AshWednesdayB.14.2.2018

Revd Rex A E Hunt
Email:  rexae@optusnet.com.au  OR  rexae74@gmail.com
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A GATHERING LITURGY
FOR ASH WEDNESDAY

14 February 2018


Refreshment Station/Water Basins
Pottery basins are set on stands near the entrance to the Gathering space. 
Attendees are invited to dip their hands in the cool water in the basins as they arrive. 
Or to rinse each other’s hands... 
That we may relax, be refreshed, and prepare for this time together.

(Note: A small sign is placed above the basin explaining that as they dip their hands in the water, they are invited to relax and try to mindfully set aside or release for a time anything that might be preventing them from being fully present—each traveller rinsing the “dust from the road”).

OR

(A suggestion of other words)
We come together from our separate lives,
each of us bringing our concerns, our preoccupations,
our hopes, and our dreams.

We are not yet fully present.
The traffic, the last-minute cooking, the final details still cling to us.
Our bodies hold the rush of the past few hours.

It is now time to let go of these pressures
and really arrive…   

When you are ready, repeat silently to yourself: ‘Hineini’ or ‘Here I am’.
Hineini is used in the Torah to signify being present
in body, mind, and spirit.
It means settling into where we are and simply being “here”.  (Adapted/Nan Fink Gene)

Entry into the Celebration
The gong is sounded three times

From our homes you draw us to this sacred time and space, O Holy One.
We come to dwell in your presence, for you are
the source of our being.
(Silence)

God calls us to renew ourselves and our life’s purpose,
as we gather with others who are searching for meaning.

Let us be in silence together.  (Janice Huggett)
(Silence)

Setting the Tables
The tables are set with ashes, water, bread, wine

We now celebrate the richness and diversity of life.
The Community Candle is lit

Opening Sentences
Out of nothingness we came through birth into life:
All  
With the Spirit of God within us.

From the life of God the universe unfolded into being
All  With the Spirit of God within it.

From the heart of God creation goes on till the end of time
All  With the Spirit of God within it
and with our spirit within it.

Let us embrace the God who enfolds us
All  We delight in God.
  (Pitt St Uniting)

OR

As we enter into this sacred place,
put away the pressures of the world that ask us
to perform,
to take up masks,
to put on brave fronts.
Silence the voices that ask you to be perfect.

v2 This is a community of compassion and welcoming.  (Erika A Hewitt/adapted)
All  We bring all that we are and all that we yet can be,
to this safe and ordinary place.

Presentation of Water Basins
Words which acknowledge that the dust of many roads and many life experiences has been rinsed into the basins, and calls for the contents of the basins and the gathering to be transformed, renewed, and more fully alive

The dust of many roads and may life experiences
has been washed in this refreshing water.
For this place is a sacred place.

May we
greet one another with open hearts and minds;
inspire each other to consider new questions
and seek deeper meaning;
and cultivate both wisdom and compassion.

And may this time together empower us to take some new steps
so all our living is transforming and the
yearning of our hearts become reality.
The bowls of water are removed from the Gathering space

Welcome

Readings from our broad Religious Tradition
Let us listen to some stories from our broad religious tradition.

From the World Around us:
“Falling”
By Diana Neutze. Eremos Magazine.

it feels like a tightrope stretched
yawningly across my days-

one false step and I'll fall endlessly
as in a dream
where the death is the falling
yet I want to live within my life with a fullness
just as a dancing flame devours the air
not choke smoulderingly on damp wood-

the narrower the boundaries
the fiercer the energy

I look for markers
signposts of the spirit to define my journey-

a tiny patch of white violets
like a passing note-
birds returning to the feeders
in a well-tempered fugue-

