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Good evening friends. Well, how great that we live in a time where we can pivot and still gather together, even if it is online. I hope you are all able to stay warm and safe in the middle of the snow that is falling outside. We serve a God who makes streams in the wilderness, and I do pray that this “Livestream,” is a vessel of the life and healing God brings. You can either join us online at 7pm, Wednesday, February 22nd on the Mill City facebook page or Youtube page. Or you can walk through this liturgy on your own. 

Our time this evening is going to be full of songs and Scripture, as we commemorate the beginning of our 40-day preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on the day we know as Easter. I’d encourage you to have a pen and a piece of paper available to help in this reflection. 

As the Church has done for centuries upon centuries, in person and recently online, we too begin our worship this evening in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

SONG: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come Thou fount of ev’ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise mine Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wand’ring from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter, Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above


As I mentioned, for centuries, Christians have celebrated this solemn day to commemorate the beginning of our 40-day preparation for the Celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on the day we know as Easter. In the earliest days of the Church, this forty-day season was used as a time of instruction and preparation for baptism as new believers learned the essentials of Christian faith and practice.  

In time, however, after waves of pestilence and plagues and persecution, these early followers of Jesus also came to see this forty-day season not only as a time of preparation for the new life of faith following baptism, but also as a time to remember the frailty of human life and the brokenness of the human condition. 

In other words, Lent became known as a season for recognition and repentance.

And that’s what tonight’s service and this season is all about – recognition and repentance.  

Just like the prophet Job repented to God in “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6), this service is a reminder that, as Genesis 3:19 reminds us, “From dust we were formed, and to dust we will return.” 

Traditionally, we would cover ourselves in Ash together in the recognition that we have all fallen short of the Glory of God. That we are all in need of new hearts, new minds, and a new spirit.

But the ashes don’t only remind us of our need for repentance. They are also a powerful invitation to recognize our own mortality – they are a reminder that one day I too must die. They are a reminder that no matter how much kale I eat and no matter how hard I fight to stay fit – I have come from dust, and to dust I will one day return.   

Ashes remind us of the inevitable – that death comes to us all.

Yet, because the ashes are traditionally imposed in the shape of the cross, we are also reminded of two truths of the absolute absurdity of the depth of God’s love for us. One, we are reminded that no sin is too great to find forgiveness; and two, we are reminded that no body is too broken to experience resurrection.

Through the ashes imposed in the shape of the cross, we testify to each other and remind one another of the good news that is yet to come — that one day even death will die when we are raised to eternal life at the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. 

Thus, the ashes point not to defeat, but to the coming victory of Easter. 

They remind us that we can face death. We can admit our own mortality. 

We can talk openly about the limits of this life because of our hope in Christ. Because of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, we are invited into a fullness of life now, and that will not end even when our mortal bodies are buried in the dirt.

And so, friends, I invite you to join me as we mark this night, and this season, as holy. As a season set apart so as to remember collectively our need for repentance and reconciliation with God and with one another as we look forward to Resurrection Sunday and the day when our faith shall be made sight. 

Yes, we come from dust, and to dust we shall return, but because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, dust is not our destiny.  

So would you join me in this prayer from Psalms. 

Leader: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name.

ALL: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits.

Leader: Bless the Lord, who forgives all our sins and heals all our infirmities.

ALL: Bless the Lord, who redeems our lives from the grave, and crowns us with mercy. 

SONG: Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous myst’ry, In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises, Robed in frail humanity
In our longing in our darkness, Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ who condescended, Took on flesh to ransom us

Come behold the wondrous myst’ry, He the perfect Son of Man
In His living in His suff’ring, Never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam, Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment, Of the law in Him we stand

Come behold the wondrous myst’ry, Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners, Hangs the Lamb in victory
See the price of our redemption, See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many souls to glory, Grace unmeasured love untold

Come behold the wondrous myst’ry, Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him, Praise the Lord He is alive
What a foretaste of deliv’rance, How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected, As we will be when He comes


As we continue in worship, please join me in a responsive reading; 

Leader: Shortly after Adam and Eve committed the first sin, we hear God utter some of the most haunting words in all of scripture, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return”

ALL: Tonight, we remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

 Virus and violence, disaster and decay; we all fall down.

Nothing can stop death from coming—

Not our diversions or denial,

our insights or investments, 

our castles or our causes.

All that we are and all that we love 

was forged from the elements of earth.

And as it once was, so shall it be again.

ALL: Tonight, we remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

Frightened by the weight of eternity,

We scramble to write an identity.

Getting caught up in our own centrality,

We mistake importance for immortality.

