Worship in the Home: Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Posted on February 9, 2021 by ELCA Worship

Worship in the Home

Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2021

In this time of world-wide crisis, congregations throughout this church are not able to gather for worship as the body of Christ. While you cannot be together in person, we can hear the word of God and hold each other in prayer. We offer this brief resource as an aid for prayer in the home. As with our prayers in the gathered assembly for worship, you are encouraged to prepare or adapt them locally for your context.

You may prepare for this service of prayer at home by finding a place to pray and lighting a candle there.  You may also set out a bowl of ashes, a bowl of soil, or a bowl of water.

If you decide to use ashes, soil or water to mark the sign the cross during this home prayer, think of this: all three signify death and new life — the ashes from the palm branches of last year, common soil since human beings in Genesis 2 are earth creatures made of dust, and water which in baptism joins us to the death of Christ.  You may be able to receive safely for your use ashes from your own congregation.  Soil can simply be dug from the earth near where you live.  Water can be any water, perhaps from the tap in your home.

One person begins:

Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God,
the keeper of the covenant,
the source of steadfast love,
our rock and our redeemer.


A brief silence is kept before the Prayer of the Day.

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Then the readings for the day may be read, as follows:

First Reading: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

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 the LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
14Who knows whether the LORD will not turn and relent,
and leave behind a blessing,
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?’ ”

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.


The Psalm may be sung or read in response to the First Reading.

 Psalm 51:1-17

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 ev- | er 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 pur- | er 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 spir- | it within me.
11Cast me not away | from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spir- | it from me.
12Restore to me the joy of | your salvation
and sustain me with your boun- | tiful Spirit.
13Let me teach your ways | to offenders,
and sinners shall be re- | stored to you.
14Rescue me from bloodshed, O God of | my salvation,
and my tongue shall sing | of your righteousness.
15O LORD, o- | pen my lips,
and my mouth shall pro- | claim 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

20bWe entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake God 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 God, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For God 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.

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.


Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

The holy gospel according to Matthew.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[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.”

The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.



Having read these readings, think on this:

On Ash Wednesday, with a day of fasting and repentance, we begin our forty-day journey toward Easter. Marking our foreheads with dust or water, we acknowledge that we die and return to the earth. At the same time, the mark traces the life-giving cross that was indelibly placed on our foreheads at baptism. While we journey through Lent to return to God, we have already been reconciled to God through Christ. We humbly pray for God to make our hearts clean while we rejoice that “now is the day of salvation.” Returning to our baptismal call, we more intentionally bear the fruits of mercy and justice in the world.


If you have a hymnal, you may now sing or read “Restore in Us, O God” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 328), Create in Me a Clean Heart” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 188), “Just As I Am, without One Plea” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 592), “Return to God” (All Creation Sings 921). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

Create in Me a Clean Heart

Just As I Am, Without One Plea

Return to God


A Confession of Sin follows.

Silence is kept for reflection and self-examination.

Most holy and merciful God,
we confess to you and to one another,
and before the whole company of heaven,
that we have sinned by our fault,
by our own fault,
by our own most grievous fault,
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, O God.

We have shut our ears to your call to serve as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, O God.

Our past unfaithfulness, the pride, envy, hypocrisy, and apathy that have infected our lives, we confess to you.
Have mercy on us, O God.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, we confess to you.
Have mercy on us, O God.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to share the faith that is in us, we confess to you.
Have mercy on us, O God.

Our neglect of human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, we confess to you.
Have mercy on us, O God.

Our false judgments, our uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, we confess to you.
Have mercy on us, O God.

Our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, we confess to you.
Have mercy on us, O God.

Restore us, O God, and let your anger depart from us.
Hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.


Signing with ashes, soil, or water may follow.

Persons living together may sign each other on the forehead and persons living alone may mark their own forehead.

When ashes are used in the service, the forehead of each person may be signed with a cross of ashes, while these words are said:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

If soil is used, these words are said:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

If water is used, these words are said:
Remember that you were buried with Christ in baptism.  Repent and believe in the gospel.

After the signing, one person may conclude with these words:
Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation,
that we may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son, our Savior,
bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.


Then pray these intercessions:

On this Ash Wednesday, we pray for the church and for all in need. Let these bids encourage our spoken or silent prayers.

Let us pray for the church throughout the world.

Let us pray for our congregation.

Let us pray for everyone who is preparing for baptism at Easter.

Let us pray for the health of plants and animals.

Let us pray for all who care for the earth.

Let us pray for peace throughout the world.

Let us pray for an increase of justice in our land.

Let us pray for a spirit of concord throughout our society.

Let us pray for the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed.

Let us pray for the end of this pandemic.

Let us pray for all who are sick or suffering.

Let us pray for all who today will die.

Let us pray for the desires of our hearts.

Let us thank God for all who have gone before us in the faith.

Into your hands, merciful God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


If you have a hymnal, you may now sing or read “On My Heart Imprint Your Image” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 811), Your Heart, O God, Is Grieved” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 602), “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 608), “When It Seems the Day Will End” (All Creation Sings 1034). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

On My Heart Imprint Your Image

Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling

When it Seems the Day Will End


Then conclude with these prayers:

Let us pray.
A brief silence is kept before the prayer.

Merciful God, accompany our journey through these forty days. Renew us in the gift of baptism, that we may provide for those who are poor, pray for those in need, fast from self-indulgence, and above all that we may find our treasure in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, let us pray as Jesus taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and forever.


Then speak the Blessing:

Almighty God, Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit, bless us now and forever.


Devotional Music Links: For your individual or group devotion, you may choose to listen to the following choral recordings made available through Augsburg Fortress: “Kyrie in Procession;” “Not What These Hands Have Done,” “Just As I Am, without One Plea.”

Daily Prayer Resources are available, including simple forms of Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer; Responsive Prayer; and prayers for mealtimes and other occasions.

Due to copyright restrictions, we are only able to provide downloadable hymns that are in the public domain and selected hymns for limited use. Other suggestions provided above may be found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship. To purchase copies of Evangelical Lutheran Worship and All Creation Sings for the home, visit the Augsburg Fortress website or call 1-800-328-4648. Selected hymns from All Creation Sings will be provided for limited use.

Reflection text: Gordon Lathrop. Intercessory Prayer: Gail Ramshaw

Portions from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, All Creation Sings, and sundaysandseasons.com © 2021 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Readings from Readings for the Assembly © 1995, 1996, 1997 Augsburg Fortress. Citations from the Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 Consultation on Common Texts. Scripture quotations from NRSV Bible, Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, adapted and edited with permission by Gordon Lathrop and Gail Ramshaw.

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