I watch a ripple of wind across my garden
there is a dance of walnut leaves
grape tendrils sway
and even the climbing rose
rocks gently against the light-

the wind itself I do not see-
only the surging power
in the leaves bears witness-

is it the same with the breath of God?
for all I encounter
is a cathedral forest of arches-

a rose iridescent against the twilight-
a sharing of ideas with a friend-

as the spirit breathes across
my
life

OR

“Ash Wednesday”
By Jim Burklo

On my forehead,
A sign of the cross,
Smudged in ash from the fire
That burned down the McMansion of my hubris,
And, with it,
The money I should have given away,
The television I used to numb my senses,
The carpet I should have been called on,
The doors I should have opened to others,
The envelopes I should have used
To send letters of love,
The wise books I shelved prominently
So that others would think I had read them,
The blank places in my photo albums
Where my darker moments should have been remembered,
The calendars where visits with the people who needed me most
Should have been scheduled,
The couch of my complacency,
The lounge-chair of my laziness,
The shirts I stuffed with my pride,
The moccasins I should have traded with others
So we could have walked miles in them.

On my forehead,
A sign of the crossroad
Where I can turn from the way of ruin
To the way of life.

Traditional Gospel: 
Matthew 6 (Selected verses, Inclusive Text)

Jesus said to the disciples:
Be careful not to parade your good deeds before others to attract their notice;
by doing this you will lose all heavenly reward.

So when you give alms,
do not have it trumpeted before you:
this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues
and in the streets to win the admiration of others.
I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward... 

And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites:
they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues
and at the street corners for people to see them.
I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward...

When you fast
do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do:
they pull long faces to let others know they are fasting.

I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward...

OR

Mark 2: 18-22  (Inclusive Text)

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to Jesus,
"Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,
but your disciples do not fast?"

Jesus said to them,
"The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? 
As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.

"No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak;
otherwise, the patch pulls away from it,
the new from the old,
and a worse tear is made.

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins;
otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and the wine is lost, and so are the skins;
but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."

Silence

SERVICE OF THE ASHES
A Prayer for Ash Wednesday
The Ashes are brought forward

We pray:
O Source of life and love, torn by desires to sit back
and to enjoy the beauty of the world --
to savor the blue skies and gentle days –
and by desires to recast the world and to fight its evils - to save the world...

Torn by all those things that hurt and confuse
and make no sense amid beauty -
yet supported by all those things that heal and hold us -
smiles, kisses, mountain vistas
and gentle waves, warm words...

We live in mystery.
We live torn apart at times:
so much glory,
so much pain.

We live in faith:
faith in ourselves and each other,
faith that we can create bonds of the spirit that proclaim we are not alone.

We have much health within us;
we can live through the heartache to new life.

So, for the grace of the world and all the tumble,
too, this day we give thanks…  
(Bruce Southworth)

Silence

The Letting Go
We lay down what is past...
All
 We lay down what is past and look to the future.
We take into our daily life signs of hope and healing.
We reach beyond ourselves to share the lives of others
and touch a wider world.

The Ashes
Ash Wednesday invites us to come back to earth.
To wonder at the gift of life,
my life
our life
with the earth, the shared body of our existence.

These ashes were once trees and shrubs,
and places where life was lived to its fullest.
Once they were full of life.
Now they are black and grey.
Dry.
Lifeless.

But mixed with the waters of our baptism make good fertiliser:
it will help the seeds of the gospel take deeper root in us
and bring forth the fruits,
the harvest of justice, peace, and generosity.

These are ashes worth wearing.

May we accept this gift.  And be blessed.
And be assured we will be different at the end of this season.
For from the burnt ashes will spring the green shoot of life
and the purple flower of attentiveness to God.

Blessing
May these ashes be blessed.
May they be for us a symbol of our return to the earth.
May we be blessed.
May we be earthed in your everlasting love,
as forgiven and forgiving people.

Distribution
Those who wish to be marked are invited to come forward

Centering Silence

CELEBRATING COMMUNITY: SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
Thanksgiving
Gracious God, we praise you and give you thanks.
All  
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

For the love we name Creativity God, and all that is.
For the one we name Jesus
and his message of peace, justice and inclusiveness
that is the realm of God.
For the renewing strength and freedom of the Spirit
always present on the breath of life.
All We give thanks for the presentness of God in the midst of life.

