Can new life grow from ashes? – Ash Wednesday


Opening Song: Great Are You Lord by All Sons & Daughters

Closing Song: Dry Bones by Lauren Daigle

Message Title: Can new life grow from ashes? 
 Ash Wednesday
Main Text:  
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Scripture Reading:
invite others to read as a spiritual practice this week
RCL Scripture: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
 God has not abandoned God’s people, even in their suffering.
 To find our hope, joy, and daily renewal in the Spirit of God.
Other Notes:

WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP: Welcome. We’re glad you are with us this evening to start of the Lenten season with intention. Let’s open up with prayer.

  1. PRAYER: Gracious God, God of our troubles and our triumphs. Be present with us tonight as we set our intentions for the season of Lent. We have the habit of losing our way or getting distracted from you. The burdens of our daily lives and current events can pull our eyes off of you. Help us to take this time to come back to you with great intentions. Help us to see your grace as we try and potentially fail. Build in us a craving for your Spirit and comfort. Amen.
  2. HOLY SPIRIT CANDLE – light the candles.
  3. INCENSE- I’m also lighting incense tonight as a specific symbol of this purifying time. I use Frankincense and Myrrh not only because they were gifts Jesus received but also because they are known to help calm and focus the mind.

SONG: Great Are You Lord by All Sons & Daughters

I want to start with a song of praise. My hope is this sets our attitude for the service. You are welcome to sing a long or simply reflect on the words on the screen.

DEVOTION: Can new life grow from ashes? 

Because of the burdens we all have experienced over the last few years and especially the last week with the crisis in Ukraine, I wanted us to take this time to find hope again. Normally Ash Wednesday is specifically designed to remind us of our mortality. I, however, think we’ve had a lot of reminders of that as of late.

So today we’re going to be diving in to Ezekiel 37 rather than the normal RCL passages.

Let’s set the scene: Ezekiel is a priest in training during the first Babylonian siege on the city. (think the same time as the book of Daniel.) Some of the skilled workers, aristocrats, and artisans were pulled from Jerusalem to Babylon to serve Babylon. Ezekiel was one of those people. He received multiple visions from God while in exile and we’re going to read one of them together today.

  1. Ezekiel 37:1-14 The Lord’s power overcame me, and while I was in the Lord’s spirit, he led me out and set me down in the middle of a certain valley. It was full of bones. 2He led me through them all around, and I saw that there were a great many of them on the valley floor, and they were very dry. 3He asked me, “Human one, can these bones live again?” I said, “Lord God, only you know.” 4He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the Lord’s word! 5The Lord God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. 6I will put sinews on you, place flesh on you, and cover you with skin. When I put breath in you, and you come to life, you will know that I am the Lord.” 7I prophesied just as I was commanded. There was a great noise as I was prophesying, then a great quaking, and the bones came together, bone by bone. 8When I looked, suddenly there were sinews on them. The flesh appeared, and then they were covered over with skin. But there was still no breath in them. 9He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, human one! Say to the breath, The Lord God proclaims: Come from the four winds, breath! Breathe into these dead bodies and let them live.” 10I prophesied just as he commanded me. When the breath entered them, they came to life and stood on their feet, an extraordinarily large company. 11He said to me, “Human one, these bones are the entire house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely finished.’ 12So now, prophesy and say to them, The Lord God proclaims: I’m opening your graves! I will raise you up from your graves, my people, and I will bring you to Israel’s fertile land. 13You will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you up from your graves, my people. 14I will put my breathin you, and you will live. I will plant you on your fertile land, and you will know that I am the Lord. I’ve spoken, and I will do it. This is what the Lord says.”
    1. It would be natural for Ezekiel to feel abandoned by God and far away from God as Ezekiel was far away from the Holy City of Jerusalem. BUT God met him in his grief. God met him in the ashes and told him there would be life again.
    2. Ezekiel’s vision is of a valley of dried bones (think cow skull in a desert withered from the sun…tumble weeds rolling in the background). There is no marrow left in those bones. Yet God showed Ezekiel that God could bring even those bones back to life again.
    3. This vision was supposed to give Ezekiel hope that 1. God had not abandoned Ezekiel or the people of Israel just because they were experiencing the consequences of their actions. 2. God would restore the people again as the turned to him.


  1. For so many of us 2020 was a year of weariness. We had hoped 2 weeks to flatten the curve would be all we needed and then we could go back to our normal lives. Then reality hit—no family is removed from the pain of someone being affected by COVID either by illness, career, or life’s milestones being skipped or altered. We missed our honeymoon… and now we’re joyfully pregnant. Maybe by out 5th anniversary we’ll get to go.
    2020 ended and 2021 still didn’t see the end of COVID. Things have changed and we’ve had high spikes and low spikes but most of society has tried to “go back to normal-ish” as much as they can. I’m obviously skipping over all the politics woven into that time as well.
    For many, 2020 and 2021represent pain, loss, and anxiety. NOW we see the crisis in Ukraine and know that this is only one example of war and conflict happening in our world. Our hearts are overburdened. This year, I want us to twist lent. Rather than MORE time to consider mortality—which I’m sure we’ve all had enough of—let’s take time to renew our lives. To put breath in our lungs and have hope again.
  2. The point of this season is to reset our spiritual mind, to bring us back to Christ. This season was instituted to balance out the season of Easter’s 40 days of feasting with 40 days of fasting. (Perhaps we all desperately need the 40 days of feasting this year!) If you count the days from now until Easter, you will notice that adds up to more than 40 days. Each Sunday you get to break your fast and remember that Easter is coming, though some people choose to maintain the discipline.
  3. How to practice the season of Lent: We will take some time to look at some simple options for engaging in a new practice. I will also have a few handouts in the back available for those interested in trying a particular practice.
    1. Fasting (Traditional)
      1. The most traditional form of fasting is abstaining from anything caloric for a period of time. The point is that your hunger pangs remind you to connect with God like an internal alarm clock for prayer.
      2. Some alternative forms:
        1. Day fasts- fasting caloric intake from sun up to sun down or for a certain amount of hours i.e. 8 am to 8 pm.
        2. Fasting particular foods- i.e. giving up sweets, soda, coffee
        3. Fasting particular entertainment or habits- i.e. giving up tv, social media, smoking etc.
    2. Start a new spiritual discipline: here are a few examples.
      1. Bible Reading: This could take shape in many ways including listening to the audio Bible, Bible Journaling, Lectio Divina, or simply picking a book of the bible to read during Lent.
        1. Devotional
        2. Meditation
        3. Memorization
      2. Prayer-
        1. Breath Prayer
        2. Center Prayer
        3. Contemplative prayer
      3. Community Connection
        1. Accountability Partner
        2. Mentoring
        3. Volunteer (Service)
    3. Read the RCL readings each week.
      1. For Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

LORD’S PRAYER: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom,and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen

Instructions & Dismissal: We will close with the Imposition of Ashes. All are welcome forward to receive ashes and a blessing. I ask that you leave quietly for those who may choose to sit and reflect.

Imposition of Ashes: Heather plays song & I invite people forward.

*Song- Dry Bones by Lauren Daigle*

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