Welcome to First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Covington, Ky. We are so glad you joined us today. During this hybrid worship experience, wherever you are or whenever you worship, we are glad you’ve chosen to enter into this sacred time with us.
If this is your first time with us, please check out our website at www.firstchristiancovington.org to learn more about us and get our latest news. If you are worshipping in the sanctuary, there are yellow and blue cards in the pew pockets. Please share with me your contact information if you are a visitor or your prayer concerns. You may hand those cards to me on your way out. If you are worshipping at home, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your prayer concerns or contact info if you’d like to receive a phone call.
It is our hope in this virtual ministry and in all we do to welcome wholly, love authentically and share God’s grace abundantly.
Explanation of Service
Ash Wednesday is a day in the life of the church that is as dramatic as Good Friday. Ash Wednesday is full of symbolism and darkness. We respond to God’s invitation to participate in the story of sin and forgiveness through our worship.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent which is a special time of preparation. It started as a period of 40 days for new Christians to study and fast in preparation for baptism which traditionally was done on Easter morning. The season is the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, not including Sundays. Sundays are mini-Easters. They are a pause for grace amidst your praying, fasting, studying and penance. So, if you gave up something for Lent, like chocolate or diet coke, you can splurge on Sundays, if you want.
On Ash Wednesday, we gather to worship and begin our Lenten journey. This year, we are trying Ash Sunday as a way for more of us to participate in this ancient tradition. It may be difficult to get out on a Wednesday evening for a service. I hope observing this tradition on Sunday morning will still be meaningful and allow more of us to worship in this mysterious way.
For the 40 days of Lent, we reflect on our sin and seek to draw closer to God. Our prayers in this service are prayers of repentance. We begin Lent by acknowledging our sin and our need for mercy. We are preparing for the awesome revelation of grace, mercy, forgiveness, hope, and joy on Easter. The idea is that we appreciate grace when we first reflect on what it is we are forgiven.
We will pray corporate prayers of confession and have time for silent private confession. After our prayers have been said, you may receive the sign of the cross in ashes on your forehead. You come as one with a repentant heart, a broken and contrite heart. The cross is a sign you have repented. You will be reminded that “From dust you came and from dust you shall return.” Or “Repent and believe.”
After receiving the ashes, I will remind us of the assurance of God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. Then, we will partake of communion. The meal will remind us that grace is available through our Lord Jesus Christ. My hope is we will confront our sin in ways that we often don’t.
Call to Worship
Responsive reading of Psalm 51
P: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
L: According to your great compassion blot out our transgressions. Wash
away all our iniquity and cleanse us from our sin.
P: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
L: Against you, you only, we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so
you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
P: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter
L: Let us hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide
your face from our sins and blot out all our iniquity.
P: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
L: Do not cast us from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from us. Restore to
us the joy of your salvation and grant us a willing spirit, to sustain us.
P: Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back
L: Deliver us, O God, you who are God our Savior, and our tongue will sing of
P: Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
L: You do not delight in sacrifice, or we would bring it; you do not take pleasure in
P: My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you,
God, will not despise. Amen.
O God, our Creator,
O Christ, our Redeemer,
O Spirit, our Sustainer,
As we enter into this Lenten season confessing our sin, being marked by the sign of our penance and receiving the meal as a sign of your grace, as we spend this time acting out our faith participating in the rituals of the faithful,
give us a vision of our world as Your love would make it:
a world where the weak are protected and none go hungry or live in poverty;
a world where the benefits of civilized life are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races, nations, religions and cultures honor one another,
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love;
and give us the inspiration and courage to build it,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ Geoffrey Brown and John Pridmore, St Martin-in-the-Fields’ Prayer for the World. Posted on The Church of Scotland’s Weekly Worship website. https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/worship
1 Corinthians 11: 27 – 32
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For all who eat and drink[h] without discerning the body,[i] eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30 For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[j] 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined[k] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Matthew 26: 17 – 25
17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;[c] 21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”
SERMON – Self-Examination
These texts I read this morning would be read typically on Maundy Thursday, not Ash Sunday. But, we’re really mixing things up this Lenten season. We need to start with these texts because we will be focusing on the Lord’s Supper throughout the season. We will explore the themes of self-examination, proclamation, expectation, thanksgiving, remembrance and fellowship as they teach us about communion with our Savior and our church and the proper way to worship and participate in the Lord’s Supper.
On this Ash Sunday, we begin with the theme of self-examination as the Bible tells us that coming to the Table with a right heart is the proper way to partake of the meal. And, self-examination is the appropriate spirit of Ash Sunday as we confess our sins.
Let me give you a little reminder of where this text is situated in the story of Holy week which begins with the Palm Sunday remembrance of Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem.
Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was a politically charged parade for the peasants whom Jesus had preached the Gospel to. They shouted their pleas for Him to bring them salvation. They had hoped He would bring an end to the Roman occupation of Jerusalem and reestablish the Davidic kingdom of Israel. His Disciples had thought He would do just that as they followed Him around the countryside traveling from village to village to listen to His stories about the Kingdom of God. As He entered Jerusalem, He fed the people’s belief that He was the Messiah to save Jerusalem by His act of political defiance.
Jerusalem was occupied by the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, had set King Herod Antipas as king of Galilee. King Herod had named Pontius Pilate as the governor of Judaea including Jerusalem that Jesus. Caiaphas was the High Priest of the Temple. There was great tension among the Temple and the king as the Temple was allowed to facilitate the observance of the Jewish practices as long as they didn’t interfere with the Pax Romana.
