March 02, 2014

Why An Ash Wednesday Service? "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:13-14 (ESV) _________________________ You don't need to observe Ash Wednesday. This isn't a command. There is no rule for it. In fact, as far as Church traditions go, it is a fairly late development-- and by late I mean around the 8th century. But ashes have long been a symbolic part of YHWH worship. There were a sign of sorrow and mourning (2 Sam. 13:19, Is. 61:3, Jer. 6:26, Ez. 27:30). They were also an act of repentance and turning toward God's face. Daniel says that he "turned [his] face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes" (Dan. 9:3). Jesus uses ashes symbolically to speak of repentance (Matthew 11:21). As with all spiritual practices, the practices themselves are not the point; the practices point to Jesus. So, how does-- or, rather, how can-- Ash Wednesday, point us to Jesus? Let it be an act of humility. Make yourself low before the Lord Almighty, the One who formed us from the dust. Let it be a confession of mortality. The psalmist urges us to "number our days", to remember that we have limits, that we are finite, that we shall one day return to the dust (Ps. 90:3, 12). Kneel before the "Lord our God our Maker" (Ps. 95:6). Let it be a time to repent. We do not confess our sins to make God gracious; we confess because we have found that God is gracious. We turn away from self-reliance and self-destruction, and we turn toward the God whose nail-pierced hands are ever and always open to us. Repentance...
Thoughts on the Liturgical Moments I am the furthest thing from a liturgy expert. I'm a student. But some times, as C. S. Lewis once wrote, a student may be helpful to other students because he knows what it is like to not know what the teacher knows! I made these short videos (2-3 minutes each) to help fellow "students" to learn about certain moments in the liturgy. A true liturgist will know that these aren't formal names or moments; I am referring to parts of the service in informal ways. But I think this may help those of us from non-liturgical backgrounds to understand what we can gain from saying the Creed, confessing our sins, turning to each other, coming to the Table, and more. First, an overview of my forray into learning from the liturgy: _________________________ INVITATION: Calling Each Other To Worship (The "Sursum Corda" and the "Sanctus") Why do we gather with one another? What is the reason we turn to each other in worship? _________________________ PROCLAMATION: Remembering the Church Historic and Universal (The Nicene Creed) What connects us to the Church-- the people of God all around the world, and those who have gone before us? If our many church-specific statements of faith have built unnecessary walls between us, what can unite us? _________________________ INVOCATION: Inviting the Spirit God has turned His face toward us, ever and always, in Christ! So, what do we mean when we invite the Spirit to come in the midst of corporate worship? _________________________ CONFESSION: Acknowledging Our Need (Prayer of Confession) Why do we confess our sins? Are we trying to convince God to be merciful? Or is there something more beautiful at work? <p> </p> _________________________ EUCHARIST: Meeting Jesus at the Table (The "Memorial Acclamation") What is communion all about? Isn't it just a remembrance-- something...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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