Ash Prayer

Ash Prayer
Setup: Black oil crayons or ash on tables. Cross and bunch of small white flowers (one for everyone) at front. Passage Ezekiel 36:25-26 at cross.
Intro to Ash Prayer:
This last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of the Season of Lent. Its name comes from the ancient practice of placing ashes on worshippers’ heads or foreheads as a sign of humility before God.
Ash reminds us that we and our world are in a real mess.  Sin leaves its mark on each one of us.  Only God can get us out of our mess.  On this day we wear ashes to admit that we are messed up sinners, but we make those ashes in the shape of a cross to remind ourselves that God loves and works with us to do better so we can live a life of love, no matter how we mess up.
I invite you to make a sign of a cross – the symbol of mess, yet also the symbol of love on your hand from the black oil crayon / ash on your table.

(Wait for everyone to make the sign of the cross)

This day in the Christian year, this day of ashes, tells us that ashes—dust, dirt, earth—are the stuff from which we have been made, and to which we will return.
Let us turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
Play gentle music
In this time we will invite God to examine our hearts as we wait silently before him. Allow God to gently bring to mind the mess you need to turn away from in your life.

Let’s now read together the Confession – Psalm 51. A psalm written by David when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had been with Bathsheba. Read the parts in bold with me.


PSALM 51:1-12
Be gracious to me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
according to your abundant compassion blot out my rebellious acts.
Like a cloudburst, wash my wrongdoing from me and scour my sins from me;
for I am only too aware of my rebellion, and my sin is always in front of me.
I have sinned against you – you alone, and done what is displeasing in your eyes
and so you have a just case when you speak; blameless when you judge.
The truth is, I was born among waywardness,
and my mother conceived me in a sinful society,
though you desired faithfulness in the womb,
and in being kept hidden you caused me to know wisdom
Unsin me with hyssop and I shall be clean;
wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my wrongdoing.
Create for me a clean heart, O God,
and re-create a generous spirit within me.

We invite you now to come to the foot of the cross, to leave your mess there, to turn away from it and take away in its place a flower.
The hyssop plant referred to in the psalm was a small bush with bunches of small, white flowers. It was sometimes used as a symbol for making a person clean from sin. Today this flower will symbolise the cleansing that God promises us. He will wash away our sin this morning and transform our mess.
Play track ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’ by Jars of Clay
Prayer to Close
Let us open ourselves to the God who brings life from ashes, who works wonders amid destruction, who cries out and grieves in the presence of devastation and terror, and who breathes God’s own spirit into the rubble. It is this God who breathes into us, calling our awful and glorious ash-strewn selves to speak words of life and freedom and healing amid violence and pain. Like Sojourner. Like Jesus. (Jan Richardson)
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