During the week of Passover, the Jewish people would be hoping for a Messiah to liberate them from Roman occupation and re-establish the independent country of Israel with a king appointed by God. There was a sense of heightened tension to ensure that Jews didn’t get the idea that the Messiah was coming that year, that Passover, so that there would be no revolt, no war, no trouble. There was a great presence of the Roman military to squelch anyone’s ideas that Rome would be easily driven out of Jerusalem.
At the time of this story, Caiaphas and the chief priests had been plotting to kill Jesus. Judas has been recruited and agreed to betray Jesus. Judas had finally caught on to Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God and that Jesus had no plans to restore the kingdom of Israel. Judas was disappointed in Jesus, because Jesus was not living up to his expectations of the Messiah.
The Bible tells us that after Judas had conspired with the Temple he gathers with Jesus and the Disciples for the Last Supper. The Last Supper Jesus had with His Disciples was the Passover meal. The Passover meal commemorates the Passover meal of the First Testament. The Passover meal is eaten in remembrance of the last meal the Hebrews slaves ate in Egypt before their liberation.
When Jesus ate the Passover meal with His Disciples, they were eating a meal commanded by God to eat in remembrance of the meal eaten by the Hebrews on their last night of oppression. The meal was a reminder of God’s redemptive action in the history of the Jews. Jesus ate the meal with His Disciples, not only to remember God’s redemptive action in Egypt, but also as a sign of the coming redemptive action of God through Jesus. Jesus gave the meal new meaning when He spoke of His body and blood represented by the unleavened bread and wine.
As they were eating, Jesus announced that one of the Disciples would betray Him. Just as Judas was disappointed in Jesus for not living up to his expectations of the Messiah, Jesus is disappointed in Judas for betraying Him. Jesus was disappointed in someone who He had invited to be a part of His inner circle and who He had dined with regularly.
Judas had been passionate about His faith in Jesus, but he thought Jesus had let him down. Jesus was not going to restore the kingdom of Israel. So, Judas thought he would sell his faith for 30 pieces of silver and betray the One who is the Messiah, just in a different way than Judas had imagined.
“Jesus’ simple statement, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me,” made each of the twelve disciples uneasy and led them to self-examination. They each asked, “Surely not I, Lord? Later, the Apostle Paul taught that not only the Disciples but all Christians must examine themselves before meeting at the Lord’s Table. He warned that those who didn’t ask “Surely not I, Lord?” were eating and drinking judgment unto themselves.”
Surely, not I, Lord?
On this observance of Ash Sunday, as we begin the Lenten season, we must start by asking ourselves how we have betrayed Jesus, confessing the ways in which we have failed to live out the life of Discipleship to which we are called, failing to love, failing to act with goodness and kindness, failing to submit ourselves in the service of others, and failing to show mercy. As we confess our failings, we say, “Surely, I, Lord, have betrayed you” and in so confessing, we receive an invitation back to the Table.
Confession / Lord’s Prayer
LEADER: Creator God, you fashioned us out of dust, breathing your Spirit into us, so we might sing your praise. But we have denounced your gift of life in order to be our own gods, clinging to death-dealing idols of our own making.
PEOPLE: We have denied our creaturely status, seeking to lord it over those we label “less-than.”
LEADER: We squelch all who are different through ignoring, belittling, murdering, and bombing.
PEOPLE: We believe survival-of-the-fittest lies, discounting the weak, and profiting by others’ pain.
LEADER: Not trusting in your providence, we stop our ears to cries of those in need because we’re afraid we won’t have enough.
PEOPLE: We have been unfaithful stewards, O Lord.
LEADER: We live in a state of sin among a people of sin.
PEOPLE: Save for your grace, we perish.
LEADER: Remember our making, Creator God; remember we are dust.
PEOPLE: Have mercy on us according to your loving kindness. Breathe new life into us once more, so we might be the people you created us to be. Restore unto us the joy of your salvation that we might do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we confess.
LEADER: As we have confessed the shared sins of humanity, let us take a moment to reflect on and confess of our individual sins.
SILENT CONFESSION OF SIN
PEOPLE: Lord’s Prayer
“Ash Wednesday Service” by Presbyterian Mission Agency
Instructions for Ashes
We have acknowledged that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. As a sign of our repentant and contrite hearts, we will be marked with the sign of the cross in ashes, a sign that we are repentant of our sin knowing that as dust before God we are ourselves in need of mercy. As an assurance of God’s mercy and forgiveness for that which we repent, we will take communion in remembrance of the One whom is our Gracious Savior.
If you received a cup of ashes when you came in, you may impose ashes on the person whom you came with then they can impose ashes on you. When you impose the ashes, make the sign of the cross, you may say, “From dust you come and to dust you shall return” or “repent or believe.”
If you would like, you may come forward and I will impose ashes for you.
Imposition of Ashes
Assurance of Pardon
ASSURANCE OF PARDON Ezekiel 36:25-27
Hear the promise of God: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”
Friends, the promises of God are true: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. He submit himself to suffering on the cross that He might know the suffering of humanity through which He reconciles us to God. In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven. Live now as new people, free to love God and neighbor.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
INVITATION TO DISCIPLESHIP
May God create in you a transformed heart,
a heart that knows and seeks and loves
the justice and mercy of the Lord.
May you accept the gift of salvation –
not your personal possession to be coveted,
but His work, accomplished on the cross
And may you humble yourself before the Lord,
coming before Him with a broken spirit,
a contrite heart
and unfailing love.
- posted on Jeff’s Blog. https://blog.wisch.org/category/benedictions-and-prayers/
 David Lose, In The Meantime, “Matthew 26: 14 – 16, http://www.davidlose.net/2014/03/matthew-26-14-16/