Good evening and welcome to our Ash Wednesday Vesper’s service.  An evening service to mark the first day in the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a Christian Holy day of prayer fasting and repentance that precedes Easter.  It is six weeks long. The color we associate with the season of Lent is purple.

The Church gives us Lent as a time to change, to become a better version of ourselves, and to become more like Jesus. This season is an invitation to a Spiritual Practice. The ashes we receive tonight,  remind us of our call to repent and believe in the Gospel. The disciplines of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—help us prepare for Christ’s resurrection. Because at that moment, we will become the hands and feet of Jesus.

Traditionally the ashes come from burnt palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Palms are a living plant, and a symbol of victory and triumph, but they are burned to dust and become a symbol of sorrow and repentance.

More simply, the season is an  invitation to journey towards Easter, giving way to the distractions of our culture. This time represents Jesus’ time in the desert for forty days and forty nights.

Covering with ashes, is a mark of being faithful.  It is a mark that says I will fast and pray. It is a sign of humility and renouncing pride. We don’t wear ashes to show our holiness but rather to show how deeply human each of us is, this community and our world.  

This evening you will be invited to sing along with the chants printed in the bulletin, to join in the prayers.  You will also be invited to receive ashes. When you come forward for ashes you are invited to the table to serve yourself communion.  There will also be a time after the prayer of confession for you to add your prayers of brokeness, hurt, pain, sin and suffering to the alter table as a form of communal prayer and sharing how deeply human each of us is.

From Mandy: The chants we will sing tonight come from an ecumenical community of Taize, France. These short songs, repeated again and again, help us to meditate as we enter the season of Lent. Using just a few words they express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being. Meditative singing thus becomes a way of listening to God. It allows everyone to take part in a time of prayer together and to remain together in attentive waiting on God

To open the gates of trust in God, nothing can replace the beauty of human voices united in song. This beauty can give us a glimpse of "heaven’s joy on earth," as Eastern Christians put it. And an inner life begins to blossom within us.

These songs also sustain personal prayer. Through them, little by little, our being finds an inner unity in God. They can continue in the silence of our hearts when we are at work, speaking with others or resting. In this way prayer and daily life are united. They allow us to keep on praying even when we are unaware of it, in the silence of our hearts...

For this season of Lent we are using a worship resource called Sanctified Art.  Is it a collective of artists in ministry who create resources for worshipping communities through film, visual art, curriculum, coloring pages, liturgy, graphic designs and more.  This evening, the art on the front of your bulletin is called “Rend your Hearts” inspired by Joel 2. An artist description is on the back. To rend your heart is to tear it into one or more pieces.  The artists says: What would it look like to rend, or to deeply examine, the inner messy corners of ourselves in response to the darkness of the world and our own brokenness?