Ash Wednesday, Thursday, Friday….how long will the ashes be seen?

Yesterday was somewhat of a blur for me with the services, the meetings, many calls to which I needed to respond.  I couldn’t stay awake long enough to get this in yesterday…

As I reflect today, I wonder how long the ashes will be seen?  Once we can no longer see the mark, how long will we remember?  Once we can no longer feel the forgiveness, how soon will we turn away from Christ?  It is Thursday, but these texts still apply to our Lenten journey.  Remember the feeling of coming before Christ our Lord with a desire to be cleansed and forgiven.  Remember the assurance of pardon.  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.  Thanks be to God!

JOEL 2:1-2, 12-17

1   Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near —
2   a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
nor will be again after them
in ages to come.

12  Yet even now, says the LORD,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13       rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the LORD, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
14  Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the LORD, your God?

15  Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16       gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
assemble the aged;
gather the children,
even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her canopy.

17  Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

ISAIAH 58:1-12

1   Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2   Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
3   “Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
4   Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
5   Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

6   Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7   Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8   Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9   Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10  if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11  The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
12  Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.

PSALM 51:1-17

1   Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2   Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

3   For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4   Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
5   Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6   You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7   Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8   Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9   Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

10  Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
11  Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

13  Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14  Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

15  O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16  For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17  The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

2 CORINTHIANS 5:20B-6:10

5:20bWe entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says,
“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see — we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

MATTHEW 6:1-6, 16-21

1“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying attention to the deep breath.
  • As you sit in silence, do a mental scan of your body.  What part(s) of you need(s) to be cleansed?
  • What forgiveness to you seek?
  • Go to this place/these places and offer these to Christ.
  • Allow the dusty ashes to be poured into these places.
  • Allow the dark and dusty ashes to be Christ’s healing salve for you.
  • Hear the words, “You are my beloved,  you are forgiven.”
  • Allow these words of grace to hold you.
  • Believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins.
  • Believe that the Holy Spirit is accompanying you on this Lenten journey.
  • Be open to the Holy Spirit.
  • Let go of your expectations.
  • Rest in the hope of the journey toward the cross.
  • Remember the forgiveness you have received.
  • Give thanks to God for these things that have been revealed and this time in prayer.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Ash Wednesday Year B 
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 51:1-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD

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About Lil Smith

My simple life… is not simple at all. Yet it is so simple when I let God lead me. I have been married to Greg for 26 years and we have three wonderful children. My simple life is not simple at all. Yet it is so simple when I let God take control. I followed God’s call to begin seminary at Perkins School of Theology in January 2006. I graduated in May 2011. My life is not simple at all. Yet it is so simple when I listen for God’s call. I began the Degree in the Art of Spiritual Direction at San Francisco Theological Seminary in January 2009. I graduated in May 2011. My life is not simple at all. Yet it is so simple when I listen for God's call. I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA and spent three amazing years in Pastoral Ministry at Highland Springs Senior Living in Dallas, TX. My life is not simple at all. Yet it is so simple when I listen for God's call. My passion is the Christian Spiritual Life. As a spiritual director and retreat leader, I am so blessed to hear how God is at work in the world. How is God at work in your life?
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