worship format and original content: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021
As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times, as social justice reforms arise, we freely offer this worship content for you to adapt for your needs.
This service covers the spiritual content of Ash Wednesday for those who may not attend an Ash Wednesday service or use DIY at home devotional materials. It may also be used as an Ash Wednesday service or devotional.
Time for Children of All Ages
Out of the Bag: “Ashes, Part 1” Making Ash Wednesday ashes at home
Out of the Bag: “Ashes, Part 2” Why we wear ash crosses on our foreheads
Call to Worship
“Create in Me a Clean Heart, O Lord” a poem inspired by Psalm 51:10. As you read or recite the poem, notice which lines stand out.
When I am soiled by another’s pain and seek revenge,
Create in me a Clean Heart, O Lord.
When I am clouded by accumulating disappointments,
Create in me a Patient Heart, O Lord.
When I am fed by the work of others,
Create in me an Appreciative Heart, O Lord.
When I am in pain and aware of physical limitation,
Create in me a Soulful Heart, O Lord.
When I am unexpectedly smitten with wonder,
Create in me a Joyful Heart, O Lord.
When I am overcome by systemic oppression,
Create in me a Prophet’s Heart, O Lord.
When I am grumpy about my personal relationships,
Create in me a Loving Heart, O Lord.
When I am hiding in the forest of distraction,
Create in me a Curious Heart, O Lord.
When I am resonating with love for Dear Ones,
Create in me a Grateful Heart, O Lord.
When I am rigid and holding court,
Create in me an Open Heart, O Lord.
When I am carrying heavy suitcases filled with hurt,
Create in me a Forgiving Heart, O Lord.
When I am enchanted with the play of colors,
Create in me an Artist’s Heart, O Lord.
When I am sad and swallowed by loss,
Create in me an Eternal Heart, O Lord.
When I am proudly self-important,
Create in me a Humble Heart, O Lord.
When I am hurt and scared, tossed by life,
Create in me a Brave Heart, O Lord.
When I am in the presence of beloved little ones,
Create in me a Playful Heart, O Lord.
When I am surgically dissecting the actions of others,
Create in me a Merciful Heart, O Lord.
When I am isolated by loneliness,
Create in me a Befriended Heart, O Lord.
When I am confused and entertain despair,
Create in me a Strong Heart, O Lord.
When I am anxious and poking the Tempter,
Create in me a Peaceful Heart, O Lord.
When I am exhausted and really need to stop,
Create in me a Sabbath Heart, O Lord.
When I am lost and have forgotten who I am,
Create in me YOUR Heart, O Lord.
Light the Christ Candle
Song: “Come and Fill Our Hearts” Written by Taizé Community. 1982. Performed by Robert Allen. 2020.
We Rest in God’s Grace
Releasing and Receiving
How is it with your soul? Which lines above resonated the most for you? Talk to God, offering God the gift of your honesty. Release what is no longer yours to carry, handing it over to God. Also, receive what God is bringing to you in this precious moment, including sweet memories and new awareness. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen,” with gratitude in your heart.
Shift into simply being with God, silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know that I am God. (pause)
Be still and know that I am. (pause)
Be still and know. (pause)
Be still. (pause)
Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”
Long ago, Christian church leaders created the season of Lent – a reflective 40-days plus Sundays leading up to Easter morning. Lent’s purpose is to prepare us to more fully appreciate Holy Week, especially Jesus’ Passion (death on the Cross) and Resurrection.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Annually, this is the day Christians collectively turn inward — as individuals and as groups — to examine the spiritual health of our lives and ministries. We do so in the presence of a loving God who wants the best for us.
If we’ve experienced religious judgement or punishment, Lent can be an uncomfortable reminder of previously shaming human experiences. If this is true for you, recall a time when someone very kindly helped you to grow in maturity and wisdom. This is how God mercifully calls us into the season of Lent, with respect and a desire for good outcome.
The profound gentleness of God is in itself a magnificent expression of divine grace. May our turning to God for redemptive review be such a moment for each of us. May this be a grace-filled season of Lent.
