Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wickedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This morning I attended my first Ash Wednesday service with the four older kids. Jen had to stay back with Charis, who is running a fever. She'll go this evening.
The readings for the day together with the recitation of Psalm 51 formed a very powerful reflection upon penitence, mercy and forgiveness.
But the most powerful part of the service was the imposition of the ashes.
There were only a dozen or so people there, all of them older, several of them very elderly. The pastor, himself an older, kindly man with a deeply humane sense for the realities expressed in the liturgy, moved about the silent room, stopping at each person to impose the ashes, addressing them by name and saying with the first pass of his thumb across the forehead,
"Remember that you are dust..."
and with the second,
"... and to dust you shall return."
"Nora, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
"Jon, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
"Anna, remmember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
"Dietrich, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
"Emily, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Then we took communion together.
Most merciful god,
your love compels us to come in.
Our hands were unclean
our hearts were unprepared;
we were not fit even to eat the crumbs
from under your table.
But you, Lord, are the God of our salvation,
and share your bread with sinners.
So cleanse and feed us
with the precious body and blood of your Son,
that he may live in us and we in him;
and that we, with the whole company of Christ,
may sit and eat in your kingdom.