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Planning a Worship Service for Ash Wednesday

ash wednesday

Ash Wednesday will be upon us soon. Like all elements of the Christian Church liturgical calendar, Ash Wednesday is an effective way to preach the gospel and “walk through” the gospel story. At our church, Sojourn, we always observe Ash Wednesday with an early morning service.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent. The Church set this date in the fourth century by counting back 40 days from Easter (excluding Sundays). This brings us to the Wednesday seven weeks before Easter. Each of the 40 days represents one of the 40 days when Christ fasted in the wilderness, before Satan tempted Him (Mark 4:2).

On this day, we:

  • Contemplate the death that reigns in us because of sin, and our need for Jesus to save us.
  • Commit to daily repentance—to “die daily,” as Paul said (1 Corinthians 15:31).
  • Celebrate that Christ conquered Satan, sin and the grave.

So Where Do the Ashes Come In?

In the Bible, ashes help us remember our mortality and frailty resulting from the Fall (Genesis 3:19; 18:27). When we put ashes on our foreheads in the sign of the cross, we participate in a visible reminder of our condition—and the power of the cross to change that condition forever.

The Worship Sourcebook lists these scriptures for planning Ash Wednesday readings:

Songs for Ash Wednesday:

Kristen and I created a Lenten Worship Songs playlist—40 songs and hymns to walk from Ash Wednesday through the season of Lent, Passion Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Songs from that list that would be suited for Ash Wednesday services include:

  1. Kyrie Eleison—Bifrost Arts (Dave Crowder Band does this one Give Us Rest, too)
  2. In Adam All Die—Shai Linne
  3. Lead Us Back—Sojourn
  4. Abiding City—Sandra McCracken
  5. Economy—John Mark McMillan

Other good songs for Ash Wednesday include “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, “Be Merciful to Me” by Randall Goodgame (recorded by Caedmon’s Call) and the classic hymn “Come Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart.

For much more, check out the mp3s and other resources for the season of Lent at Cardiphonia, here.  

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Bobby Gilles has written several of Sojourn Music’s popular worship songs for albums like The Water And The Blood, Over The Grave and Before The Throne. He is content manager for sojournmusic.com and has mentored songwriters and led many Sojourn songwriting workshops as part of Pastor Mike Cosper’s worship ministry. Bobby is also Sojourn Church Director Of Communications, and works with Lead Pastor Daniel Montgomery to communicate Sojourn’s mission and vision. He co-wrote the children’s book Our Home Is Like A Little Church, published by Christian Focus. As a former radio disc jockey and music director, he was twice named a National Top 10 Finalist for Gospel Music DJ of the Year.