Ash, Year B

Musical Reflection
Ash Wednesday by Elvis Perkins



Mystery of Goodness,
by whose gaze
we are called into being and held in life:
teach us
the secrecy of prayer
which seeks no reward;
the generosity of love
which forgets itself;
the gift of a treasure
uncountable and unconsumed;
through Jesus Christ, the Child of the Wilderness.
First Reading
Ash Wednesday
by Louis Untermeyer


Shut out the light or let it filter through
These frowning aisles as penitentially
As though it walked in sackcloth. Let it be
Laid at the feet of all that ever grew
Twisted and false, like this rococo shrine
Where cupids smirk from candy clouds and where
The Lord, with polished nails and perfumed hair,
Performs a parody of the divine.

The candles hiss; the organ-pedals storm;
Writhing and dark, the columns leave the earth
To find a lonelier and darker height.
The church grows dingy while the human swarm
Struggles against the impenitent body’s mirth.
Ashes to ashes. . . . Go. . . . Shut out the light.



And so the light runs laughing from the town,
Pulling the sun with him along the roads
That shed their muddy rivers as he goads
Each blade of grass the ice had flattened down.
At every empty bush he stops to fling
Handfuls of birds with green and yellow throats;
While even the hens, uncertain of their notes,
Stir rusty vowels in attempts to sing.

He daubs the chestnut-tips with sudden reds
And throws an olive blush on naked hills
That hoped, somehow, to keep themselves in white.
Who calls for sackcloth now? He leaps and spreads
A carnival of color, gladly spills
His blood: the resurrection—and the light.

Second Reading
by Dorianne Laux

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor —
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 6:1-21

“Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Abba God who is in heaven.

“Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Abba God who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to God who is present in that secret place. Your God who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. Don’t be like them, because your God knows what you need before you ask. Pray like this:

Abba God in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
May your reign come;
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

“If you forgive others their sins, Abba God will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will Abba God forgive you.

“And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Abba God who is present in that secret place. Abba God, who sees in secret, will reward you.

“Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Musical Reflection
Dust in the Wind by Kansas


From the Talmud and a song
by Annie Henning and Matthew Ward, adapted

Evening comes when you call,
and all nature listens to you
because you hold it all.
And now you hold us.

Blessed are you, O God,
Ruler of the universe!
At your word night falls.
In your wisdom you open heaven’s gates.
You set the stars in the vault of heaven.
You created night and day.

Blessed are you, O God,
at whose word night falls.
All nature listens to you,
because you hold it all.
And now you hold us.

The Lord’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, heavenly Mother,
heavenly Parent,
Holy and blessed is your true name.
We pray for your reign of peace to come,
We pray that your good will be done,
Let heaven and earth become one.
Give us this day the bread we need,
Give it to those who have none.
Let forgiveness flow like a river between us,
From each one to each one.
Lead us to holy innocence
Beyond the evil of our days —
Come swiftly Mother, Father, Parent, come.
For yours is the power and the glory and the mercy:
Forever your name is All in One.

Musical Reflection
We Rise Again by The Rankin Family


May the crucified Christ
shatter our brittle fear,
draw all people to God’s glory
and make us helpers
living for the world;

and the blessing of God,
the One Who Was, the One Who Is and the One Who Is to Come, be with us and remain with us always. Amen.



Artwork by Jan Richardson

Invocation and Blessing from Prayers for an Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare

Musical Reflection Ash Wednesday by Elvis Perkins

Poem Ash Wednesday by Louis Untermeyer

Poem Dust by Dorianne Laux

Musical Reflection Dust in the wind by Kansas

Prayer from the Talmud

Lord’s Prayer by Parker J Palmer

Musical Reflection We Rise Again by the Rankin Family

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