ASH WEDNESDAY - 02.26.20

CREATE A SACRED TIME AND SPACE
Leave all screens turned off and outside of the gathering space/room.
Set a single candle in the center of your space or on a child’s nightstand or headboard.

As you light the candle, you might sing together the refrain only of, Change My Heart, O God.1

Change my heart, oh God; make it ever new;
Change my heart, oh God, let me be like you.


TAKE A MOMENT
This is a time to become fully present with one another and with God.
Invite everyone to take a deep breath in and exhale fully.
Repeat this deep breathing for about 20 seconds, everyone at their own pace.


LET GO & RECEIVE
Excitement over past or future events - or, worries, pain and/or guilt - can keep us from immersing in God’s loving Presence, right here and now.

You might invite participants to Let Go as follows:

“In one or two words, how have you separated yourself from God, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: know that you are, right now, in God’s Presence.
Breathe out: release into God’s grace any guilt, shame or pain that separation has 
caused.”

Pause

You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How has God made you new, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: notice how God’s Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for always being close.”

Pause


TEXT SUMMARY
After everyone has shared their straying and returning, take two more deep breaths.

Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged, but if that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are our thoughts on this text:

Our texts for the remainder of this week have lots of references/requests/calls to “turn” or “return”. In church-y terms we say, “repent”. The word “repent” means, “to turn around; to make a U-turn; to move in the opposite direction”. “Repentance” then isn’t just about saying, “I’m sorry”. Even though those words are really helpful and important for restoring our relationships when we do something hurtful to others, God calls us as a whole community to literally take things a step further and “repent”: not just say “We’re sorry”, but actually change what we are doing and start walking in another direction.

SHARING THE READING
Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.
A reading from Psalm 51:1-172
51:1 God, be gentle with me.
I know you love me more than I can imagine.
Please, judge me with eyes of love.
Be gentle with me and wipe away my errors.
51:2 Completely wash out what is “not me”; dress the gaping wounds of my soul.

51:3 I know my faults; my brokenness is always obvious to me.
51:4 It’s from you that I have separated myself; you see the faults of my daily life; you 
see and know and you are right to find me guilty and to judge me harshly.
51:5 Absolutely, I was born guilty, a broken person from the time I was in my mother’s 
Womb.
51:6 You want truth in my inmost Self; so teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
51:7 Make me pure, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will sparkle like snow.
51:8 Fill me with joy and gladness; [let these bones you have crushed dance for joy.]
51:9 Hide your face from my brokenness, and erase all my wrongs.
51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
51:11 Don’t kick me out of your presence, or take your Spirit from me.
51:12 Let me recognize the beauty of your healing, and grant me a spirit always willing 
to seek your renewal.
51:13 When I am close to you, I can help others find your healing; broken, hurting 
people will return to you.
51:14 Lift me out of a life of violence, Source of my well-being, and I will sing loudly of 
your saving presence.
51:15 O Mystery, open my lips, and my mouth will shout out your praise.
51:16 For you don’t really have an interest in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, 
you would not be pleased.
51:17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken ego; a broken and repentant little 
self, O God, you will not despise.


DISCUSS
At the close of the reading you might begin with basic questions, such as:
Did this reading have any words or ideas that anyone doesn’t understand?
Let’s explore what those might mean, together.

If you are ready for further discussion, you might consider these questions:

  • How has your “little self” pushed you or kept you out of God’s saving, healing Presence?
  • What can you do to live more fully aware or more fully grounded in your True Self/your Christ Self/God-in-you?
  • What might it be like to practice noticing when you are acting from your True Self and when you are acting from your little self? Could this be helpful, do you think? How so, or why not?
  • Are you able to recognize when others’ little self is in charge, when people push away your attempts to be loving, kind or helpful? Can you forgive them in these moments?
  • Why is forgiveness as a daily, regular practice important for your soul? For your relationships?


CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE
From your devotional basket, please take the following items:
~Notebook or binder for everyone - it is essential that everyone have the same/their drawing from last night.
~Drawing or coloring utensil(s) for everyone

Be sure notebooks/binders and utensils are handy but not a distraction.
You might invite the group into prayer with these or similar prompts:

I invite everyone to find a comfortable posture appropriate to prayer and encourage everyone to close their eyes.
Please open your (notebook/binder/journal) to the drawing you created last night. Let the picture rest in your lap as we begin.
Let’s all take a few deep breaths to settle our minds:
~let go of the discussion questions and conversation;
~let go of the Bible story;
~let yourself rest for a moment in the love of your family and the presence of
God.

After a few deep breaths, share the following:

I invite you to look at the drawing you created last night, the drawing of your favorite 
food.3

Pause for a few moments.

As you look at your drawing, remember the many ways this food reminded you of your connections to your best self…

Pause for a few moments.

...to the people you love…

Pause for a few moments.

...to people you don’t know…

Pause for a few moments.

...and to God.

Pause for a few moments.

Now take a moment to wonder how this food might symbolize a behavior or habit, an 
emotion or state of mind, that is currently missing from your life, but that would 
strengthen your bond with your self, your loved ones, other people, and/or with God. 
What is one action or attitude you could adopt that would either wipe away a sense of separation or would actively draw you closer to self, family, friends, neighbors and/or God.

Pause for a few moments.

Maybe the stack of pancakes reminds you of stacks of homework that you don’t like to do, which keeps you from learning and growing; or maybe that fried egg reminds you of the fact that you haven’t exercised in a long time, which keeps you from feeling and being your healthiest self.
Pay attention to the food in your drawing and consider what healthy, helpful, renewing, life-giving habit - currently missing from your daily routine or your sense of self - it could symbolize.

Allow time for thought; about two minutes

Once you have an idea of what practice, attitude or behavior is missing, draw a symbol 
of that practice, attitude or behavior.
When you complete your drawing, remain still and focus on the two drawings.

Allow time for drawing and silence; about four minutes.

When people have completed drawings and have had time for silence, invite their attention back to the room with words like these:

I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might quietly wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your 
head.
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.

Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.

PERSONAL REFLECTION
After a few beats, while people are still transitioning, introduce the reflection questions, as follows:

As you bring your awareness back to here and now, I encourage you to reflect on a 
moment or a sensation, a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Consider what you observed, saw, felt or experienced in this time of prayer.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?

After a minute or two of resting, encourage people to write, draw or doodle about their experience.
Allow about 3-5 minutes; gauge the activity-level of participants to determine when they are “done”.
Invite people to share their reflections with the group/family, only as they are comfortable. Not everyone will have something to share or feel comfortable sharing their experience. Let this be okay: not everyone needs to share.

Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation. This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.

BEDTIME SONG
As the following song is sung, the Leader should gather all materials utilized during the practice. Stow them in the basket for easy removal and future use.

Sing together the refrain only of, Change My Heart, O God1

Change my heart, oh God; make it ever new;
Change my heart, oh God, let me be like you.


FINAL BLESSING
As they blow out the candle, children can offer the following blessing/prayer with their adults:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

Adults can share the following blessing/prayer with the child[ren] as they turn out the lights:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”


1. Eddie Espinosa, Acoustic Worship; 1995.
2. This is Emily’s revision, based on the NRSV.
3. If you did not share last night’s devotion, invite everyone to consider their favorite food, in general, and focus on that food item for this time.

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