Today, Ash Wednesday, begins the Church’s season of Lent. Lent is a season of penitence and fasting which prepares us for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord, at Easter. Ash Wednesday is the most solemn day of the Church year. The minimal use of music and periods of silence create an atmosphere of austerity in the Service appropriate to our contrition for our sins. The Ashes, a traditional symbol of sorrow, remind us of our mortality. Whereas ashes can be used as a cleaning agent, they also remind us of our Baptism as we once again receive the sign of the cross on our foreheads and the promise of repentance and forgiveness. The ashes we use are made from previous years’ palm fronds.

Ringing of the Bell

Welcome and Announcements


P Dear brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ, on this day the Church begins a holy season of prayerful and penitential reflection. Our attention is especially directed to the holy sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

From ancient times the season of Lent has been kept as a time of special devotion, self-denial, and humble repentance born of a faithful heart that dwells confidently on His Word and draws from it life and hope.

Let us pray that our dear Father in heaven, for the sake of His beloved Son and in the power of His Holy Spirit, might richly bless this Lententide for us so that we may come to Easter with glad hearts and keep the feast in sincerity and truth.

Silence for reflection.

P O Lord,

C have mercy.

P O Christ,

C have mercy.

P O Lord,

C have mercy.

P O Christ,

C hear us.

P God the Father in heaven,

C have mercy.

P God the Son, Redeemer of the world,

C have mercy.

P God the Holy Spirit,

C have mercy.

P Be gracious to us.

C Spare us, good Lord.

P Be gracious to us.

C Help us, good Lord.

P By the mystery of Your holy incarnation;
by Your holy nativity;
by Your baptism, fasting, and temptation;
by Your agony and bloody sweat;
by Your cross and passion;
by Your precious death and burial;
by Your glorious resurrection and ascension;
and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:

C Help us, good Lord.

P In all time of our tribulation;
in all time of our prosperity;
in the hour of death;
and in the day of judgment:

C Help us, good Lord.

P We poor sinners implore You

C to hear us, O Lord.

P To prosper the preaching of Your Word;
to bless our prayer and meditation;
to strengthen and preserve us in the true faith;
and to give heart to our sorrow and strength to our repentance:

C We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

P To draw all to Yourself;
to bless those who are instructed in the faith;
to watch over and console the poor, the sick, the distressed, the lonely, the forsaken, the abandoned, and all who stand in need of our prayers;
to give abundant blessing to all works of mercy;
and to have mercy on us all:

C We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

P To turn our hearts to You;
to turn the hearts of our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers;
and graciously to hear our prayers:

C We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

P Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,

C we implore You to hear us.

P Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,

C have mercy.

P Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,

C have mercy.

P Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,

C grant us Your peace.

P O Christ,

C hear us.

P O Lord,

C have mercy.

P O Christ,

C have mercy.

P O Lord,

C have mercy. Amen.

P O God, You desire not the death of sinners, but rather that they turn from their wickedness and live. We implore You to have compassion on the frailty of our mortal nature, for we acknowledge that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Mercifully pardon our sins that we may obtain the promises You have laid up for those who are repentant; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C Amen.

The rite continues with the imposition of ashes.


Using the right thumb, the pastor or an assistant places the ashes on the forehead of each person in the sign of the cross, saying:

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

After receiving the ashes, each person returns to his place in silence. There is no statement of dismissal.


419 Savior, When in Dust to Thee LSB 419

Text: Robert Grant, 1779–1838, alt.

Tune: Joseph Parry, 1841–1903

Text and tune: Public domain


The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism.


P In the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.

C Amen.

Exhortation 184

P Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.

P Our help is in the name of the Lord,

C who made heaven and earth.

P I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord,

C and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Silence for reflection on God’s Word and for self-examination.

Confession of Sins

P O almighty God, merciful Father,

C I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

P God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith.

C Amen.

P Do you believe that the forgiveness I speak is not my forgiveness but God’s?

C Yes.

P Let it be done for you as you believe.

Absolution LSB 185

P Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.

C Amen.

Kyrie LSB 186

C Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Salutation and Collect of the Day

P The Lord be with you.

C And with thy spirit.

P Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C Amen.


Psalm Psalm 51:1–13

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.

Old Testament Reading Joel 2:12–19

Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the
Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the
Lord your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her chamber.
Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the
Lord, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

Then the Lord became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.
Lord answered and said to his people,
“Behold, I am sending to you
grain, wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied;
and I will no more make you
a reproach among the nations.”

A This is the Word of the Lord.

C Thanks be to God.

Epistle 2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

A This is the Word of the Lord.

C Thanks be to God.


Verse (Lent) LSB 157

C Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and abounding in steadfast love.

Holy Gospel Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21

P The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, the sixth chapter.

C Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

[Jesus said:] “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. . . .

