A Call to Worship
Ash Wednesday, Year A 2017
Psalm 51: 1-17

We come before you, O God, to confess to you our sinfulness.
“Create in us a clean heart, O God. Renew within us a right Spirit...”1

We come before you, O God, asking to renew our relationship with you.
“...Restore to us fullness of joy, the joy that springs from your salvation…”1

We come before you, O God, trusting in your merciful goodness and
your blessings, as we again walk each day with you in hope and joy.
“...Cast us not away from your presence, O LORD, and take not your Holy
Spirit from us. Lighten our minds, shelter our lives with your Spirit free.”
1 Amen.

Psalm 51: 1-17
For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time
Nathan the prophet came to him
after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
5 For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.

6 But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O LORD, that my mouth may praise you.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Prayers of Confession
Ash Wednesday, Year A 2017
Psalm 51: 1-17

God of unfailing and unfathomable depths of love, we come to worship you and
to confess to you the frequency of our failures to sincerely love and worship you;
and to confess the shallowness of our love for you and for our neighbours. We
are very conscious of our many failings as individuals and as a community; and
we ask for God’s merciful and generous forgiveness for these our many failures;
and for the way we have missed the mark through our sin and self-centredness.
With the psalmist we pray that the God of all tenderness will: “Create in us a clean
heart, O God. Renew within us a right Spirit...”,
1 so that we may more worthily love
and serve our God; and serve our needy sisters and brothers near us and far away.

God of measureless and limitless compassion, we come to praise you and to admit
to you the hardness of our hearts and the limits we place on our care and concern
for other people. There are times when we are conscious of the needs in our family,
and our faith and wider communities, and we often try to be helpful; but more often
than not, we ignore people’s deep needs and their fears; and instead, we fret over
our own miniscule anxieties, and we worry about trivial things; glad that this makes
us feel involved in the life of the world around us. Forgive us, we pray, God of all care
and nurture, and we ask that you will “...Restore to us fullness of joy, the joy that
springs from your salvation…”,
1 so that we may more honestly serve and praise you.

God of all holiness and purity of purpose, we come to celebrate the love, tenderness
and compassion you offer to each of us, all children of our Holy and Righteous God;
and we acknowledge before you our lack of commitment to the worship and praise
of our God; and for the falseness of our priorities in our life, our living and our loving.
We come before you today, O God, trusting and hoping in your merciful goodness;
and the blessings you shower upon us. We celebrate the joy of your presence with
us and pray that you will: “...Cast us not away from your presence, O LORD, and take
not your Holy Spirit from us. Lighten our minds, shelter our lives with your Spirit free.”
1 Amen.

A Personal Meditation
Ash Wednesday, Year A 2017
Psalm 51: 1-17

Writing for Ash Wednesday each year is especially challenging, but thanks to
Professor Walter Brueggemann, he pointed me in another direction! He writes:
“Israel at worship was not docile, passive or silent. It was deeply engaged in a
life-or-death verbal interaction with YHWH in which its future was profoundly at
stake.... (1) Israel’s primal utterance in worship is an act of remembering that is
implicitly an act of hope. In such utterance Israel anticipates that the future will
feature more of the decisive transformative goodness of YHWH that Israel has
known in the past...(2) Israel’s most characteristic utterance in worship is praise,
the exuberant rhetorical act of gladly ceding one’s life and the life of the world
over to YHWH...Such praise is the concrete, bodily act of situating one’s life in
the power and presence of the one addressed, a willingness to hold nothing back
...a trustful submission to the other....(3) Israel’s speech in worship was not all-
exuberant worship, grateful remembering, and affirmation of YHWH....in credo
and doxology, Israel also engaged in truth-telling about its life with YHWH in
confession, lament and protest...”
[In Psalm 51] “Israel, here in the mouth of David,
acknowledges its failure and seeks forgiveness from YHWH...Israel’s candid
truth-telling in worship... focussed on loss and sadness and a sense of its own
2 Just as Israel made confession of her sin in the words of David,
so David helps us find the appropriate and relevant words in our own confessions.

Creative pause: “...Have mercy on me...Create in me a clean heart, O God...”

After years of leading the “Worship on Thursday” group, and using variations in
the method of praying, the last couple of years I have included prayers of thanks,
praise, petition, confession and pardon, because confessing and being pardoned
is vital to a person’s spiritual health; and they lift us above our memories and guilt—
to focus on the generosity and mercy of God; and the blessing of new beginnings.

Creative pause: “...Renew a loyal spirit within me…”

In 1986, I attended the World Methodist Conference meetings in Nairobi, and the
Bible Study leader was the late very distinguished theologian, the Rev Dr Donald
English, and I remember with great clarity his stories about his dog Abigail, as he
explained sin, guilt and forgiveness. When Abigail’s bad behaviour was pointed
out to her, her head drooped and she would not raise her eyes, in a recognition of
her guilt; but when pardon was offered, her bounced around with a big doggy grin
and the relationship was restored! This simple story speaks to me of the yearning
love, centred in God’s-Own-Self, because we so often distance ourselves from God.

Creative pause: Oh, the joy of lifted guilt and God’s complete pardon and forgiveness.

1 From “Together in Song” #712
“Create in us a clean heart, O God”
© Words and Music by Digby Hannah
Words in the Public Domain

2 Text by Professor Walter Brueggemann
from “Worship in Ancient Israel – An Essential Guide”
Chapter 4, pages 34, 43, 46, 47 & 48
© 2005 Abingdon Press
201 Eighth Avenue South, Nashville TN 37202-0801 USA

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation,
copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

*Revised Indexing Scheme from 'Consultation on Church Union' (COCU).

I acknowledge and give heartfelt thanks for the theological inspiration available from the scholarship and writings of
Professor Walter Brueggemann; and through the resources from the internet and “The Text this Week” (Textweek).

If the Prayers and/or Meditations are used in shared worship, please provide this acknowledgement:
© 2017 Joan Stott – ‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year A. Used with permission.


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