A Prayer for Ash Wednesday (2017)

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Lord, on this day,
we gather as a people broken,
      bleeding from self-inflicted wounds;
our world blood-soaked in violence,
      the ground screaming out its protest –
even the crimson sunset a reminder,
      the sun also rises over a world at war.
So despite our words and our glib assurance,
      to ourselves – to each other – to you;
we are not “okay,” we are not “just fine.”
      Please help us to see, to feel again.
Long ago you saw your good creation
      filled with violence and oppression;
you were heartbroken – you the almighty God,
      you regretted making people.*
So you “rebooted” creation, cleaned the slate,
      started over – hoped it would be better.
Long ago you heard the cries from Sodom,
      the injustice – the violence – the rape;
We liked that sermon – until Ezekiel came out,
      and told us what you saw: they were proud
with plenty to eat and enjoyed their own prosperity
      but they didn’t bother to help the poor and needy.**  
The one on the other side of the road
      is still there: beaten, bloodied, and ignored;                
waiting for someone to help them,
      but everyone is too busy, too selfish.***
Dear God, give us the courage to see our brokenness,
      the grace to look in the mirror and confess:
      We are the land filled with violence and oppression,
            the ones causing you regret for making people.
      We are Sodom: addicted to our wealth, keeping what is ours,
            so the poor and needy are not welcomed, not here.
      We are the religious ones too busy to stop,
            unable to open our hearts to the desperate.
We are not okay, we are not alright.
      We are the broken ones, dear God.
After all the events of this year, Lord,
      how could we look at a beautiful child,
            covered in blood, sitting in an ambulance,
            looking at us;
      and say anything other than,
            Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
            Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
            Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

*Genesis 6:7
**Ezekiel 16:49
***Luke 10:29-37

Glenn Pemberton is a minister turned professor turned writer. After serving churches in Texas and Colorado, Glenn completed a Ph.D. (Old Testament). He then taught at Oklahoma Christian University before coming to Abilene Christian University in 2005, retiring as professor emeritus in 2017 due to a severe chronic pain. Glenn now spends his time writing for the church. Along with short essays he has published four books, including The God who Saves: An Introduction to the Message of the Old Testament (2015), and Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms (2012). Glenn and his wife Dana continue to live in Abilene, Texas.

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Author:  Publish Date: March 1, 2017

1 Comment

  • Irvin says:

    Thanks for another excellent post. Where else could anybody get that type of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @ acu.edu.

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