Community of Christ

Ash Wednesday Ideas

What Difference Does Lent Make?

Hymns of Gathering

“Come Away From rush and Hurry”  CCS 83
"Teach Me, God, to Wonder"  CCS  176
“As We Gather"  CCS 73

Call to Worship: Psalm 118:1, 14, 19, 28, 29

*Hymn: "Called to Gather as God’s People”  CCS 79
OR "Lord, You Have Brought Us”  CCS 76

*Invocation

*Response

Reading

Reader 1:  God, we confess our weakness, our brokenness, our separation from you and each other.

Reader 2:  Empower us with your strength—the force of love.

Reader 1:  We confess that we are often afraid and deny our worth and strength.

Reader 2:  Forgive us when we fail to sense your love for us.

Reader 1:   We confess that we are sometimes apathetic and turn from acts of justice.

Reader 2:   Fill us with a sense of your call to be strong and courageous.

Reader 1:   We confess and repent from our powerless stance.

Together:   Forgive us, God, and renew us with your spirit, empowering us to be your people in this place and time.

—By Barbara Howard, Prayers and Readings for Worship, vol. 1,
Judy Judd, ed. (Herald House, 1987), 58.

Hymn: "Lay Your Hands"   CCS 545  OR "O Christ, My Lord, Create in Me"  CCS 507
This could be sung by the congregation or a quartet or small group.

Prayers of Repentance and Forgiveness

Theme Talk

Incorporate the importance and significance of Ash Wednesday and Lent into the talk. See article "What Is Lent?" that follows this worship outline for additional material.

Hymn: "O Holy Dove of God Descending"  CCS 44
OR "Holy Spirit, Come with Power”  CCS 46

Period of Testimony

A time for the congregation to share how they plan to focus on the gift of Jesus Christ and remember the crucified and risen Lord. What difference does Lent make in our lives?

Hymn: "We Would See Jesus"
OR "The Path for Our Walking”  CCS 177

Pastoral Prayer

*Closing Hymn: "Into My Heart”  CCS 573
OR "Touch Me, Lord, with Thy Spirit Eternal"  CCS 574

*Sending Forth

Reader 1:  We are sent forth on our journey into this season of fasting, prayer, meditation, and service which we call Lent.

Reader 2: Let us be aware of Jesus the Christ on each step of our journey with him to the cross.

Reader 1: Let us sense anew the service to which we are called.

Reader 2:  May God bless us all on our Lenten journey. Amen.

—Jamie Tankersley



What Is Lent?

Lent is a time for personal and corporate spiritual renewal, a pilgrimage with Jesus. While the word "Lent" comes from the Anglo-Saxon lencten, which means "spring" (a time of the lengthening of days), on the Christian calendar it falls on the forty days (excluding Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. This season grows out of the Jewish Passover celebration and the rites of initiation and passage from many cultures. The focus of Lent and Easter in the Gospels is caught up in a simple expression: "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ comes again."

A good place to begin the Lenten pilgrimage is in careful study of the scriptural accounts of Jesus’ journey to the cross and resurrection (Year A—Matthew 26 through 28; Year B—Mark 14 through 16; Year C—Luke 22 through 24). If it is not possible to plan special services for all of the sacred moments of the season, time should be provided in Sunday worship services to include the reading of the scriptures that share the complete story of Christ’s passion, not just the joyful conclusion. Easter cannot be fully appreciated without a genuine sense of the loss and death that precede it.

The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday, an ancient holy day in the Christian calendar. In scripture, ashes paradoxically signify grief, sin, and human mortality while also symbolizing joy, forgiveness, and victory over death. In ancient France, those who were recognized in the community as sinners appeared in public wearing ashes. Soon it became the custom that every Christian wore the sign of the ashes on the first day of Lent to signify that each person was a sinner and needed to repent and be forgiven. In some congregations, the ashes are traditionally created by burning the palm branches that were used in Palm Sunday celebrations the previous year.

The Lenten season continues in reflection and self-examination. In essence we are called into the wilderness like Israel and Jesus before us to prepare for something new. In this wilderness we confront the most painful parts of ourselves, face our weaknesses, and search for our path to newness. The community gathers to study, share, and worship, providing support and structure for the journey. We travel together with Jesus toward Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday has traditionally been celebrative, focusing on the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. However, in recent years, especially if no other Holy Week services are held, the scope has enlarged to include a focus on the passion narrative and the name of the day is changed to "Passion Sunday." After the reading of the Passion, there is a somber and quiet reflection on the events of the days to follow in Jesus’ life.