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

P This is the Gospel of the Lord.

C Praise be to Thee, O Christ.


610 Lord Jesus, Think on Me LSB 610

Text: Synesius of Cyrene, c. 365–c. 414; tr. Allen W. Chatfield, 1808–96, alt.

Tune: William Daman, c. 1540–1591

Text and tune: Public domain



P The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

C Amen.


Nicene Creed

C I believe in one God,

the Father Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth

and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only-begotten Son of God,

begotten of His Father before all worlds,

God of God, Light of Light,

very God of very God,

begotten, not made,

being of one substance with the Father,

by whom all things were made;

who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven

and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary

and was made man;

and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.

He suffered and was buried.

And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures

and ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of the Father.

And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the


whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord and giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,

who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,

I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,

and I look for the resurrection of the dead

and the life T of the world to come. Amen.

Offertory Invitation

The Psalmist wrote, "Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; bring offerings and come into this courts." Therefore, we now make our offerings to God.

Offertory LSB 192

Offertory Prayer

P Lord God, receive these gifts we bring as a sign of our penitence and loving service. Through this Eucharist, free us from our sins and make us an acceptable offering to you. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

C Amen.


Preface LSB 194

P The Lord be with you.

C And with thy spirit.

P Lift up your hearts.

C We lift them up unto the Lord.

P Let us give thanks unto the Lord, our God.

C It is meet and right so to do.

Proper Preface (Full)

P It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who overcame the assaults of the devil and gave His life as a ransom for many that with cleansed hearts we might be prepared joyfully to celebrate the paschal feast in sincerity and truth. Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying:

Sanctus LSB 195

Lord’s Prayer LSB 162

P Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray:

C 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 trespasses

as we forgive those

who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom

and the power and the glory

forever and ever. Amen.

The Words of Our Lord

P Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My T body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.”

In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My T blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Pax Domini LSB 197

P The peace of the Lord be with you always.

C Amen.


P  This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Happy are they who are called to His feast. 

C  O Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I will be healed.  Amen.  

Agnus Dei LSB 198


Distribution LSB 199

The pastor and those who assist him receive the body and blood of Christ first and then distribute them to those who come to receive, saying:

The true body of Christ, given for you.


The true blood of Christ, shed for you.



The Dismissal LSB 199

P The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. Depart T in peace.

C Amen.

Thanksgiving LSB 200

P O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good,

C and His mercy endureth forever.

Post-Communion Collect

P Let us pray.

O God the Father, the fountain and source of all goodness, who in loving-kindness sent Your only-begotten Son into the flesh, we thank You that for His sake You have given us pardon and peace in this Sacrament, and we ask You not to forsake Your children but always to rule our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that we may be enabled constantly to serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C Amen.

Salutation LSB 201

P The Lord be with you.

C And with thy spirit.

Benedicamus LSB 202

P Bless we the Lord.

C Thanks be to God.

Benediction LSB 202

P The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and T give you peace.

C Amen, amen, amen.

418 O Lord, throughout These Forty Days LSB 418

Text: based on Claudia F. Hernaman, 1838–98; para. Gilbert E. Doan, 1930Tune: The Psalmes of David in Prose and Meeter, 1635, Edinburgh

Text: © 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License no. 110004199

Tune: Public domain


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©

2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Created by Lutheran Service Builder © 2022 Concordia Publishing House.

Ash Wednesday A Feb. 22, 2023   Matt.6:1-6, 16-21   Trinity, Wellsville

Ashes, Fasting and the Cross

When I was a medical technologist, I had a co-worker who was a very devout Orthodox Jew.  He wore his yarmulke every day.  He never ate anything that wasn’t kosher.  If the sun went down as he was driving home on a Friday evening, he would park his car and walk the rest of the way because he wasn’t supposed to work on the Sabbath.

He taught me a great deal about Judaism, and I respected his commitment to his faith.  Not only did he practice his faith outwardly, but he was also a person of compassion and integrity.  We would talk often about the beliefs and practices of our religions.  Some of the religious laws he followed struck me as odd and seemed overly legalistic.  For instance, he could not work around his house on the Sabbath, but he could pay someone else to if it had been arranged beforehand. 

There was one Christian practice that he found especially peculiar: putting ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday.  Many of our co-workers were Roman Catholic and would go to mass before work on the morning of Ash Wednesday.  They would have the mark of the cross in ashes on their foreheads the rest of the day.  My friend could not help but get back at them for the all the teasing he took about being Jewish and not eating pork or cheeseburgers.  He would say things like, “Why do have to go to church to get ashes?  Aren’t there enough ashtrays around?”

