Ash Wednesday * Psalm 51:1-2,6-9,10-12,17 * Imposition of Ashes

Photo: Kathryn M Schreiber ©2023. Original written content: Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber ©2023.


Today we begin the annual journey to Easter – the 40 days + Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Every year, we spend a little over six weeks offering ourselves to God for a spiritual tune-up.

This Lent we are intentionally focusing on “Walking Through the Valley with the Prince of Peace” in response to our national culture of violence. Let us invoke the Prince of Peace…

Lighting the Christ Candle

Chant “Come and Fill Our Hearts” (Jacques Berthier and the Taizé Community)

Come and fill our hearts with Your peace, You, O Lord, are O so holy.

Come and fill our hearts with Your peace, Alleluia.

This Lent

This Lenten spiritual renewal is a time for repair and reorientation for individuals and communities, for families and nations. Mindful of our national culture of violence, especially gun violence, and our desire to grow as a COMMUNITY resource, we’ve decided to both acknowledge the reality of gun violence AND turn to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace through our national Valley of Death. We believe that this focus this year will lead to comfort, healing, and wisdom we cannot now imagine. If it is God’s will, our little efforts will bear some needful fruit.

In addition to weekly worship, we’ll be observing three spiritual practices:

  • (Daily) Refrain from Violence/Death-centered Entertainment
  • (Weekly) Acknowledge Gun Violence Deaths Ash Wednesday through Good Friday
  • (Monthly) Support Violence Prevention/Treatment  

Pastoral Invitation to Confession

We believe in personal, private confession. Today, we quietly come before God to set down what needs to be set down at God’s feet. We’ll begin by reading portions of Psalm 51 together then observe silent prayer for personal confession.

Scripture: Psalm 51:1-2,6-9,10-12,17

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

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.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a humbled spirit; a repentant and contrite heart, O God, You will not discourage.  Amen. (NRSV)

Silent Private Confession


Assurance of Grace

Take assurance in God’s faithfulness. Whatever we place at God’s feet has been accepted and received. Our requests made in God’s presence have been heard and considered. Our God is gracious; God’s mercy endures forever.

The Lord’s Prayer

We Take 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, but God, who is immortal, will never die.

(horizontal mark)

May God burn away that which is no longer needed

(vertical mark)

That we may rise with Christ on Easter morn.

“Create in Me a Clean Heart” poem by Rev Kathryn Schreiber, inspired by Psalm 51:10

When I am soiled by another’s pain & 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. Amen.


May we humble ourselves to the Prince of Peace this Lent that we might be led to respond with compassion, wisdom, and courage to the epidemic of violence in our land. May we go forth with light, love, and hope in our hearts. Amen

The service is concluded.

Worship Resources:

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

(NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright ©1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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!

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Online Publishing Date: February 22, 2023.

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