Perhaps the least understood of the days in Holy Week is "maundy Thursday." While this is the night on which the Lord’s Supper was first celebrated, there is a deeper meaning. The actual Latin word from which "maundy" is derived means "command." The central theme of that first Lord’s Supper was one of humble service. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and commanded that the disciples do the same for each other. Jesus taught that he came not to be served but to serve, to share the hospitality of God and the intimacy of breaking bread together.

On Good Friday we are in mourning and a somber tone is appropriate. In some Christian traditions, a meditation service is based on the "seven last words" of Jesus on the cross. Others commemorate the events of Good Friday with a traditional "tenebrae" service, progressively extinguishing candle flames until all worshipers are plunged symbolically into darkness. Perhaps the most important part of the Good Friday remembrance is its closure. Easter Sunday is coming but hasn’t arrived. Good Friday ends in silent mourning for the death of Jesus.

Some traditions observe Holy Saturday as a day of fasting, reflecting the quiet Jewish Sabbath and Christ’s rest in the tomb. The somewhat hopeless feelings of Good Friday and Holy Saturday remind us of the scriptural promise: "Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5 NRSV), Easter morning!

At the end of the Lenten pilgrimage, on Easter Sunday, services sometimes begin in a somber tone and progress through the remainder of the scriptural story, building toward a climax of great joy in the resurrection.

Prayer for the Journey

Ash Wednesday Prayer Service

Preparation of the Sanctuary for Lent

Prominently display a cross draped in purple. Netting works very well and is easy to use. Purple is chosen as the color of passion and Jesus’ lordship. The purple drape should be replaced on Good Friday with a black drape and for the Easter celebration with a white drape.

Ash Wednesday Worship Setting

Place several large hand- or wheel- thrown pots and bowls near the cross. Include a potter’s wheel, if available, or display a slab of terra-cotta or other clay and a partially hand-built pot. Clay is easily found at a craft store. Include a plate of ashes visible from the congregation. Because the service is held in the evening, using candles can be very effective and symbolize the fire that creates ashes as it refines our physical life to ashes.

Call to the Community

Prelude

Use a flute, violin, clarinet, or oboe for soft meditation music.

Scripture Call: Psalm 51:1–3, 10–12

*Hymns of Preparation
          "Lay Your Hands"  CCS 545
          "As the Deer"  CCS 148

*Invocation

*Congregational Response: "Come, Holy Spirit, Come"  CCS 154

We Are Dust; We Are Stardust

Theme Thoughts: Ash Wednesday and Lent.

We are dust because we are made of the basic elements of earth, and earth is made from the explosion of the first star at the beginning of time. God’s creation is both dust/physical and stardust/spiritual. We must understand that the physical life does not replace the spiritual life, but in fact is the vehicle for spirit and meaningless without that affirmation.

Scripture: Genesis 2:4–7

Hymn: "Breathe on Me, Breath of God"  CCS 190 OR "Light Dawns on a Weary World”  CCS 240

Guided Meditation

From the back or balcony, very gently strike a small gong or resonant bell before each pause.

Strike gong/pause
From dust you were formed.
God fashioned you and breathed life into you.
God breathes life into you now.
Sense your breathing and the presence of God filling you.

Strike gong/pause
Sense a deep longing to experience God’s presence.

Strike gong/pause
Tonight we remember Jesus.
We have come willing to journey into the wilderness with Jesus,
seeking the truth about ourselves,
humbly preparing for renewal of our discipleship,
committing ourselves again as disciples of Jesus.

Strike gong/pause
Examine your heart.
Examine your behavior.
Examine your commitment.
Are you willing to prepare your life for acceptable service?
As a person cleans house to prepare for an honored guest,
now create a clean heart and renew your spirit to welcome God’s presence.

Strike gong/pause
Breathe in me, breath of God.
Breathe in me your new life.

Fashioning a New Vessel

Hymn "O Christ, My Lord, Create in Me”  CCS 507 OR "Creator God, Creating Still"  CCS 60

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 18:1–6

Theme Thoughts

We are the raw material, God’s dust, from which God may fashion a vessel worthy of the presence of the spirit. What are the materials of this life that God calls us to consecrate? We are called to give alms. What can we give?

Ministry of Music: "When We Are Living” CCS 242 by soloist OR Hymn: “A Mother Lined a Basket”  CCS 239

Prayers for the Journey

Invite the congregation to offer prayers for the journey: in confession, expressing longing for God, for courage, and for discipleship. The prayers may be interspersed with congregational singing. Some suggestions include the following:

"Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive"  CCS 215
"Humble Yourself"  CCS 211
"Jesus, Jesus, Ever Near Us”  CCS 254

Sent On Our Journey

Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 5:16–23

*Hymn "Lord Jesus, of You I Will Sing"  CCS 556 OR “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”  CCS 554

*Prayer of Blessing

*Response

*Postlude  

An Offering of Tears

Gather in Silence

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Hymn:  "Kum ba yah, Seigneur”  CCS 75 OR Come Holy Spirit”  CCS 154

Call to Worship

Leader: Sound the trumpet in alarm! Let the people tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming.

