfare. I invite you, therefore, to commit yourselves to this struggle and confess your sins, asking our Father for strength to persevere in your Lenten discipline.
Pastor: Most holy and merciful Father:
Congregation: 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.
(A few moments of silence for reflection and self-examination)
P: 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; 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,
C: Have mercy on us, Lord.
P: We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience in our lives; our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people; our anger and our frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves; our “out of control” love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work; our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to show the faith that is in us,
C: We confess to you, Lord.
P: 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; for all false judgments, for unloving thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us; for our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
C: Accept our repentance, Lord.
P: Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us,
C: Hear us, Lord, for your mercy is great. Amen.
(Again silence for reflection and self-examination.)
Pastor declares to the congregation: Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, does not desire the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live. Therefore, we implore Him to grant us true repentance and His Holy Spirit, that those things may please Him which we do on this day, that the rest of our life may be pure and holy, and that at the last we may come to His eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[Pastor Kollmeyer invites you to Ash Wednesday Service tonight, Wednesday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m., Prince of Peace Lutheran.]