Ash Wednesday: Is this the fast I choose?

Ash Wednesday
from Seeking – a sanctified art curriculum
February 22, 2023


WELCOME & PRAYER: announcement: Daily Devotional – send me your email and I’ll send it to you.


We gather together at the edge of a new season.
We stand together on the cusp of something new.
Will we wade into self-reflection?
Will we invite honesty to dance?
Will we listen for God’s invitation?
Will we seek deeper faith?
What kind of fast do we choose? What kind of faith will we build?
We gather together at the edge of a new season.
Listen, God is speaking.

SONG: Find Me By Jonathan and Melissa Helser


Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
    raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
    desiring knowledge of my ways
    like a nation that acted righteously,
    that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
    wanting to be close to God.
“Why do we fast and you don’t see;
    why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
    and oppress all your workers.
You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
    you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
    if you want to make your voice heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I choose,
    a day of self-affliction,
    of bending one’s head like a reed
    and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
    Is this what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
    the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10     if you open your heart to the hungry,
    and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
    your light will shine in the darkness,    and your gloom will be like the noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually
    and provide for you, even in parched places.
    He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
12 They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
    the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Livable Streets.

DEVOTIONAL: Is this the fast that I choose?

  1. Series Intro: February 5th we read the first nine verses in this passage. Today, we are revisiting a passage in order to prepare our hearts for this season of Lent. Typically, during this season people implement a fast or incorporate new spiritual practices to help grow closer to Christ. Our sermon series during Lent is called Seeking.
  2. Into the Text:
    1. What are the people seeking? To Use God for their own gain. They want to treat him like a vending machine not a relationship.
    1. What is God seeking? Relationship and transformation.
      1. God wants to redeem and restore creation. He is our Liberator and Redeemer.
    1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: As we begin the Lenten season, what are you seeking?
      1. What is your body seeking?
      1. What is your mind seeking?
      1. What is your soul seeking?
  3. Conclusion: God is not looking for robots who don’t think or feel and only obey. God wants collaborators. God wants us to walk alongside Him in His plan to heal creation.
    1. This season is a chance for us to reset our intentions, motivations, and actions.
    1. God isn’t looking for heartless zombies but restored-justice-seeking-liberators.

CALL TO CONFESSION– We are going to start this season of repentence off with a time of confession. No, I’m not going to ask you to list off your sins.

Our scripture passage for today tells the story of people who are trying hard to be faithful. They ask God, “God, do you notice? Do you see all the good we’re doing? Are you proud of us?” It sounds a bit like children seeking parental attention. Did we do a good job? In those moments we always want to hear God say, “Excellent job, good and faithful servant.” But in today’s scripture, God says to the people, “I want you to seek justice.” Friends, faith is a constant dance of us asking God, “Am I doing it right?” and, “How can I do better?” In the prayer of confession we linger in this tension for a moment. We acknowledge that we are works in progress and we ask for God’s help. God may challenge us, but fortunately, God will never abandon us. So let us turn to God in prayer, using the confession printed in your bulletin (or visible on your screen). Let us pray:

REFLECTION SONG: Change my Heart o God By Roby Duke


Merciful God,
How many times in a day could we choose love?
How many times could we choose justice?
How many times could we speak kindly to ourselves?
How many times could we offer grace?
How many times, God? And how often do we miss it?
Forgive us for choosing the path you did not travel.
Forgive us for hitching our horse to the world’s measure of goodness, instead of yours.
Return our hearts to you, and guide us continually, even in the parched places.
With gratitude we pray,


Family of faith, when a baby is learning to walk, the parents do not criticize the baby for falling. Instead, they celebrate every wobbly step. They applaud every hesitant stand. They whoop and holler when their child lands in their arms. Surely the same must be true of God. Although we often lose our way and we often choose the wrong thing, I imagine God whoops and hollers with every step in God’s direction. So hear and believe the good news of the gospel: no matter how many times we fall, no matter how many times we choose the wrong path, God is waiting for us at the end with open arms. We are forgiven. We are invited. We belong. Thanks be to God for a love like that. Amen.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH – said corporately – You have been forgiven, not by me but by Christ. Our life is made new in God. Let us affirm our faith in God through the words of Isaiah 58:  Inspired by the words of Isaiah 58.

We believe in a God who chooses freedom,
who unties every rope and carries our burdens.
We believe in a God who ushers in the poor and the hungry,
who has a seat saved for all of us.
We believe in a God whose love is like the sun,
who says, “I’m here, I’m here!” every time we cry.
We believe in a God who walks before us in the parched places,
who rescues our bones,
who tends to us like a gardener.
And because we believe,
we strive to choose love.
Because we believe,
we strive to pursue justice.
Because we believe…

Administering of Ashes & Dismissal


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