Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on February 25, 2009 - Ash Wednesday

I'm doing a bit of "catch-up" this morning. Here are the passages for February 25, 2009, Ash Wednesday. I'll post the passages for Sunday, March 1st at noon. All links are to the TNIV via, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the drop-down menu at

Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent, is a liturgical holiday fraught with meaning. Whether or not your particular congregation incorporates the imposition of ashes into worship, the themes of repentance and humility will no doubt be highlighted. Ash Wednesday is one of those days where the Scripture passages are the same every year. Why are these particular passages chosen for worship on this particular holy day?

(A couple of years ago, I did a similar process of reflection as part of a podcast I was doing at the time. My reflections then were different than now, despite using the same passages, with the exception of the Psalm. If you're interested, and have about 15 minutes to spare, you can listen to that podcast via this link.)

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
  • This passage speaks of dark times. How does Joel suggest that people should respond? What good does he think such a response will do?
  • In verse 12, the text specifically sets up the Lord as the one speaking. How different is this from the rest of the passage? Is there significance to this distinction?
Isaiah 58:1-12
  • Is the concept of fasting one that is new to you, or one with which you are already well-acquainted? Although fasting was mentioned briefly in the Joel passage, it is highlighted here. What role does fasting play here? What kind of fasting does God desire?
  • Fasting is used metaphorically in this passage to at least some degree, but what place should literal fasting play in the life of the devoted follower of God?
Psalm 51:1-17
  • The heading of this passage places it in a very specific context. How is it that, in this context, David can say to God "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight"?
  • Besides being a prayer, this passage, as a Psalm, is also a song, meant to be sung. Why did David consider this an appropriate way to frame such a prayer?
  • Based on David's prayer in this passage, what do you think it means to truly repent?
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
  • One of the down-sides to is that the site doesn't really know how to handle partial verses, such as that called for with verse 20b here. The letter "b" indicates that only a part of the verse is to be read as part of the lectionary. In this case, the reading starts with the second part of the verse, which begins "We implore you on Christ's behalf."
  • Paul "implores" his audience to "Be reconciled to God." What does Paul imagine that his audience needs to do that they aren't already doing? What does Paul imagine that the consequences of failing to do so are?
  • In chapter 6, verses 4-10, Paul gives a rather long list of ways in which he--and at least Timothy, I assume--"commend" themselves as servants of God. Why such a long list? What should we gather from this list does it mean to be one of God's servants? Why should anyone choose to be God's servant, if this is what it means (and, indeed, if choice is even an appropriate word to use)?
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
  • Why does Jesus make such a big deal about praying and doing good works in private?
  • Jesus talks about fasting. Do his words here change any of your thoughts about the earlier passages that mentioned fasting?

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