Ash Wednesday Service, 17 February 2021


God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not perish but have eternal life. John 3: 16

Watch our Ash Wednesday service of worship here:


In words, in silence

 with praise and thanksgiving

 with fear and doubt

 with anger and pain

we come before you

You are a great and mighty God

 our loving Heavenly Father

you have us your Son Jesus

 to be our Saviour and Lord

he was faithful even to death on a cross

 and you raised him up to new and everlasting life

You know us through and through

 you enfold us in your loving care

 you open to us the way to be your children

But we have failed you

 failed to respond to your love

 failed to give you the praise and thanks you deserve

 failed to live by the teaching and example of Jesus

Forgive us

Fill us anew with your Spirit

Make us strong to walk in Jesus’ way

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen

Reading        Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21


Although ‘Lent’ has been part of the Church of Scotland’s life for more than half a century, it is still regarded by many as a bit ‘new’, and something that really belongs in other branches of the church.

It has its origins in the story of Jesus spending forty days in the Wilderness, and in the journey that he and his disciples made to Jerusalem before Good Friday:

  • After he was baptised in the Jordan by John the Baptist, Jesus retreated into the desert and rough ground south of Jerusalem, to think and pray about his calling to be the special person from God who would change the world and bring it back to God. He was tempted to take all sorts of short-cuts, from publicity stunts to wielding absolute political power. In the end he resisted all temptations and followed the road of service and suffering that his Father had planned for him, and that he sets as the model for his church
  • Jesus ‘set his face’ to go to Jerusalem on that fateful journey. Others urged him not to go, but he went because he knew that that was the right thing to do. He knew what lay ahead, but he put concern for others ahead of concern for himself.

In the early days of the church baptisms and the admission of new members happened just before Easter. The period leading up to Easter was a time for those new members to learn about the Christian faith. When the imperial authorities in Rome made it legal to be a Christian, church leaders were worried that many new members would join not realising that following Jesus meant things like reading the Bible, praying regularly, trying to live by the values and standards of Jesus. So it seems they used the period of Lent to encourage people to exercise some self-discipline, learn more about their faith and make a special effort to help others. We can still do the same thing today:

  • Some people choose to ‘give up things’ for Lent – it can be a good way to lose some of the extra pounds/kilos gained from comfort-eating in the cold, dark days of Winter – and donate money saved to charity
  • We could, and should, try all year round to read our Bibles, pray and learn more about Jesus, and the implications of following him on our everyday lives, and how we see the world. But sometimes we need a wee prod, a wee focus, to do a bit more. Lent is a good focus
  • We could, we should, always try to share the love of Jesus with people in need, whether it is folk on their own needing a chat, someone housebound needing a message at the shops, making a donation in cash or kind to the Foodbank, or giving some money to a charity like Christian Aid, or our favourite charity. Again, sometimes (especially after a cold, wet, dark winter) we need a wee prompt or focus – and again Lent can provide that

Whatever we decide to do, Jesus warned us not to make a big public display of what we’re doing. In Jesus’ day, and now, there is a widespread tendency to highlight some people’s philanthropy, support of charities, and donations. Jesus encourages us to keep quiet about what we do – he knows what we are doing, and that’s enough.

Prayer for others and Lord’s Prayer

Loving Father

When Jesus came and announced

 that your kingdom was coming

 he brought healing and wholeness

 to hurting people

Through your Spirit he continues to bring

 healing and wholeness to hurting people

In our concern for others

 we bring before you people and situations

 where healing and wholeness are needed:

 those who are ill

 those who look after them

 and those who worry about them

those waiting for or receiving treatment

 and those for whom there is no treatment

those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one

those who are worried about home, work or money

 a friend or a relative

those who are living with the after-effects of natural disasters

those who do not have enough to eat, or somewhere to call home

those who long to live in peace and safety

those who have fled from their homes seeking safety

We pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

We pray for you church

 the worldwide church

 the wider church in Dumbarton

 our own congregation

help us always to be faithful to Jesus our Lord

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us


Grow in grace

 and in the knowledge

 of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

and the blessing of God Almighty

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

rest and remain with you

today and every day and forever. Amen

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