Collect for Ash Wednesday
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 217)
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Since late last year, following a serious lack of judgment at a company event, I have been on a disciplinary plan at work and have been seeing a counselor through our Employee Assistance Program.
Having my failings made visible is really uncomfortable — the first image that comes to my mind is an insect pinned to a board — but the process of dealing with the issues openly and with help from other people has led to some long-overdue changes in my life.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews speaks of discipline in the reading appointed for today.
Endure trials for the sake of discipline … [God] disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems unpleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:7, 10-11).
On Ash Wednesday, we rehearse the heart of the Christian message about sin and forgiveness.
God hates nothing God has made, even though we fall short of the mark again and again.
When we confess our sins and get them out in the open, when we allow others to help us deal with our failings, we open ourselves up to receive from “the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness.”
Having received forgiveness, having been trained by discipline (not just once, but as often as it takes!), we in turn extend that forgiveness to those around us.
Yes, we are mortal — ashes to ashes, dust to dust — but we are God’s. “He himself has made us, and we are his” (Jubilate, BCP 83).
God hates nothing God has made, and God forgives the sins of all who are penitent.
Unworthy as I am, you will save me,
in accordance with your great mercy,
and I will praise you without ceasing all the days of my life.
For all the powers of heaven sing your praises,
and yours is the glory to ages of ages. Amen.
(Canticle 14, BCP 91)