The purpose of this blog is to encourage wholehearted worship worldwide.

Wednesday night we experienced a beautiful and meaningful Ash Wednesday service. This was new for us, our roots being Baptist, Methodist and Contemporary Non-Denominational. Although I developed an appreciation of Ancient-Future spirituality through IWS ,  we had never actually attended a real live service before.  So we went and got the cross-shaped smudge on our foreheads.

The true intent of Ash Wednesday and the Lent season that follows is to set aside a time of the year to “get back to God, back to basics, back to the spiritual realities of life.”

Here’s  what seemed significant to me.

1. A Time and Place for Reflection and Repentance

The service began solemnly reading “The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)

To be wholehearted is not possible until we do something with our broken, hard hearts. This service gives us language and action that helps restore our relationship with God so “that all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and devotion to our Lord”

What gave this impact:

  • The act of hearing the story
  • singing meaningful words
  • coming forward and kneeling with others in the group
  • the dude painting our forehead with the ashes
  • hearing the words “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”
  • walking solemnly back
  • seeing everyone in the room with their foreheads marked, looking like extras in a zombie movie. That’s a memorable scene.
  • The ashes, a powerful symbol of the shortness and meaninglessness of life.
  • The Penitential Litany – a set of short prayers of confession
    • “we have not loved you with our whole heart …”
  • ending with Communion, the hope and promise of new life through Jesus.

2. A  Simple and Focused Service Design

There was nothing elaborate, no theatrics, no production. Just the story, simple music, prayer, communion. Plenty of space for participation.

Overall, it was a simple but powerful group experience. It did not feel like some obligatory ritual, but as something authentic.

3. The Encouraging Wholehearted Worship application.

  • Does the church calendar influence your spiritual journey? How?
  • Are you doing anything intentional (like fasting) for the Lent season?
  • (For leaders) Is experiential worship part of your planning? What are you doing?


Recommended resources: Robert Webber: Ancient-Future Time; Ancient -Future Worship