People:  We look toward a day of darkness and gloom, a day clouded with sorrow, sadness, and sacrifice.

Leader:  God calls us through Jesus, "Return to me and repent with weeping and mourning."

People:  Let us fast before God, in the hope of God’s steadfast love and salvation.

Leader:   Blow the trumpet to call the people!

People:  We gather before you, O God, in solemn assembly. We gather as people of every stripe and stature.

Leader :  Let us pray together:

All:  We gather, our eyes full of tears, asking for your presence. We gather looking for your response to our living. We gather in hope. Come, humble Jesus, come.

—based on Joel 2:1–2, 12–19

*Hymn: "O Young and Fearless Prophet”  CCS 36 OR “Who Is This Jesus”  CCS 38

*Invocation

Invitation to Lenten Discipline

For years Christians have pondered the coming of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. The forty days of Lent have served as reminders of Noah’s forty days on the water, of the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and of Jesus’ forty days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness. Lent has been a time to consider the ways in which we separate ourselves from God and from one another. You are invited, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, by prayer, by study, and by meditating on God’s word.

Scripture: Psalm 51:1–2, 10–12

Prayer of Confession

Hymn: "God, Who Touches Earth with Beauty"  CCS 568 OR “God Whose Grace Redeems Our Story”  CCS 570

An Offering of Tears

Give each person a tear-shaped piece of paper and a pencil or pen. Invite them to write something on the tear that represents one way in which they separate themselves from God. After everyone is finished, the tears are collected in a fire-proof container. Then the following words are spoken as the tears are lit with the flame from the Christ candle. (Be sure to use care with the fire and always have a fire extinguisher handy.)

Accept our sorrow and our repentance, O God, as we offer these tears to you.

Watch in silence as the tears burn. Once they are burned, continue with the Prayer of Tears.

Prayer of Tears

Leader:   Cry aloud to the Lord! Let tears stream down like a torrent.

People:  We yearn to do away with our burdens of sin, our tears of injustice and oppression.

Leader :  Arise and cry out in the night! Pour out your heart like water in God’s presence.

All:  We listen for God’s grace-filled answer, praying for relief from our inner wilderness.

—based on Lamentations 2:18–19

Silent prayers

Hymn: “ O God We Call”  CCS 195

Scripture: Hebrews 12:1–2

Assurance of Pardon

Leader:   In Christ, God declares a home among all people.

People:  We are God’s people, and Jesus dwells in us.

Leader:  In Christ, God wipes away every tear from our eyes, healing us by the resurrection.

People:  In Christ, God is calling us to be made new, offering us divine assurance in grace and forgiveness.

Leader:   "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end," declares God,

All:  And we are your people who once were thirsty, but now drink deeply of the water of life.

—based on Revelation 21:3b–7

Ministry of Music: "Look at This Man, Born of God" CCS 26 OR Hymn: "What Wondrous Love Is This”  CCS 454

Lead Prayer of Dedication

Prayers of the People

*Hymn: "Beneath the Cross of Jesus”  CCS 206

*A Lenten Prayer (with drum)

Four drumbeatsGod of love,
As in Jesus Christ you gave yourself to us,
so may we give ourselves to you,
living according to your holy will.

Two drumbeats, pause (one, two)
Keep our feet firmly in the way where Christ leads us;

Two drumbeats, pause (one, two)
help our lips speak the truth that Christ teaches us;

Two drumbeats, pause (one, two)
fill our bodies with the life that is Christ within us.

Two drumbeats, pause (one, two)
In his holy name we pray. Amen.

One loud drumbeat to punctuate!

*Response: "When We Are Tested”  CCS 453

Walk Humbly with God (2018)

MATTHEW 6:1–6, 16–21/ 6:1–6, 17–21 IV

Additional Scriptures

Joel 2:1–2, 12–17; Psalm 51:1–17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10


Worship Environment and Preparation

Create a simple worship environment in a dimly lit room with candles. Make sure the lights are bright enough so people can read the words of the hymns and the handout. Have a bowl of ashes on the worship center. Each person should receive an “Ash Wednesday Reflection” handout with questions to structure journaling (see below) and something with which to write. Alternatively, the questions could be projected or read, or the questions could be printed in an order of worship.

