Worship Service Planning For Ash Wednesday

by Bobby Gilles

in Worship Leading

Ash Wednesday Poster by Sojourn Church Art Director Michael WinterAsh Wednesday will be upon us soon. Like all elements of the Christian Church liturgical calendar, Ash Wednesday is an effective way to preach the gospel and “walk through” the gospel story. At our church, Sojourn, we always observe Ash Wednesday with an early morning service. You can see our banner preview here, along with a couple photos from past services.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent.  The Church set this date in the 4th century by counting back forty days from Easter (excluding Sundays). This brings us to the Wednesday seven weeks before Easter.  Each of the 40 days represents one of the forty days when Christ fasted in the wilderness, before Satan tempted Him (Mark 4:2).

On Ash Wednesday, we:

  • Contemplate the death that reigns in us because of sin, and our need for Jesus to save us.
  • Commit to daily repentance — to “die daily,” as Paul said (1 Corinthians 15:31).
  • Celebrate that Christ conquered Satan, sin and the grave.

So Where Do The Ashes Come In?

In the Bible, ashes help us remember our mortality and frailty resulting from the Fall (Genesis 3:19; 18:27).  The Bible also uses ashes as a symbol of sorrow and repentance (2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26). When we put ashes on our foreheads in the sign of the cross, we participate in a visible reminder of our condition — and the power of the cross to change that condition forever.

The Worship Sourcebook lists these scriptures for planning Ash Wednesday readings:

  • Psalms 6, 32, 38, 90, 102, 103, 130, 143
  • Joel 2:12-17
  • Matthew 5:6; 6:1-6, 16-21; 11:28-29
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
  • 1 Peter 1:2-3

Songs for Ash Wednesday:

Ashes From Christian Ash Wednesday ServiceIn a couple weeks Kristen and I will share our Lenten Worship Songs playlist with you — 40 songs and hymns you can listen to for free, which will walk you from Ash Wednesday through the season of Lent, Passion Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Songs from that list which would be suited for Ash Wednesday services include:

  1. Kyrie Eleison — Bifrost Arts (Dave Crowder Band does this one on their brand new album, too)
  2. In Adam All Die — Shai Linne
  3. Lead Us Back — Sojourn
  4. Abiding City — Sandra McCracken
  5. Economy — John Mark McMillan

Other good songs for Ash Wednesday include “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, “Be Merciful To Me” by Randall Goodgame (recorded by Caedmon’s Call) and the classic hymn “Come Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart.

For much more, check out the mp3s and other resources for the season of Lent at Cardiphonia, here.


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