Observing Ash Wednesday Without Judgment

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, which is a 40-day period of repentance and reflection that many Christians observe before Easter.


My faith practice focuses on God’s love and grace more than our sin and need for redemption, but the Ash Wednesday liturgy may be my favorite service in the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer.

The opening prayer reminds me of God’s unconditional love:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have created and forgive the sins of all who are penitent.

And Psalm 103 is full of promises God’s mercy:

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and full of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us,
nor will he keep his anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our sins from us.

This Psalm is a reminder that while we tend to define ourselves by our worst traits, God loves our whole selves.

After the Bible readings, the service continues with an invitation to observe a holy Lent:

Dear People of God . . .

I invite you, 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. And, to make a right beginning
of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now
kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

Ash Wednesday Selfie

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

This year my observation of Lent will include starting my day with the Daily Prayer podcasts based on the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer and trying to catch myself–and stop myself–when I find myself judging others. Ironically (but not surprisingly) this Lenten practice was inspired by Carla’s post. Trying to live up to the principle “Judge not, lest you be judged” seems like a fitting goal during a season when I will be asking God to have mercy on me even when I deserve harsher judgment. 

Do you observe Ash Wednesday?

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13 Responses to Observing Ash Wednesday Without Judgment

  1. Carla says:

    I’ve learned so so much from you over the years.
    You exemplify to me all the best and most admirable qualities of a person of faith.

    Carla recently posted…#wycwyc is not about excuses.My Profile

  2. Jess says:

    What a fabulous principle to strive to live by!
    Jess recently posted…In this MomentMy Profile

  3. My church doesn’t observe Ash Wednesday, however, I loved what you wrote and agree whole-heartedly with it. We live in a very judgmental world, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in it.
    Thanks for the verses and the reminder.
    Amy @ Mama Running for God recently posted…Oh How Sweet It Is!My Profile

  4. What you’ve written is absolutely beautiful. I find it difficult to share my religious beliefs on the blog in fear of judgment from others, but I really shouldn’t feel that way. I think my husband and I finally found a new Episcopal church to call our home (its been a trying process since we moved back in July), and I’m so glad to have a church family to recognize Lent with and then celebrate Easter with.
    Kathryn @ Dancing to Running recently posted…Factors to Consider When Choosing a RaceMy Profile

  5. Very beautiful post. The world could do with a bit less judgement and a bit more love.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…Updated Training ScheduleMy Profile

  6. Carrie Skoll says:

    I love reading your posts about your faith. I may not have much to add to the conversation, but striving to do better and to be a better person is always inspiring.
    Carrie Skoll recently posted…Fresh and Easy Valentine DinnerMy Profile

  7. Kim says:

    We don’t observe Ash Wednesday but I loved seeing pictures in my FB feed all day yesterday of those who do.
    And, I agree – we need far less judgement in our lives. I need to work more at making sure that I’m not making snap judgements – I used to do this all the time and have been working on it for years.
    Kim recently posted…My MotivationMy Profile

  8. Yum Yucky says:

    Psalm 103 has always been a great Comfort to me.
    Yum Yucky recently posted…Medical Face Mask: Something gross happened when I wore one.My Profile

  9. That is a nice reading and I like your positive and loving slant on faith, it’s good to read about accepting congregations who focus more on encouraging than scaring their congregants.
    Mary @ Fit and Fed recently posted…Bumpy Road to SectionalsMy Profile

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