We must admit that it is kind of strange that anyone would have ashes put on their forehead.  We normally think of ashes as something bad: the smelly residue from cigarettes, the stuff it’s a chore to clean out of a fireplace, the sad reminder of a house fire.  But the purpose of our Ash Wednesday ashes is just that, to remind us of something bad.  To remind us of our sin.  To remind us of our mortality.  To remind us that apart from God, all we have and all we are is nothing, just ashes. 

Rarely does our faith call us to participate in such an overt, outward, public sign such as receiving ashes.  Rarely does our faith call us to observe a day that is as serious and solemn as we are today.  Ash Wednesday calls us to be spiritually, inwardly humble, and today we express our humility with the ashen cross on our foreheads.  If that’s strange or weird, that’s okay, it’s alright. 

When we were baptized water was poured on our head and I always mark the sign of the cross on the forehead of someone I baptize with a special oil called Chrism.  Baptism sets us apart from the rest of the world.  We are forever branded as the people of God.  The ashes remind who and whose we are.

We are not set apart because we are inherently better than anyone else.  We didn’t earn the title of God’s people.  We are set apart because God in His infinite love and mercy has chosen us to a job on His behalf.  Just as the Jews’ job was to bring the Son of God into our world, our job as Christians is to take the gospel of God’s grace and forgiveness into all the world, to every nation, race, culture, and language.

We Christians, then, are set apart to be servants, to toil among the ashes of a sometimes disappointing, always decaying, and frequently decadent world.  If others ridicule and taunt us because we’re different, so be it.  They ridiculed and taunted Jesus and did even worse to him.  We cannot stand on our own merits.  All we can do is throw ourselves on Christ’s mercy, the mercy expressed once and for all by his death on the cross. 

A term we use to describe Jesus on the cross is derelict.  As a noun derelict means someone without a home, job, or possessions, like a “skid row derelict.”  That certainly describes Jesus’s state on the cross.  Even more, we use derelict as an adjective meaning abandoned and neglected, like a “derelict building.”  Jesus was totally neglected, abandoned by both God and man on the cross.  So, the cross of ashes is a symbol of our dereliction: how fleeting our financial security, health and social status are; how family and friends have let us down; how far away God seems from us sometimes.  Yet, the paradox and mystery of our Christian faith is that the cross, our sign of dereliction, is also the symbol of our only hope.  It’s front and center, right there on our foreheads.

In some ways, that we wear ashes today seems to be a contradiction of what Jesus says in our gospel reading.  Jesus warns us against practicing our righteousness, some translations say piety, before others.  I heard of a congregation that begins their Ash Wednesday Service by putting the ashes on people’s foreheads, and then washes the ashes off at the end of the service.  That’s not an idea I like. 

Jesus isn’t saying we should never show our faith publicly.  If we didn’t show our faith outwardly sometimes, how would we evangelize and help bring others to Christ?  Jesus is saying that it’s the intention behind our overt demonstrations of faith that matter.  If we pray in public, or make big offerings, or fast, or put ashes on our foreheads to say to the world, “Hey, Look at me; I’m better than you!” that’s obviously wrong.  Yet if we do those same things, without regard to getting attention or any other reward for ourselves, but do them because God tells us to, then that is pleasing to God, whether or not any human being notices them. 

Wearing ashes doesn’t earn salvation, nothing we can do can.  But in addition to being a witness for Christ,  the ashes also say something to us, those wearing them.  They serve to remind us that we are dust, dust that God has made miraculously into a living human being.  What blessed dust we are that God has loved us and we will see His glory. 

There are other practices and symbols associated with Lent that can help us grow in our relationships with God.  One is fasting.  Jesus assumed that his followers would fast.  In our gospel reading he says, “When you fast…” not “If you fast…”  Fasting can take many forms.  Usually we give up some pleasure (like chocolate or Coca-Cola) for the season of Lent.  Again, this doesn’t earn us points with God.  But perhaps a small sacrifice on our part might help us to better understand the huge sacrifice Christ made for us.

Another Lenten focus is on the symbol of the cross.  Some of us, me included, will wear a crucifix more often to remind others and our selves of Christ’ passion.  The large wooden crucifix has returned to our worship space.  It used to hang in the chapel at Jones Memorial Hospital.  I wonder how many people prayed looking up at that cross for healing for themselves and loved ones?  And how many prayed there to give thanks to God for healing them?  The cross is a symbol of our suffering, suffering shared with Christ, and our hope in Christ and his victory.  That’s very appropriate for Lent.
So, when you see the cross, or fast, or do whatever it is you do to observe Lent, please think back to tonight and the ashes on your forehead.  Recall what it means to be marked as a person of God, to be that blessed dust.  Especially, I hope that you will think often in this season on our Savior’s Passion and death, and what they mean for us.  In that way we will have a good Lent and we will be well prepared for the joy of Easter.  Amen.