Spiritual Practice: “Beginning Lent with Confession”
Lent is a time of spiritual renewal. A time to cleanse that which has become soiled. A time to release what is no longer needed. A time to replace what which has outgrown its use. A time to welcome whatever is truly vivacious.
God has given us freewill. God will not change us without our permission, so we begin the season of Lent giving God permission to change us, to reform us. We come to God with hope, curious to see what sort of upgrade God will download this year.
NOTE: If you will be attending a group Ash Wednesday service, you may wait until after that service to engage this deeply, personal examination. You may wish to write or draw your insights after concluding this practice.
Prayerfully recite the words of Psalm 51 (below) out loud. Pay attention to what lies heavy on your heart, mind, body, or soul. Is there a burden or barrier God is inviting you to release? This may be a vague, unnamed sensation. Or you may know, clearly, what is hard and harming that needs softening. Whatever is draining your spirits, whatever is redirecting your energy, offer this up to God for release.
Or, it may be, that you are not comfortable doing this work at this time. It will wait. You can come back to this practice anytime. Today, may these words of scripture be a shelter keeping you safe from whatever you are not yet ready to explore consciously.
Dear one, trust your inner knowing. God will guide you. There is no wrong process. Enter into this practice with an attitude of inner reflection and hopeful confession. May these words of Holy Scripture truly bless your heart. (Pray this psalm as a private conversation with God)
Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-17 (NRSV)
You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You have crushed rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of Your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt-offering, You would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Amen.
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
Sermon: “St Valentine’s Pandemic Big Love” We love in so many ways. This year has asked a lot of us – and has given us new opportunities and challenges to love. God’s Big love guides and heals us. Text: Psalm 51:10.
Special Music: “Make Me A Channel of Your Peace” This piece and performance are offered in solidarity with Asian-Americans, especially Chinese-Americans, who have recently experienced increased racial hate violence, as well as a healing balm for all who are suffering. Prayer attributed to St. Francis, adapt. Sebastian Temple ©1967; Performed by members of Berkeley United Methodist Church. 2020. Used by permission.
Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer
We Give Thanks
Of all the offerings we make, the one which pleases God the most is “a contrite heart.” God is pleased not by our being brought to our knees in humility, but in our eagerness to be repaired and restored. The Mighty Repairer awaits each and every offering of contrition we make. Amen. (also see donation footnote)
We Continue in Hope
Song: “Take, O Take Me as I Am” (may repeat chant many times) Words and music by John L. Bell, copyright © 1995 Iona Community, admin. GIA Publications, Inc. Performed by the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Michigan) Virtual Choir with James Biery, organist. 2020.
St Valentine’s Day Benediction
(hold hands with someone you love, or to put your hand over your heart and call to mind a beloved someone)
St Valentine’s Day Blessing:
There is but one love, Dear Ones, it is the Love of God.
This Big Love flows through all that is.
It moves from one being to another.
It flows from one era to another.
It continually seeks reunion with all beings.
It endlessly attends the wellbeing of everything.
May God’s Redemptive Love,
made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ,
bless you and your loved ones today.
Peace be with you, Dear Ones! Amen.
(the service is concluded)
All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, unless attributed to another source.
Support Chinatowns: The Northern California-Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ’s PAAM (Pacific Islander, Asian American Ministries) recognizes that Asian-American businesses are reeling from a double economic impact – the pandemic and anti-Asian xenophobia. Please support your local “mom and pop” Chinese and other AAPI-owned restaurants. The ox is a symbol of hard work that produces prosperity. Lets’ help make 2021 Year of the Ox prosperous for our Asian-American families and neighbors. Thank you! (see #SaveChineseRestaurants).
2/11/2021 UPDATED COPYRIGHT NOTE: Copyright laws have recently changed. Please check with your denominational legal counsel as to the appropriate use of licensed materials, especially print and recorded music. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow the publishing requirements of any broadcasting or publishing platforms you use. Thank you.
Online Image: photo: Kathryn M Schreiber © 2018.
Online Publishing Date: February 12, 2021.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
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