Prelude

Invitation to Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten season and offers a sacred and spacious place for humility and confession. When we think of confession, we might find ourselves feeling resistance! This is not a time to feel bad about ourselves or air all our dirty laundry. It is a time to get real about what feels broken in us, in our relationships, in our world and how God’s invitation of repentance and restoration leads us all to greater wholeness.

As an invitation to our worship tonight, I invite you to consider Community of Christ’s definition of sin:

God created us to be agents of love and goodness. Yet we misuse our agency individ­ually and collectively. We take the gifts of creation and of self and turn them against God’s purposes with tragic results. Sin is the universal condition of separation and alienation from God and one another. We are in need of divine grace that alone rec­onciles us with God and one another. —www.CofChrist.org/basic-beliefs

This definition is about living more faithfully in all the relationships that make up our lives—with God, ourselves, others, and creation. The journey of Lent is about the return, reconciliation, and restoration to who we have always been invited to become…together. This is a time to take inventory of what may be misplaced or disordered in our lives so we may listen more deeply to the call of God and follow God more faithfully. Our text tonight from Matthew 6, invites us to greater humility on our walk with Christ, reminding us that where our heart is, our treasure will also be. This is the night for asking: Where is your heart? What is the treasure of this discipleship life? May we open ourselves tonight to a journey of greater freedom and wholeness that leads us to the fullest life.

Responsive Scripture Reading

One: 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.

All: Holy One, you invite us to be real in your presence. Return us again to compas­sion for your people.

One: 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.

All: Holy One, you invite us to be real in your presence. Awaken again our longing for you.

One: 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.

All: Holy One, you invite us to be real in your presence. Grant us the courage to search ourselves with loving honesty.

One: 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.

All: Holy One, you invite us to be real in your presence. Orient our hearts in the di­rection of what gives life.

—based on Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21/6:1–6, 17–21 IV

Hymn

“God, Renew Us by Your Spirit” CCS 237

OR “Between Our Thoughts” CCS 163

Individual and Communal Reflection: Restoring Relationships

Invitation to Practice

You are invited into a rhythm of reflection as we contemplate the relationships in our lives and God’s invitation to wholeness through the Lenten season. During the times of reflec­tion, you are welcome to journal or reflect silently.

Let’s listen to these words of sacred text as we begin our reflection.

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive rela­tionships in sacred community. The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous rela­tionships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b

Invitation to Reflect through Journaling (3–5 minutes)

Relationship with God: Where do you resist the movement of the Holy in your life?
How are you invited to tend your deepest longing for God?

Hymn of Reflection

“O God We Call” CCS 195

OR “O Lord, Hear My Prayer” (sing multiple times) CCS 192

Invitation to Reflect through Journaling (3–5 minutes)

Relationships with Others: What relationships feel broken or strained that are espe­cially present in your heart tonight? How are you invited to move toward wholeness and restoration in your relationships with others?

Hymn of Reflection

“Ososŏ/Come Now, O Prince of Peace” CCS 225

OR “El amor nunca pasará” (sing multiple times) CCS 6

Invitation to Reflect through Journaling (3–5 minutes)

Relationship with Self: When do you neglect your own well-being or fail to live fully as your true self? How are you invited to move toward wholeness within and participate in the nurturing of your own soul?

Hymn of Reflection

“My Peace” CCS 149

OR “Come and Fill/Confitemini Domino” (sing multiple times) CCS 235

Invitation to Reflect through Journaling (3–5 minutes)

Relationship with Creation: Reflect on the times you have been careless or neglectful of your relationship with all life. How are you invited to become more aware of your inherent belonging with the whole of creation?

Hymn of Reflection

“God Within God Around” CCS 20

OR “Bless the Lord” (sing multiple times) CCS 575

Communal Sharing

Where did you sense the Spirit’s movement in your time of reflecting on the various rela­tionships in your life? What relationships need tending and restoring this Lenten season?

Sharing the Ashes

Reading

Ashes come as a reminder of the ways that humans across history have been hor­rible to one another, of how we have, with an awful finesse, reduced to literal ashes one another’s homes, buildings, cities, histories, and very bodies.

Ashes can also be a thing of wonder. This day in the Christian year, this day of ashes, tells us that ashes—dust, dirt, earth—are the stuff from which we have been made, and to which we will return. This day, and the season it heralds, seeks to ground us, to make us mindful of the humus, the humility, the earthiness of which our bones and flesh are made. And yet, in the midst of this, the season calls us to open ourselves to the God who brings life from ashes, who works wonders amid destruction, who cries out and grieves in the presence of devastation and terror, and who breathes God’s own spirit into the rubble. It is this God who breathes into us, calling our awful and glorious ash-strewn selves to speak words of life and freedom and healing amid violence and pain.