Tonight, we remember that it’s not about us.

And yet tonight we also remember that it IS about us. 

The gunman, the perpetrator, and the warmonger 

are made of the very same stuff that flows through our veins and enlightens our brains.

ALL: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

We are all complicit and victimized, 

All oppressor and oppressed.

Broken hearts create broken systems.

Broken systems create broken hearts.

And wholeness eludes us all. 

The wind passes over us, and we are gone,

    and its place knows us no more.

ALL: Tonight we remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

 Yes, we will die. And the world might forget us.

But the steadfast love of the Lord never will. 

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,

    and his righteousness to children’s children.

The Spirit exhales, and dry bones catch their breath;

         Ash re-ignites, alight and alive- 

 Smudged on the black fingertips of the God who bends to sweep wide the arm of salvation through the dust of the earth.

“As a father has compassion on his children,

So the Lord has compassion on us;

For he knows how we are formed,

           He remembers that we are dust.” 

ALL: Remember, O God, the dust from which we arose.

That by your breath, we will arise again.

Lord, have mercy

Christ, have mercy

Lord, have mercy. 

SONG: O Love that Will Not Let Me Go.


Oh love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee
I give You back the life I owe that in thine ocean’s depths its flow
May richer fuller be

My life is not my own, it’s yours
My life is not my own, it’s yours

Oh light that follows all my way, I yield my flickering torch to Thee
My heart restores it’s borrowed ray that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter fairer be

So light a fire in my heart and I’ll burn for you
So light a fire in my heart and I’ll burn for you


Tonight we will dwell on two passages of Scripture. One from the Old Testament and One from the New. These passages deal with themes of repentance, renewal, and renewed righteousness (lived repentance). They are “lenten” themed passages in that they encourage us to focus our heart’s affections, our mind’s attention, and our hands devotion on the Lord and the Way of Jesus. As we do, I’d encourage you to write on the a piece of paper, these two questions:

“What stands out in this passage?” and

“Holy Spirit, what does this passage mean for me/us on this 1st day of lent?” 

Our first reflection tonight comes from Isaiah 58:1-12.  Hear the Word of the Lord:

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. 

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the cords of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

“This is the Word of the Lord.”

“Thanks be to God”

// Pause to Reflect on this passage.  // 


The New Testament reading comes from the Gospel of Luke 18:9-14. 

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and who regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

This is the Word of the Lord.

“Thanks be to God”

// Pause to Reflect // 


If you would, please join me in our prayer of confession. 

Leader: Most holy and merciful God:

We confess to you and to one another,

that we have sinned in thought, word, deed, and attitude;

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, Lord.

And forgive us our sins.

We have been deaf 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, Lord.

And forgive us our sins.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy,

and impatience of our lives,

Have mercy on us, Lord.

And forgive us our sins.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,

Have mercy on us, Lord.

And forgive us our sins.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,

Have mercy on us, Lord.

And forgive us our sins. 

For all the ways in which we have wronged you and our neighbor

Have mercy on us, Lord.

And forgive us our sins.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

And renew our hearts,

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

And renew our minds,

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

And renew our lives.

All: Lord, you are compassionate and gracious,

    slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.

You will not always accuse,

    nor will you harbor your anger forever;

You do not treat us as our sins deserve

    or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

    so great is your love for us;

as far as the east is from the west,

    so far have you removed our transgressions from us.


SONG: How Deep the Father’s Love

How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One, Bring many souls to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross, My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there, Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything, No gifts no pow’r no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward, I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom


At this point of the service, we would head into the Imposition of Ashes and songs of response. In lieu of that, because we are all at home. I’d encourage you to take a piece of paper and write these words:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

And then take this piece of paper and put it someplace visible. It could be sticking it on your dash, putting it over a light switch, even folding it and putting it in a wallet. If you wanted, you could even use this screen saver as the background of your phone: 

As you write this, let’s conclude our time in worship. 

SONG: Jesus Paid it All

And I hear the Savior say, Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all

‘Cause Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow

Lord now indeed I find, Thy pow’r and Thine alone
Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone

‘Cause Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow

And when before the throne, I stand in Him complete
Jesus died my soul to save, My lips shall still repeat

‘Cause Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow

Oh praise the One Who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead

Oh praise the One Who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead


Receive this blessing as we depart:

May God the Father, who does not despise the broken spirit,

Give to you a contrite heart.

May Christ, who bore our sins in his body on the tree, 

Heal you by his wounds.

May the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth,

Speak to you words of pardon and peace.

May the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.