Ash Wednesday Thoughts

The Lord be with you

This coming Wednesday (March 6) is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten Season. We will have worship services each Wednesday during Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday. Our Ash Wednesday service will begin at 7:00 PM, preceded by a soup supper at 5:30 PM. On subsequent Wednesdays, we will have our worship services at 6:00 PM followed by light refreshments at around 7:00 PM. Thanks to daylight saving time, this should mean people can drive home before it is dark.

Ash Wednesday has appointed lessons (Joel 2:12-19; Psalm 51:1-19 (17); 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21) but the other Wednesdays do not. So, if your pastor is a liturgical animal like me, this means that there are no appointed readings to use in crafting the sermon and service. In stead, we are forced to select a “free” text. Many use prepared material. I have done so in the past. However, for many years now, I have crafted my Lenten series, as I have done so this year.

Martin Luther loved the Psalms and once said we should know them like we know the fingers on our hands. However, in our day, my experience is that the Psalms are generally overlooked when it comes to preaching. There are a few exceptions, like Psalm 23. We also know some Psalms that are regularly used in our worship services, even if we don’t know which Psalm we are using. This year we will take a small step in improving our use of the Psalms during our Wednesday worship services.

For Ash Wednesday we will use the appointed lessons, which include Psalm 51. The homily will be based on that Psalm. On subsequent Wednesdays we will use the appointed lessons from the previous Sunday and the message will be based on the Psalm. So, for examples, the appointed lessons for the First Sunday in Lent (March 10) are: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-13 (1); Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13. The same lessons will be used for our Wednesday Lent service on March 13 and the message will be based on Psalm 91.

Lent is a penitential season and our liturgy during our Wednesday services will reflect this. In particular, our Ash Wednesday service will include the traditional imposition of ashes. (The ashes from the burning of the Palms from this past Palm Sunday got wet, turning them into a lye-like substance. To use this would burn our worshipers, so I’ll have to buy some non-lye palm ashes.) The imposition of ashes will be done in the confession and absolution portion of the service. Another reflection of the penitential nature of the day will be the omission of chanting. The liturgy will be spoken. We will also be sharing the Lord’s Supper, where we receive the very body and blood of our Lord through a miracle.

Our opening hymn will be “O Lord, Throughout These forty Days” (LSB 418). This hymn reflects the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan at the beginning of his public ministry. It also reflects the 40 days of Lent. One should note that, in counting the days of Lent, Sunday’s are omitted. (If you counted Sundays there would be 46 days in Lent.) Sundays are “feast days” and so don’t count in the numbering of days in a penitential season. That means that, if you are giving something up for Lent, you can use it on Sunday’s without breaking your fast.

The sermon hymn will be “Not All the Blood of Beasts” (LSB 431). As we do not have a mob at our mid-week services, even on Ash Wednesday, we will have only one distribution hymn. It will be “O Jesus, Blessed Lord, to Thee” (LSB 632). Our closing hymn will be “Abide With Me” (LSB 878).

Because I’m using the readings from the previous Sunday for the Wednesday lessons, you will get a sneak-peek at the readings for Wednesday with my initial thoughts by reading the “Sunday Thoughts” post. Of course, that won’t work this week because Ash Wednesday has assigned readings, as mentioned earlier.

Blessings in Christ