Ash Wednesday Guide

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Thank you for participating in our at-home Ash Wednesday experience!  Please find a quiet place in your home where you can spend some time with the Lord in personal reflection. Parents, you are encouraged to take your kids through this guide, as it is a great way to share the truth of the gospel with them.

What is Ash Wednesday?

For those who are not familiar with this day, Ash Wednesday is recognized by the Christian Church as the first day of Lent and marks the beginning of the forty-day season leading into Easter (forty days not counting Sundays, which are observed as days of celebration and renewal). Services of worship on this day focus on repentance and also symbolize the start of a forty-day wilderness period, such as Jesus’ rhythm of fasting and prayer in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; and Luke 4:1-13). Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of a fellow believer marking the forehead of each participant with ashes in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until it wears off. Ashes were used in the ancient times to express mourning and repentance (Job 42:3-6; Numbers 9:17, 19:10; Jonah 3:6; Matthew 11:21; and Hebrews 9:13).

As you follow this guide, we remind you that the goal is threefold: 

  1. To meditate on our mortality, sinfulness, and need of a Savior 
  2. To renew our commitment to the daily rhythm of repentance in the Lenten Season and in all of life
  3. To remember with confidence and gratitude Christ’s victory over death and sin—creating life from the nothingness, from the ashes and brokenness of our lives

As you begin, take a few minutes to breathe deeply and prepare your heart to hear from the Lord. 

Remember, you are a broken and incomplete person: 

Lest they tear me like a lion, rending me in pieces, while there is none to deliver.      Psalm 7:2

I said, “Lord, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.” Psalm 41:4

However, find assurance in this:

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:3

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 1:20-21

We are all fragmented people, with fragmented and fractured souls. Lent is a time to dwell on that fragmentation. It is a time to put sin to death and to be crucified with Christ. It is a time to remember that it is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we can be restored to fullness with God. The divide is simply too great for us because of our own sinfulness. 

Read this prayer, asking God to restore your fractured soul:

Oh God, you find me in a place of brokenness. I am fully aware of my sinfulness. My soul is often weak, my mind easily swayed by the temptations of the world, my heart is often chasing after things that are not of You. Help me to mend the fractured parts of who I am into the completeness that You want from me. Help me to find ways in this upcoming Lenten season to keep myself from straying from my calling in Christ Jesus. Give me the steadfastness to follow Your will in every day and in every circumstance. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

It is not enough for us as people of God to say that we have sinned generically, but we must specifically name our sins before our Father. We are accountable for specific sin that separates us from God–remember the “wages of sin is death.” Please take a few moments to examine specific ways in which you have sinned against God. Name those things to Him and ask God for an understanding of the brokenness your sin has caused and ask Him to put to death that sin within you. If it is helpful to you, write those things down.

Through communion, we are reminded of our ability to “commune” with God, our Father, because of the grace and wholeness He has extended to us, even though we come to the table as broken and fragmented people.

If you are a believer in Jesus, we invite you to find something in your home to take communion with—crackers, juice, bread, etc. As you take the elements, remember that the body of Christ was broken for you, and that His blood also was shed for you. After you have taken communion, take a moment to reflect on Christ’s extravagant grace. 

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

God has been singing the same song over His people since the beginning of time. As we see in Zephaniah, He is a Mighty Warrior who rejoices over His people with a song of grace and forgiveness, with a message of hope and deliverance. We as God’s people get the chance to join in this very song when we accept the grace and forgiveness we are offered from our Heavenly Father. That is what we are here to do today—we are here to acknowledge our desperate need for God’s healing and provision in our own lives. We are here to acknowledge that we need reminders of the melodies of forgiveness and the rhythms of grace God continues to sing even when we fail to listen. We are here to acknowledge how fragmented and broken we are—yet God still chooses to work in and through us as broken people. Even our brokenness can somehow bring God glory, which shows the incredible, redemptive power of God. The ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us of the fragile nature of life, of our hand in bringing sin into the world, and the painful cost of sin, which is death.

Because we are in the midst of an unprecedented snow storm, you will most likely have ashes from a fire accessible somewhere in your house. If you don’t, you may simply skip ahead in the guide. If you do have ashes, place them on your forehead (or the forehead of a family member) in the shape of a cross, as a reminder of this reality: “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). 

Now dwell on the words of Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” 

Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death, dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. 

Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. 

The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him—may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!

Augustine of Hippo once said: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.”

And also, remember this from the Scripture:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Please take a moment to rest in the knowledge that though you are a finite being who is incomplete and fractured, and though you may feel separation from God because of your sin, your sure hope is that you will eternally rest with Jesus someday—complete and whole, and certainly not forsaken. Please spend your last 5 minutes of your time thanking God for His grace in your life. Thank Him for His forgiveness, for His love, and for His faithfulness. Name specific things for which you are thankful. 

And now, be encouraged by this blessing as you finish this time of reflection:

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

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1 thought on “Ash Wednesday Guide”

  1. Thank you Harris Creek for this Ash Wednesday devotional! I loved setting aside time to intentionally spend reflecting on my brokenness, confess sin and to remember Christ blood and victory over death and the new life he brought for me!

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