Ashes, communion elements and a Pauline epistle form foundation for Presbyterian Center’s Ash Wednesday service
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — After a simple and beautiful Ash Wednesday service, worshipers left the Chapel at the Presbyterian Center nourished by the Lord’s Supper and marked with ashes imposed on their foreheads.
“We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance, and for the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed by the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the Office of Theology and Worship and Wednesday’s preacher. The ancient sign of ashes “speaks of the frailty and uncertainty of human life and marks the penitence of this community.”
Gambrell weaved his sermon together with Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, found in 2 Cor. 5:20b-6:10, where God tells the church in Corinth, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
“See, now is the acceptable time,” Paul tells the church. “See, now is the day of salvation!” As “servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God … We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see — we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
In Christ’s name, Gambrell invited worshipers to observe a “holy Lent” through self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, through works of love — and by meditating on God’s word.
“Now is the time,” Gambrell said, hearkening back to Paul and then adding these words: “not because we are ready, but because God is gracious; not because we are able, but because Christ is faithful; not because we are willing, but because the Spirit is at work.”
“Now Is the time,” he said again, “not because it is convenient, but because we are struggling; not because all is well, but because this world is broken; not because it will be easy, but because God will be with us.”
And once more: “Now Is the time, not because we are strong, but because we are weak;
not because we want to, but because this is our only hope; not because we can, but because we must.”
“Beloved people of God,” Gambrell concluded, “Let us be reconciled to God and to one another in Jesus’ name. Now is the time.”
Worship on this Ash Wednesday employed elements spanning multiple continents. The Rev. Dr. Paul Huh accompanied hymns Including “Search Me, O God,” (“Glory to God” #426) “As the Wind Song (#292) and “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian” (#729) on a haegum, a two-stringed vertical fiddle used in many Korean musical genres. His left hand controlled the pitch and vibrato by pulling the strings toward the neck; there Is no fingerboard. With his right hand, Huh moved the bow horizontally between the strings while controlling the tension of the horsehair.
Presiding at communion, the Rev. Dr. Kathryn Threadgill, Vital Congregations coordinator, led worshipers through a traditional litany, then broke bread and poured juice Into the cup In silence.
“Create In me a clean heart,” worshipers said together, quoting Psalm 51:10, “and renew a right spirit within me.”
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Categories: Communication, Faith & Worship
Tags: Ash Wednesday, communion, haegum, imposition of ashes, liturgy, presbyterian center, rev. dr. david gambrell, rev. dr. kathryn threadgill, rev. dr. paul huh, worship
Tags: acceptable time, ash wednesday, ash wednesday service, broke bread, chapel at the presbyterian, chapel at the presbyterian center, david gambrell, gambrell, god, kathryn threadgill, paul huh, photo by rich, photo by rich copley, poured juice, presbyterian center, rev, rich copley, vital congregations, wednesday, wednesday service
Ministries: Theology and Worship, Theology, Formation & Evangelism, Worship, Communications