Protestant Ash Wednesday

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Protestant Ash Wednesday
Topic sin, forgiveness, Ash Wednesday
Group Size Any
Prep Time 1-2 Hours
Setting Indoors Service
Age Group Any
The Point Our sins can be burned away and only the cross remains

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Supplies Needed

  • Several extra large heatproof bowsl (ceramic or glass works)
  • Numerous candles and things to light them with.
  • A food processor
  • As many small pieces of paper (notecard size) as you have people.
  • Multiple small containers for ash later.
  • Tables to place the candles and bowls on
  • Lots of pens
  • fire extinguishers

How to Set Up

Test the paper to make sure it burns smoothly and cleanly. The paper needs to become a fine ash powder., and many leave a very nasty yellow residu so testing is definitely needed. Then just prepare the paper and get the tables set up so that each table had a bowl and several candles, with a fire extinguisher underneath just in case.

Give each person a sheet of paper and a pen when they come in.

What Happens Then

This is a reclaiming of the ancient idea of Ash Wednesday and can be part of a standard worship service. Ash Wednesday is all about our sins and repenting of them while also accepting forgivness for them from Jesus. The leader talks about how our sins are darkness in our lives, keeping us from God's life. Then someone reads Isaiah 59:9-15. We need Jesus' light to burn away our darkness (Matthew 4:16).

Have people write out their sins, failings, and fears on the card, privately. Then invite people to come up and burn away that darkness through Jesus' light. They come and burn their cards in the candles, placing them in the bowls to finish burning. Once everyone is done the ashes are taken away, run through the food processor to refine, and placed in smaller bowls to pass around. (the food processor is a good idea to make sure that the ash is of a fine enough consistency to stick on our fingers and foreheads, some addition aburning may also be needed.)

Then the leader can talk about how we rarely really believe our sins are gone. Read Ephesians 5:8-14, about how we are now children of light. Not only are our sins forgiven, but we are changed. The darkness in us has become light, through Christ. All that remains of our sins is the cross that took them and burned them away. We are now children of that light.

Bring in the bowls of ash and pass them around. Have each pesron take the ash, make the sign of the cross on the person's forehead next to them, and say something like "be marked by the cross, forgiven and living in the light of Jesus." That person then does the same to the person next to them. As the leader I like to start this, but also be the last person to receive it from someone else.

People then are literally wearing their old sins on their forehead, and no one can see anything but the cross. And a friend blessed them. And once they had that mark they helped bless someone else. That can be a profoundly moving experience, to know our wost sins are exposed, and thanks to the power of the cross no one can see them. It also quite closely represents how salvation was probably passed on to them in the first place.

Possible Problems

The primary worry here of course is fire. The bowls won't get too hot, but people need to be standing by just in case something abd happens. Also, care should be taken not to spill the ashes as they are passed around.

Theologically, the passages referenced here are of course not required. the emphasis should always be on people burning their sins, and receiving them back as ash. The message should only be to fully explain and illuminate what is happening. Song and scripture can do most of that quite well.

Other Ideas that use this Topic

Healing Inside FirstGet forgiven and healed inside first, the outside stuff can come laterMessage Idea