I really wanted to attend an Ash Wednesday service today. It would have been my first time doing so. I scouted out churches in the area who’d be open and welcoming to a newbie, and I was really looking forward to it.
“The best-laid schemes of mice and men…” and all that. We are having massive storm systems in our area (most of the local area school systems dismissed classes early today. The storms are that severe).
A normal storm usually triggers a migraine for me. This crazy intense storm?
It’s not pretty. Removing my own head sounds good right now.
Our homeschool “dismissed early” today too.
So I won’t be attending any services this evening like I’d planned. But I still wanted to acknowledge Ash Wednesday somehow.
If you’re unable to attend a service today but still would like to participate in some small way, perhaps one of these ideas will work for you.
1. Use a Lenten devotional.
I tend not to be a fan of devotionals. I prefer Bible studies. But a local church offered to email devotional readings for Lent. I went ahead and signed up, and now I’m glad I did. Today’s reading might not be exactly the same as being presence at a service, but it at least gave me some thoughts to ponder. It reminded me of my sinful condition as fallen man and of the Savior who loves me and redeemed me.
I found the image below on Twitter. I don’t have an ashy cross on my forehead today, since I’m unable to be at a service, but I still loved seeing this. I won’t pretend looking at a picture is the same as participating in a church service, but it did speak truth to me and gave me something to reflect on and pray over.
Which brings me to Point 2.
2. Pray Scriptures.
Sackcloth and ashes were a symbol of sorrow and/or repentance in the Old Testament. Repentance, prayer, and fasting are all important aspects of Lent.
I wanted to spend time in prayer and repentance today. I often find it helpful to use various Scripture passages in my prayer time. Today I used Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
And Psalm 51 (NASB)
A Contrite Sinner’s Prayer for Pardon.
For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
51 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
4 Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.
16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
18 By Your favor do good to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices,
In burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.
3. Do as much of a worship service as at home as possible.
I can’t replicate an entire church service in my house. It isn’t even remotely the same.
But I did talk with my daughters about the symbolism of the ashes. I did read a Bible passage and sing a hymn with them. We did talk about sin and confession and repentance.
It’s not the same, but it is something.
I hope to make it to a real Ash Wednesday service next year. I look forward to experiencing it for the first time. This year, the above 3 things at least helped me acknowledge today.