Ash Wednesday “Tender Return” Joel:12-17 & Psalm 19:8-15 * God’s MERCY

Photo: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber ©2022. Worship format and original contentRev. Kathryn M. Schreiber ©2022.

BCCC Worship/Public Health Schedule

Beginning March 6, 2022, our Sunday worship services will be in person every Sunday. We will continue to follow our established indoor COVID-19 safety protocols. This Ash Wednesday evening service will be on ZOOM.

We Enter Sacred Space

“May all that is unforgiven in you / be released.” – John O’Donohue, Irish soul guide

Welcome and Acknowledgements (pastor)

Welcome to this contemplative service – a quieting time as we step into Lent, the spiritual season preparing for Easter. Please come as you are – open to God’s loving presence revealed in Jesus Christ and the Hebrew prophets. Trust the support and protection of this community. And, let us honor the Lisjan-Ohlone people, still alive, and their ancestors, grateful to be here upon their unceded territory and committed to healing relations among our peoples.

Preparing Your Home Sacred Space

Assemble bowl of water, cloth, as well as symbols of God’s mercy embodied in Jesus Christ. Please allow time after the service for further reflection.

Invocation (pastor)

We gather in the Holy Spirit drawn together.

We gather with supportive souls standing guard.

We gather protected by God’s eternal promises.

We gather safely open to a truing vulnerability.

We gather in the dark to be illuminated.

We gather in silence to hear wisdom’s voice.

We gather in genuine humility to be repaired.

We gather in hope drawn to God’s mercy.

May Christ be with us…

Light The Christ Candle (pastor) Amen.

Welcoming Those Not Physically Present (pastor)

Passing the Peace (all) kind gestures and words of peace

We Turn Inward

Song: “Come Thou Font” Lyrics by Robert Robinson, 1758. Music from Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, 1813.

Invitation to Lenten Spiritual Practice (pastor)

Scripture: Joel 2:12-17 (NRSV)

Yet even now, says the Lord,
   return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
   rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
   for God is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
   and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether God will not turn and relent,
   and leave a blessing behind,
a grain-offering and a drink-offering
   for the Lord, your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
   sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
   gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
   assemble the aged;
gather the children,
   even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
   and the bride her canopy.

Between the vestibule and the altar
   let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord,
   and do not make your heritage a mockery,
   a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
   “Where is their God?”’

Reflection: “Tender Mercy” (pastor) A pastoral invitation to surrender to God what no longer serves.

Special Music: “Hymn of Mercy” Music by Dan Forrest. Lyrics by Eileen Berry (based on Hosea 14:1-4).

Prayer, Private Confession, and Silence (pastor)

Let us shift into silence in God’s presence with this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10.

Be still and know that I am God. (Breathe slowly)

Be still and know that I am. (Breathe slowly)

Be still and know. (Breathe slowly)

Be still. (Breathe slowly)

Be. (Breathe slowly)

Private Confession and Silence. Amen. (pastor)

Assurance of Grace (pastor)

Dear Ones, we have been called to this sacred space for transformation. If invited, God will remove the heavy, scratchy cloaks of shame and regret we wear. If invited, God will tenderly anoint the wounds that don’t seem to heal. If invited, God will add an unexpected gift to our waking consciousness lifting our spirits and energy.

Beloveds, this is how God’s grace works. When we turn toward God humbly asking God to change us, God does what is God’s to do. God has granted us great freedom and will not overtake us. We must invite God to act. God is pleased whenever any being genuinely asks for holy help. Praise be to our loving God.

We Focus Upon God

Scripture: Psalm 19:8-15 (The Psalter, Liturgical Training Publications, ©1994)

God’s perfect love revives the soul.

God’s stable rule guides the simple.

God’s just demands delight the heart.

God’s clear commands sharpen vision.

God’s spotless decrees stand for ever.

God’s right judgments keep their truth.

Their worth is more than gold, the purest gold;

Their taste richer than honey, sweet from the comb.

Keeping them makes me rich, they bring me light;

Yet faults hide within us, forgive me mine.

Keep my pride in check, break its grip;

I shall be free of blame for deadly sin.

Keep me, thought and word, in Your good grace.

Lord, You are my savior, You are my rock. 

Confessional Prayer with All Beings

Holy One, made real to us in the person of Jesus Christ, tonight we return to the ancient practice of confession that we might do our part to restore what we have broken. We come before You in the fullness of our dignity, agents of awareness and responsibility, for we know we are Yours and we are blessed. We choose to submit to Your will. Have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us.

Author of All Live, as we attend the private matters of our own souls, we are also mindful that we are a people among peoples, and a being among beings. We acknowledge that we have acted, and we have supported those who act in our name, in ways that have torn the essential weave of our interdependence. Bless the ambassadors of Your Big Love who come to show us how to restore what has been damaged. Have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us.

Source of Hope and Meaning, we honor Your superior reality even as we do not fully understand You. May we grow to trust the inclinations of our souls, believing in goodness and integrity, mercy and hope, these wondrous eternal springs of Your Big Love flowing through all Creation. Blessed One Who Is, fill us with faith and forgive us for we have falsely worshipped idols. Have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us.

Let us now join, with heavenly and earthly beings speaking all manner of languages, as we pray together the prayer our Dear Lord Jesus taught us to pray:

The Lord’s Prayer (unison)

Special Music: “Create in Me” Written by Terry Talbot.

We Receive the Ashes

The ash cross on our foreheads is a symbol of a very ancient practice of rubbing ash onto the body as a sign of humility before God. For us mortals, one day we will die and our bodies will return to the earth. However, God who is immortal will never die.

We are gathering virtually, marking the foreheads or backs of hands of those in our households, including ourselves. Though apart, we engage in this practice together – blessing each other – linked by God’s Holy Spirit.

Dip a finger into the ash. Make a horizontal line on the forehead.

May God burn away that which is no longer needed.

Dip a finger into the ash. Make a vertical line on the forehead, bottom-up.

That we may rise with Christ on Easter morn.

Special Music: “Abide with Me” (new tune)Words: Henry F Lyte, 1847. Music: Lowana Wallace, 2017. New version of the original by William Henry Monk, 1861.

Benediction (pastor)

Dear Ones, these are important Turning Times. God is offering humanity a new way forward. May the blessing of our personal reconciliations with God prepare us to travel well with others this Lenten journey. May we follow the Way of Christ illuminated by the Hebrew Prophets. May God’s transforming will be done. Amen.

The service is concluded.

Worship Resources:

(kms) All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber, unless attributed to another source.

Residency Acknowledgement: This content was written in Huichin Village, unceded territory of the Lisjan- Ohlone people, where I dwell and serve as a local church pastor. Please support indigenous rematriation efforts, the #LandBack movement, and give to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust Sog and other non-profits that reform, balance, and heal relationships with our indigenous hosts. Thank you!

Copyright Note: Copyright laws changed in December 2020 when Congress passed the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (CASE Act). Please check with your legal counsel as to the appropriate use of licensed materials, especially print and recorded music when sharing content online. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow the publishing requirements of any broadcasting or publishing platforms you use. Protect the rights of content creators. Thank you!

Online Publishing Date: February 22, 2022.

Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please attribute source and observe ethical use of all resources. Follow your platforms’ publishing requirements for all created content especially if publishing online or broadcasting. Thank you!

Donation: 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!

For Online Content: Please see Facebook pages: “Berkeley Chinese Community Church” and “Living Liturgies”; as well as my website: and YouTube channel: “Kathryn Schreiber”

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