thinking theology

Ash Wednesday: The Garden

Although the precise origins of Ash Wednesday are unknown, the symbol of ashes has a long human history. Ashes have been an outward, visible sign of grief and/or penitence. Ashes are also sown in the ground to hallow and to fertilize. As well, one of the signs of hope has been the phoenix rising from the ashes of its worn out, broken self. To mark the beginning of Lent as a sign of transformation, let us begin by reclaiming ourselves from destructive choices, by walking the path of transformation, and by preparing ourselves for a renewed sense of the life of God within and around us.

Gardens are ancient symbols both of God’s creation and of the place where the Divine and the mortal meet. For this liturgy, a garden — perhaps planted with spring flowers — needs to be prepared to be placed in the centre of the gathering. It might be interesting to plant a food garden too that could regularly be harvested throughout Lent. If it is to continue to Easter, it will require some “minders” to maintain and expand it.

Music: perhaps Enya, “Memory of Trees” or Daniel Langlois, “The Maker”

Collect: God of Eden and of each new garden, we come before you and each other to acknowledge our brokenness and our need for change. Free us and open us to life in abundance, so that we may walk with courage and hope. We ask this in the name of the Vine, and the Gardener, and the Hope of the Dawn. Amen

Reading 1: Luke 13:10-17

People may be invited to sprinkle some ash into the garden, to symbolize how letting go of the old blesses new life. Alternatively, the leaders could do this.

The following reflections could be in the form of an address, small group discussion, or silence. If silence, please allow for a time after for people to debrief if they wish.

Reflection: What bends us so that we cannot see clearly, limiting our perspective, and isolating us? What change are we seeking? What will it require of us?

Reading 2: Romans 9:21-26

Again, either by participants or by leaders, some water may be sprinkled on the garden to nourish the soil, as the soul is nourished by the faith.

Reflection: What encourage us to stand? What supports us? What would it be like for people to see each other as Jesus saw us, children of one family?

Music: possible Libana, “Be Like a Bird”


Leader: Searching for justice yet
Bent by unbending ways,
We call to you, our Source of liberation.
Support us,encourage us so
That we may stand,
Raise ourselves to a life of courage.
May we find your affirmation
in the nurture of creation springing
Into bloom, to gladden and to strengthen.

R: Holy One, in your love, inspire and empower us.

L: Holy Presence in suffering, be our consolation and our challenge. Pour your grace into our hearts so that we, the broken, may rise to strengthen others, and bring peace to our world.

R: Holy One, in your love, inspire and empower us.

L: Spirit of inspiration, blow across deserts, mountains, oceans, plains, and valleys. Teach us to walk new paths daily, greeting transformation as the gateway, opening into life.

R: Holy One, in your love, inspire and empower us.

L: Source of all life, open your power to love and to change, to share and to trust, to us in our relationships. May we live life in abundance and boldness, liberating others as you are liberating us. Holy Friend and Companion, meet us in every garden, protect us in every crossroad.

R: Holy One, in your love, inspire and empower us.

The service may end with the Lord’s Prayer, with a collect, or music.

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