Lent begins with a solemn call to fasting, prayer, and repentance as we begin our journey to the baptismal waters of Easter.  As we hear in today’s readings, now is the acceptable time to return to God, our Creator and Redeemer.  In Lent the people of faith reflect on the meaning of their baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.  The sign of ashes suggests our human frailty and mortality.  As the ashes make the sign of the cross it proclaims that while we are dust, we have been marked by Christ for renewal and life.

The restrictions for in-person worship because of the pandemic mean that we cannot gather for the imposition of ashes.

In its place we will be participating in the long-standing biblical tradition of lament, the practice of mourning for all that’s wrong and crying out—to God and with God—to make things right.  One of the ways people expressed their laments in the Bible was by rending, by tearing,  their clothes. David does it when he hears of his daughter Tamar’s rape, and when Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle. Job did it when he lost pretty much everything he owned and everyone he loved. Clothing was an extremely valuable and limited resource in those days, and not something that was easily replaced. So, when they ripped their clothes to shreds, it spoke volumes. It was a way of physically expressing the pain, the regret, the shame, guilt, and the need for repentance they felt inside, a way of saying, “I am torn up. My heart is ripped to shreds.”  As the prophet Joel says in the First Reading, “rend your hearts and not your clothing.”

During the reading of Psalm 51 there will be times for the tearing of fabric to signify the lament over our sinful lives as we symbolically “rend our hearts,” repent, and hearken to God’s invitation to “return to me with all your heart.”

For this you will need a piece of fabric, about 12 inches square. [It can be an old towel, sheet, T-shirt, just about any tearable piece of cloth.]  Make about four half inch  incisions on one side of the cloth so that it will be easy to “rend” at the appropriate times.  Please make the preparations for the act of repentance and lament at this time.


Audio File for Introduction and Readings


Pastor: From our God who loves us with an everlasting love

who brings forth a new creation in Christ,

who leads us by the Spirit in the wilderness,

grace, love and abundant peace be with you all.

People: And also with you


Pastor:   Let us pray.

People:  Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent.  Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

First Lesson:  Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
   sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
   for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
a day of darkness and gloom,
   a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
   a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
   nor will be again after them
   in ages to come. 

Yet even now, says the Lord,
   return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
   rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
   for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
   and relents from punishing.
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;
   sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
   gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
   assemble the aged;
gather the children,
   even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
   and the bride her canopy. 

Between the vestibule and the altar
   let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord,
   and do not make your heritage a mockery,
   a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
   “Where is their God?” ’ 

Second Lesson:  2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat 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. 

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
   and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. 

Gospel Lesson:  Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever 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 whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 


[click on the link below]


“Change My Heart, O God”

[click on the link below]

Change my heart, O God; 

Make it ever true.

Change my heart, O God;

may I be like you.

You are the potter;

I am the clay.

Mold me and make me;

this is what I pray.


[click on the link below]


Pastor: Friends in Christ, today with the whole Church we enter the time of remembering Jesus’ passover from death to life, and our life in Christ is renewed.

We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and for God’s mercy.  We are created to experience joy in communion with God, to love one another, and to live in harmony with creation.  But our sinful rebellion separates us from God, our neighbors, and creation, so that we do not enjoy the life our creator intended.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor.  I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent – self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love – strengthened by the gifts of Word and Sacrament.  Let us continue our journey through these forty days to the great Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

(silence for reflection and self-examination)  


Pastor:  Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.

Most holy and merciful God:

People:  We confess to you and to one another, and before the whole company of heaven, that we have sinned by our own fault, by our own fault, by our own most grievous fault, in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

Pastor:  We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor: We have shut our ears to your call to serve as Christ served us.  We have not been true to the mind of Christ.  We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our past unfaithfulness,  the pride, envy, hypocrisy, and apathy that have infected our lives,  we confess to you.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, we confess to you.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to  share the faith that is in us, we confess to you.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our neglect of human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, we confess to you.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our false judgments, our uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, we confess to you.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, we confess to you.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves, we confess to you.

People:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work, we confess to you.

People: Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Restore us, O God, and let your anger depart from us.

People:  Hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.  Amen.


Psalm 51 

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your  steadfast love;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness,

and cleanse me from my sin.

          3 For I know my offenses,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment.

[We rip one strip of cloth as we lament.  We rend our hearts]

5 Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

6 Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me,

and would have me know wisdom deep within.

7 Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my wickedness.

