"Again, the acknowledgment that sin is there, but that God is acting: in this case, to create a clean slate."
Our Top 5 Favorite Lines from Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, observed by Christians around the globe, is a powerful and ancient service. Depending on your Christian denomination, parts of the Ash Wednesday service will differ. With the Revised Common Lectionary many churches now read from the same Scripture passages.
The collect and Bible passages for this service are striking; from Joel to Matthew, every verse resonates with power. Here are our top 5 favorite lines from the Ash Wednesday service. The commentary is by Building Faith editors, Charlotte Hand Greeson and Matthew Kozlowski.
1. You despise nothing you have made (Collect for Ash Wednesday)
Charlotte says: "This line from the collect is taken from Wisdom 11:24. I love how, even on this day set aside to focus on sin and repentance, this line says right up front that God loves us. God made us; he sees our sins, but God will never despise what God has made."
2. Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart (Joel 2:12)
Matthew says: "This, to me, shows how God is always waiting for us. Waiting for us to return when we have gone astray. It's the like father in the story of the prodigal son. God doesn't say 'Return once you've cleaned up your act and fixed everything.' In this verse, God asks something that is both easier and harder: return to me with all your heart."
3. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity (Psalm 51)
Charlotte says: "This verse strikes me because it reminds me of the phrase – from another verse – 'hide me under the shadow of your wings'. It is a very protective image, even parental. Again, the acknowledgment that sin is there, but God is acting: in this case, to create a clean slate."
4. See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry (2 Corinthians 6:2-3)
Matthew says: "First, I can make the joke that plenty of people will find fault with our ministry, no matter who we are! But what I love about this verse is the NOW. Here it is: now is the day of salvation! For me, it's a reminder that in ministry, we have a chance, every day, to touch a person's life. No matter a person's age, or who they are – if they are in our midst, we have an opportunity. Now is the time."
5. Jesus said, Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them (Matthew 6:1)
Charlotte says: "I think it's a great rule, as in "a rule of life." With each action – giving, fasting, praying – Jesus forces us to ask the question, Why am I doing this practice? Is it to trumpet my piety to others? Or is it to turn to God? As we begin Lent, we remember that we do these things to be in deeper relationship with God."
Blessings to you and yours on this Ash Wednesday. We hope that these or similar words will give you fresh inspiration as the season of Lent begins. If you have a favorite line from the Ash Wednesday service, we would love to hear it.