—Jan Richardson, janrichardson.com http://paintedprayerbook.com/2010/02/12/upon-the-ashes/

You are invited to come forward and receive the ashes as we begin this Lenten journey together. Invite people to come forward to receive ashes in the shape of a cross on the backs of their hands or foreheads. Alternately, people may prefer to carry a few ashes in their hands. Do whatever is most comfortable for your congregation. Meditative music plays as people come forward.

Hymn of Sending Forth

“Spirit of the Living God” CCS 567

OR “The Peace of the Earth/La paz de la tierra” CCS 647

Blessing for the Lenten Path

Go in peace!

Postlude


Ash Wednesday Reflection

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sac­raments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through re­demptive relationships in sacred community. The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relation­ships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.”

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b

Relationship with God: Where do you resist the movement of the Holy in your life? How are you invited to tend your deepest longing for God?

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Relationships with Others: What relationships feel broken or strained that are espe­cially present in your heart tonight? How are you invited to move toward wholeness and restoration in your relationships with others?

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Relationship with Self: When do you neglect your own well-being or fail to live fully as your true self? How are you invited to move toward wholeness within and partici­pate in the nurturing of your own soul?

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Relationship with Creation: Reflect on the times you have been careless or neglectful of your relationship with all life. How are you invited to become more aware of your inherent belonging with the whole of creation?

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Where did you sense the Spirit’s movement in your time of reflecting on the relation­ships in your life? What relationships need tending and restoring this Lenten season?

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Sermon Helps - MATTHEW 6:1–6, 16–21

Exploring the Scripture

Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season. Lent is the 40-day period before Easter appoint­ed for reflection and building stronger relation­ships with the Divine, both as individuals and as communities. Ash Wednesday and Lent feature a call to repentance—a renewed turning toward God so our relationships may be genuine.

Today’s text comes from the commonly called Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7). Today’s reading skips what we call the Lord’s Prayer. The three topics addressed in the read­ing are almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. These three were basic spiritual practices of the Jews and, when this Gospel was written, may also have been considered fundamental to the Chris­tian community.

Jesus assumes his disciples will engage in the basic spiritual practices, saying, “whenever you….” Jesus asks his disciples to reflect on their motivation for engaging in these disciplines. The Greek word hypokritēs or “hypocrite” in to­day’s passage, also referred to an actor on stage. By using this word, Jesus challenges his hearers to avoid turning spiritual disciplines into pub­lic performances. The purpose should not be to draw attention from peers. Instead, these prac­tices are in response to God’s grace and gener­osity.

When done sincerely, these spiritual prac­tices advance our formation as disciples, as well as Christ’s mission. This would not happen if they were done to merely impress a naïve au­dience. Audiences might be fooled by actors. Peers might be fooled by hypocrites. By sug­gesting that these spiritual practices should be performed for God’s purposes, Jesus challenges disciples to be sincere and to engage fully. God will not be fooled. God understands our true capacity and calls us to an ever-deeper self-examination. The question is not as much about whether these acts should be done in public as it is about whether we would still do them if we knew we did not have an audience.

The text is less about secrecy than it is about sincerity. We should work for the treasure that genuinely matters. Applause and admiration of friends will not last any more than money. Our motivation for engaging in good works and spir­itual practices must be heavenly, not earthly. The passage ends with a hopeful promise. If we sincerely engage in these practices, our hearts will follow genuine treasure, and we will be drawn closer to others and to God and the di­vine purpose.

Central Ideas

  1. The Lenten season is a time for reflection, repentance, and renewal.
  2. Spiritual practices like prayer and fasting are fundamental to our faith.
  3. Spiritual practices help us respond to God’s grace and generosity.
  4. Sincerely engaging in spiritual practices forms us as disciples, strengthened to en­gage in Christ’s mission.

Questions for the Speaker

  1. How do members of the congregation give alms (charitable care for those who are poor)? What opportunities does your con­gregation provide for almsgiving?
  2. What spiritual practices are helping to form you as a disciple?
  3. How does the congregation collectively en­gage in spiritual practices?
  4. What makes prayer sincere within worship
  5. and congregational life? What does your congregation do to teach prayer as a spiri­tual practice?
  6. Consider fasting as a way to refocus on God’s justice (see Isaiah 58). How might members of the congregation or the congre­gation as a whole engage in sincere fasting?
  7. Reflecting on our true capacity, what might we do as individuals or as a congregation, during the Lenten season, to become more sincere in our spiritual practices? In what spiritual practices might we engage during Lent so our hearts might draw closer to God?

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