March 6 – Ash Wednesday
Lent begins with a solemn call to fasting and repentance as we begin our journey to the baptismal waters of Easter. As we hear in today’s readings, now is the acceptable time to return to the Lord. During Lent the people of God will reflect on the meaning of their baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. The sign of ashes suggests our human mortality and frailty. What seems like an ending is really an invitation to make each day a new beginning, in which we are washed in God’s mercy and forgiveness. With the cross on our brow, we long for the spiritual renewal that flows from the springtime Easter feast to come.
Prayer of the Day
Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors. Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
First Reading: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Because of the coming Day of the Lord, the prophet Joel calls the people to a community lament. The repentant community reminds God of his gracious character and asks God to spare the people, lest the nations doubt God’s power to save.
1Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— 2a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.
12Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?
15Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather 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.
17Between 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?’ ”
Psalm: Psalm 51:1-17
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. (Ps. 51:1)
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; in your great compassion blot out my offenses. 2Wash me through and through from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin. 3For I know my offenses, and my sin is ever before me. 4Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment. 5Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness, a sinner from my mother’s womb. 6Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me, and would have me know wisdom deep within. 7Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be purer than snow. 8Let me hear joy and gladness; that the body you have broken may rejoice. 9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my wickedness. 10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of | your salvation and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. 13Let me teach your ways to offenders, and sinners shall be restored to you. 14Rescue me from bloodshed, O God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness. 15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. 16For you take no delight in sacrifice, or I would give it. You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a troubled and broken heart, O God, you will not despise.
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10
The ministry of the gospel endures many challenges and hardships. Through this ministry, God’s reconciling activity in the death of Christ reaches into the depths of our lives to bring us into a right relationship with God. In this way, God accepts us into the reality of divine salvation.
20bWe entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6:1As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commends almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, but emphasizes that spiritual devotion must not be done for show.[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
March 10 – First Sunday in Lent
These forty days called Lent are like no other. It is our opportune time to return to the God who rescues; to receive the gifts of God’s grace; to believe with the heart and confess with the mouth the wonder of God’s love in Jesus; and to resist temptation at every turn. This is no small pilgrimage on which we have just embarked. It is a struggle Jesus knew. It is a struggle Jesus shares. The nearness of the Lord, in bread and wine, water and word, will uphold and sustain us.
Prayer of the Day
O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land. Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world toward the life you alone can give, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
The annual harvest festival, called the Feast of Weeks, provides the setting for this reading. This festival celebrates the first fruits of the produce of the land offered back to God in thanks. In this text, worshipers announce God’s gracious acts on behalf of Israel.
1When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, 5you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; 9and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. 11Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.
Psalm: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
God will give the angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways. (Ps. 91:11)
1You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty— 2you will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust.” 9Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation, 10no evil will befall you, nor shall affliction come near your dwelling. 11For God will give the angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways. 12Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13You will tread upon the lion cub and viper; you will trample down the lion and the serpent. 14I will deliver those who cling to me; I will uphold them, because they know my name. 15They will call me, and I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue and honor them. 16With long life will I satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
Second Reading: Romans 10:8b-13
Paul reminds the Christians at Rome of the foundation of their creed, the confession of faith in the risen Christ as Lord.
8b“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13
After being filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, Jesus is led in the wilderness. Through his responses to the temptations of the devil, he defines what it means to be called “the Son of God.”
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’ ”
5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”
9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
12Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Theme for the season of Lent
Gather Us, Redeem Us, Anoint Us, Make Us New
God Gathers Us. We are gathered together by God as a holy community. We gather around the table, where we are fed with heavenly food. We gather around the font, where a splash of water washes us. We gather around the holy word, where we hear again and again God’s love for us.
God Redeems Us. We are redeemed by God’s love for us in Christ. Christ lived, died and rose again so we can become children of God. We are redeemed, pulled out of our selfish ways. We are forgiven and set free from the hold sin has on our lives.
God Anoints Us. In the bible, when a person was anointed, they were set aside for a special task or purpose. This was signified by being anointed with oil, it was poured on that person. In our baptisms, we are anointed, set aside for God’s purpose. We are anointed with the Holy Spirit, empowered and chosen by God to share God’s love.
God Makes Us New. We are made new in Christ. The apostle Paul writes that if anyone is in Christ, they are new creation. We are constantly made new through the forgiveness, grace and love Christ offers us. We are called by God to share this newness with the world.
Gather Us, Redeem Us, Anoint Us, Make Us New – may this be our prayer this Lenten season, so we may show the world around us God’s never-failing love.
The Changing Altarscape during the Season of Epiphany
Promises of God Fulfilled