St Clement Church Community Ash Wednesday Service

St Clement Church Community Ash Wednesday Service


The Greeting

May the grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.



Brothers and sisters in Christ, since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion and resurrection and prepared for this by a season of penitence and fasting.

By carefully keeping these days, Christians take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.

We are invited therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.


The Collect

Let us pray for grace to keep Lent faithfully.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.



Our Old Testament reading is taken from the Book of Isaiah.

58Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.
2Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practised righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgements, they delight to draw near to God.

3‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?
 Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day, and oppress all your workers.
4Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
5Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator* shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10

if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.


This is the word of the Lord

(Thanks be to God)


Gospel Reading         

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew

(Glory to you, O Lord)


Jesus said to his disciples; beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 ‘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.

3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.*

5 ‘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.

6But 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.*

16 ‘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.

17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so 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.*

19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust* consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust* consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

This is the Gospel of The Lord

(Praise to you, O Christ)



Jesus shows his confidence in us by saying:

"When you do merciful deeds… when you pray…when you fast…"

It would be entirely different if he had said, "If you give alms … if you pray … if you fast."  The fact that he said, "When…" makes all the difference in the world. 

It's as if he assumes that we will keep these spiritual disciplines, he takes for granted the faithfulness of his listeners.

Not if, but when.

And it's not all about religious piety.  These practices – giving alms, praying and fasting – come naturally to all people, from time to time.  In fact, I'm often amazed at the extent to which people do these things without being told. 

Why?  Because compassion comes naturally.  It's an innate quality.  It comes from deep within. 

True, some are more compassionate than others, and that's probably because of their upbringing.  Yet, in every age and every culture we find this same characteristic: Those who are strong are drawn to helping those who are weak.

We don't have to give to the poor.  We do so because we care, because we feel compassion, and because others have helped us in so many ways.  It comes naturally.

The same is true of praying.  No one forces us to pray.  We do so because, deep within us, the human soul longs for a relationship with its Creator.  And the more we pray, the more prayer becomes for us a life-giving source of strength and confidence.

 It's also true of fasting, though we don't talk about it that much.  I suppose that's because we live in a world that is so driven by self-indulgence.  Yet, people have fasted for as far back as we can tell, both for religious, as well as physical reasons.  If we listen to our body, it'll tell us, from time to time, of its need to be set free of food and drink for a while, whether it's alcohol or chocolate or just extra calories.

And if allowed, the hunger we feel when we do fast can quicken our awareness of God's sustaining grace.

The Good News is that Jesus knew this from the start.  His concern was not to tell us what we ought to be doing; rather, to remind us to stay focused on why we're doing it.  He says, and I paraphrase:

 "When you give alms, don't make a big show of it … give anonymously … don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing and, by all means, don't give hoping that somebody will be impressed or want to give you something in return."

"When you pray, don't make a big show of it – Find a secluded spot so you can pray privately.  And, whatever you do, talk to God the same way you'd talk to a friend – honestly, openly, straightforwardly – not with a bunch of platitudes and empty phrases."

"And when you fast, don't make a big show of it.   Wash your face and hands, comb your hair, look your best, because if people know you're fasting, you'll be the centre of attention, not God, and that defeats the whole point of the matter."

The sense of this passage is crystal clear: Whatever we do, in word or deed, do everything to the glory of God, and we will be blessed far beyond anything we might otherwise imagine.  Amen.


The Liturgy of Penitence

Let us now call to mind our sin and the infinite mercy of God.

God the Father, have mercy upon us.


God the Son, have mercy upon us.


God the Holy Spirit, have mercy upon us.


Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, have mercy upon us.

From all evil and mischief; from pride, vanity, and hypocrisy;
from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all evil intent,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From sloth, worldliness and love of money; from hardness of heart
and contempt for your word and your laws,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From sins of body and mind; from the deceits of the world,

the flesh and the devil,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all times of sorrow; in all times of joy; in the hour of death,

and at the day of judgement,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the mystery of your holy incarnation; by your birth,

childhood and obedience;
by your baptism, fasting and temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By your ministry in word and work; by your mighty acts of power;
and by your preaching of the kingdom,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By your agony and trial; by your cross and passion;

and by your precious death and burial,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By your mighty resurrection; by your glorious ascension;
and by your sending of the Holy Spirit,
Good Lord, deliver us.


Give us true repentance; forgive us our sins of negligence and ignorance
and our deliberate sins; and grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit
to amend our lives according to your holy word.


Holy God, holy and strong,

holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.

Make our hearts clean, O God;

and renew a right spirit within us.

Father eternal,

giver of light and grace,

we have sinned against you and against our neighbour,

in what we have thought, in what we have said and done,
through ignorance, through weakness,

through our own deliberate fault.

We have wounded your love,

and marred your image in us.
We are sorry and ashamed, and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us,

forgive us all that is past;

and lead us out from darkness to walk as children of light.


The Imposition of Ashes

Dear friends in Christ,
during this season of Lent may we remember in the spirit of penitence that

God our Father created us from the dust of the earth:  it is by his grace alone that we receive eternal life in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Therefore may we remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.
 May we henceforth turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. Amen.


God our Father, the strength of all who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers; and because, in our weakness,
we can do nothing good without you, grant us the help of your grace,
that in keeping your commandments we may please you, both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer

Lord Jesus, remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.


The Peace                                                    

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us access to his grace.                              

May the peace of the Lord be always with us.



May Christ give us grace to grow in holiness, to deny ourselves,

take up our cross, and follow him;
and may the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us, those whom we love, and remain with us always.





Page last updated: 15th February 2021 4:46 PM