[We rip one strip of cloth as we lament.  We rend our hearts]

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from your presence,

and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

[We rip one strip of cloth as we lament.  We rend our hearts]

13 Let me teach your ways to offenders,

and sinners shall be restored to you.

14 Rescue me from bloodshed, O God of my salvation,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord open my lips,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

16 For you take no delight in sacrifice, or I would give it.

You are not pleased with burnt offering.

17 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a troubled and broken heart, O God, you will not despise.

[We rip one strip of cloth as we lament.  We rend our hearts]

18 Favor Zion with your good pleasure;

build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then you will delight in the appointed sacrifices, in burnt and whole offerings;

then young bulls shall be offered upon your altar.

Pastor:  Almighty God, have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life.

People:  Amen.


“Create In Me”

[click on the link below]

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

Let me be like you in all my ways.

Give me your strength,

Teach me your song,

Shelter me in the shadow of your wings.

For we are your righteousness.

If we die to ourselves and live through your death,

We shall be born again to be blessed in your love.

Audio File for Prayers and Blessing


(The congregational response after each petition is “YOUR MERCY IS GREAT.”)

Pastor:  As we journey through Lent’s season of repentance and way of the cross, let us return in faith and with prayer to God who gives us the joy of forgiveness, hope, and life, saying, “Hear us, O God,” and responding, “Your mercy is great.”

Petitioner:  O God, you call your people to turn from sin and to live in the joy and freedom of forgiveness.  Give patience and courage to all your faithful people as they continue to live a life of repentance, prayer, and love.  Hear us, O God …

Petitioner:  O God, you call all people to work together for the common good.  Assist the leaders of our city, province, and nation to remove all obstacles that would stand in the way of your reconciling efforts of peacemaking.  Hear us, O God …

Pastor:  O God, grant compassion and comfort to all who are suffering from illness, grief, loss, or anxiety.  We remember especially before you ….  Show your healing presence to all who are in need and bring them peace of mind and heart.  Hear us, O God …

Petitioner:  O God, you call your people to turn from sin and to live in your way of mercy and justice.  Guide all who are preparing for baptism or for confirmation that they may learn of your life-giving way of love.  Hear us, O God …

Petitioner:  O God, renew and refresh us throughout our journey of life, hold us in your care, guide us with your Spirit, teach us the way of the cross, feed us with your Word of forgiveness.  Hear us, O God …

Pastor:  Compassionate God, hear us as we cry out for the renewal of our lives and of our world, create in us faithful hearts, and uphold us with your forgiving Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

People:  Amen.


Pastor: Sisters and brothers, rejoice, encourage one another, live in peace.  God through Christ has given us the gift of reconciliation.

People:  Therefore, let us be reconciled to God and to another.

Pastor: The peace of Christ be with you always.

People:  And also with you.

       (Greet one another with a gesture of peace, using these or similar words: “Christ’s peace be with you.”)


(We worship God with the offering of our selves, our time, our talents and our possessions.)


Pastor:  Let us pray:

God of glory,

People:  receive these gifts and the offering of our lives.

As Jesus was lifted up from earth,

draw us to your heart in the midst of this world,

that all creation may be brought from bondage to freedom,

from darkness to light,

and from death to life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Pastor: Lord, remember us in your kingdom, and teach us to pray:

 People: Our Father in heaven,

    hallowed be your name,

    your kingdom come,

    your will be done,

        on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

    as we forgive those

        who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial

    and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

    and the glory are yours,

    now and forever.  Amen.


Pastor: God give you the strength to raise up the cross of Christ, 

wisdom to follow in the cross of Christ,

and the guidance of the Spirit to carry the cross of Christ 

into our world.

People: Amen.


“Bless Now, O God, the Journey ”

[click on the link below]

Bless now, O God, the journey that all your people make,

the path through noise and silence, the way of give and take.

The trail is found in desert and winds the mountain round,

then leads beside still waters, the road where faith is found.

Bless sojourners and pilgrims who share this winding way;

your hope burns through the terrors, your love sustains the day.

We yearn for holy freedom while often we are bound;

together we are seeking the road where faith is found.

Divine eternal lover, you meet us on the road.

We wait for lands of promise where milk and honey flow,

but waiting not for places, you meet us all around.

Our covenant is written on roads, as faith is found.


Pastor: Reconciled to God through the life-giving cross of Christ, 

let us go out into the world in peace. 

People: Thanks be to God.


  1. Thanks so much for this service. Missing the fellowship of others. Until we can meet in person.
    Blessings and thanks.
    Peggy and Elmer


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