The Celebration
We remember the stories…

How Jesus gathered with friends and foes
to tell them of a re-imagined way of living and being.
A way that did not conform to the standards of the Roman Empire
or any other system of governance
that suppressed people
until starvation and deprivation resulted in death. (Sherri Weinberg)

In this way, the issues of life and death,
justice and injustice,
conflict and peace,
goodness and evil
were talked through and made real to ordinary people.

Bread and Wine
So in our time and in this place, with today’s issues before us,
let us continue the tradition: to break bread together.

We remember what that tradition says...
At the end of a journey, among friends,
gathered round a table...
Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it:
v2  'This bread is broken, as my body will be'.
Break bread

And he handed it to his friends, and invited them to eat:
v2  'Remember all that I have been to you'.

We remember...
Jesus poured a cup of wine, offered thanks for it,
and gave it to his friends:
v2  'This wine is poured out as my life will be.
As you drink give thanks for all I have given'.
Pour Wine

Bread... the very stuff of life, in which is gathered up
warm sun, rich Australian earth, gentle rain,
human labour and knowledge and skill.

Wine... fruit of the vine,
nurtured, tended, harvested,
and pressed out for us to drink.

May the spirit within us
All  be a source of healing and consolation.
May the spirit within us
All  strengthen us when we feel weak,
warm us when we are cold-hearted,
bend us when we are stubborn,
move us when we are uncaring,
guide us in the way of love.

May the spirit within us
All  shine in all we do.

Communion
By eating this bread and drinking this wine
we become one in hope.
The Bread and the Wine will be served in two continuous lines.

After Communion
May our sharing become sharing with the world.
May our blessing become blessing for the world.
May our lives become living assurance 
of the presence of compassion in the world.

Sharing 'The Peace’
Let us take a moment to celebrate each other.

May a heart of peace rest with you.  (David Galston/q)
All And also with you.
You are invited to share the peace with your neighbours.

Words of Blessing
Once-burnt and darkened hills now bloom in life of green and gold.
Once-starving hearts now fill with love more than enough
to hold us in divine embrace.
Once-thirsty souls now overflow into the rivers of God’s grace.

The blessing of the God of life, love and grace,
be with you always.  
(Janice Huggett)
All  Amen.  May it be so.



Some of the Resources used in Shaping this Liturgy:
Abbott, M. Sparks of the Cosmos. Rituals for Seasonal Use. Unley. MediaCom Education, 2001.
Inclusive Readings. Year B. Brisbane. Inclusive Language Project. In private circulation, 2005.
Iona Community.
Iona Abbey Worship Book. Glasgow. Wild Goose Publications, 2001.
Prewer, B. D.
Australian Prayers. Adelaide. OpenBook Publishers, 1983.
Seaburg, C. (ed).
The Communion Book. Boston. UUMA, 1993.
Uniting in Worship. Leader’s Book. Melbourne. Uniting Church Press, 1988.
Withrow, L.
Seasons of Prayer. Resources for Worship. London. SPCK, 1995.
Robert Jones.
Holy Communion Liturgy. Literacy & Liturgy Seminar, Westar Institute, 2005.

Web sites/Other:
Hewitt, Southworth. UUA Worship Web. Boston. <www.uua.org/spirituallife/worshipweb/>
Sherri Weinberg. St Paul's Presbyterian Church. Devonport, 2007.
“Falling”. Diana Neutze. Eremos Magazine.
"Ash Wednesday" Jim Burklo. 2012.  <http://www.jimburklo.com/>
"Entry" and "Blessing". Janice Huggett. Direct from the author.
Refreshment Station
Words by Nan Fink Gefen, taken from an Evolutionary Passover Haggadah by Tree Bressen.
David Galston.
Quest Learning Centre for Religious Literacy. http://www.questcentre.ca/

rexae74@gmail.com