• Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

Ash Wednesday Worship 2021


The Ash Wednesday Liturgy

Ash Wednesday February 17, 2021


Watch the Livestream at www.Facebook.com/StMattSav/Live/

Wednesday, February 17, at 7:00 a.m. (or anytime afterward)


Preface


We at St. Matthew's Church in Savannah are unable to gather together in person due to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic. Under the guidance of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, the Vestry has decided to keep our church building closed for all in-person gatherings.


At 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, I will broadcast the following worship service using Facebook Live at www.Facebook.com/StMattSav. After the service concludes, you can re-watch it at any time.


May God protect you from this virus and protect the most vulnerable among us. May we be God’s hands and feet of compassion and service to all in need during this time. Amen.


Yours in Christ,

Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda





The Ash Wednesday Liturgy


The Collect of the Day

[BCP, p. 264]

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us pray:


Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (58:1-12)

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!

Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

"Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist.

Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?

Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?

Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?


Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly;

your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.


If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.


Psalm 103:8-14

[BCP, p. 733]

Read responsively by half-verse (at the asterisk).

8 The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, * slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us, * nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, * nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, * so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, * so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children, * so does the Lord care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made; * he remembers that we are but dust.


The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. Matthew (6:1-6, 16-21)

Glory to you, Lord Christ.

Jesus said, "Beware of practicing 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."

The Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, Lord Christ.



The Sermon

“An Acceptable Fast” by Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda


In the Episcopal Church, Ash Wednesday is a fast day. According to the Book of Common Prayer, fast days are “observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial” (BCP, p. 17). There are many different traditions that offer rules about what that means precisely.


Though it’s not really the point of this homily, the short version is that fasting generally means reducing the overall food you eat. Abstinence means eating a typical amount of food, but abstaining from certain kinds of food. These can also be done in combination with one another. I know many St. Matthew’s people grew up with the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays and/or Wednesdays in Lent. If you want to try fasting on those days, it can be as simple as skipping breakfast or skipping lunch or intentionally having a smaller lunch.


Whatever you choose to do along that spectrum is great. Just use some common sense. If you have any medical ailments or take medication that requires that you eat beforehand, cut yourself some slack and don’t feel guilty about it (particularly if you are elderly or ill). If you’ve never fasted before, don’t go cold turkey into the hardest version. Ease into it.


It’s worth noting that many people practice fasting and abstinence for non-food things, and that’s good too. In a culture obsessed with dieting and body image, it can be beneficial to disconnect the cycle of shame associated with eating from your relationship with God. So pick a practice that is meaningful and challenging without crossing that line into torturous or harmful.


For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use the word “fasting” to refer to fasting and abstinence from food or anything else.


But today, I don’t really want to talk about the mechanics of fasting. I want to talk about the meaning of fasting, following the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 58 is addressed to people who practice fasting, who follow the rules, but don’t get the point. Their fasting has touched their stomachs and their bodies but not their hearts.


"Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?


Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.


Fasting is a tool in our spiritual toolbelt. It is not a goal all by itself. It’s meant to help us achieve higher ends. Fasting is meant to draw us closer to God in prayer. It is meant to remind us that we are God’s children who need God for sustenance.


More importantly, it’s meant to fill us with mercy and compassion for others. It’s meant to draw us near to our neighbors in need. If we fast “correctly” but continue to treat each other poorly, we’ve missed the point. The same goes for prayer. If we pray extra hard during Lent, but refuse to challenge systems of injustice, we are missing the point. In Isaiah’s opinion, if you’re going to keep serving your own interest and oppressing others, you might as well not fast at all.


Our Lenten disciplines are intended to stimulate us to greater love for God and, in turn, greater love for neighbor. These things can never be separated. So no matter how you observe Ash Wednesday, whether you’re eating or not, wearing ashes or not, praying or not, meditate today on the ways that you can be kinder and more loving to your neighbors. Pursue justice, freedom, and peace for yourself and for others. Turn away from sins that keep people in bondage, and, with God’s help, we can change the world. Amen.



The Invitation to Lent

[BCP, p. 264]

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.


I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.



The Imposition of Ashes [OPTIONAL]

[BCP, p. 265]


The Book of Common Prayer states that the imposition of ashes is optional. If you are watching this worship service and do not have access to ashes, you do not need them to worship and honor God today. Nevertheless, St. Matthew's is providing three opportunities for people to receive ashes today.


First, if you picked up pre-blessed ashes on Sunday, February 14, you may apply them to yourself and/or to others in your household now, using the words "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Note that you do not need to be ordained in order to impose ashes.


Second, you may drive or walk through the church parking lot today (Wednesday, February 17) between 7:30-8:30 AM or between 6:00-7:00 PM, and receive ashes outside and in-person. Fr. Arboleda will bless these ashes using the following prayer during this 7:00 AM live-streamed worship service.


Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


The ashes are imposed [by any baptized Christian, lay or ordained] with the following words


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


Psalm 51

[BCP, p. 266]

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; * 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 transgressions, * and my sin is ever before me.

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

5 And so you are justified when you speak * and upright in your judgment

6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, * a sinner from my mother's womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, * and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; * wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, * that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins * and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, * and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence * and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again * and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked, * and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God, * and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness, O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord, * and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17 Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice; * but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

18 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; * a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.



The Litany of Penitence

[BCP, p. 267]


The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling


Most holy and merciful Father: We confess to you and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.


The Celebrant continues


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. Have mercy on us, Lord.


We have been deaf 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. Have mercy on us, Lord.


We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives, We confess to you, Lord.


Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, We confess to you, Lord.


Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves, We confess to you, Lord.


Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work, We confess to you, Lord.


Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us, We confess to you, Lord.


Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, Accept our repentance, Lord.


For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, Accept our repentance, Lord.


For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, Accept our repentance, Lord.


Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us; Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.


Accomplish in us the work of your salvation, That we may show forth your glory in the world.


By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord, Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.


The Bishop, if present, or the Priest, stands and, facing the people, says


Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel. Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



The Peace

[BCP, p. 360]


The peace of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you.



The Lord’s Prayer

[BCP, p. 364]


And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

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, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lenten Solemn Prayer

[The Book of Occasional Services 2018, p. 11]


Let us bow down before the Lord.


Grant, most merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Christ our Lord. Amen.



The Dismissal

[BCP, p. 366]


Let us go forth in the name of Christ.

Thanks be to God.




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Note: This service is reproduced from The Book of Common Prayer 1979 (BCP), The Hymnal 1982 (Hymn), Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal (LEV), and other sources cited. The Scripture readings are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible.

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