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Ash Wednesday

LISTEN

READ
Isaiah 53

CONTEMPLATE
Welcome to Lent meditation and worship with Westside church. During this Lenten season, meet us here each day as we read scripture, worship and rest in the presence of God together. Know that as you listen today, you are doing so with others whether in the same space as you or not, and we pray that the Holy Spirit permeates the places we each find ourselves in right now. 

Let us start today by clearing our minds and opening our hearts and minds to what the Lord wants to speak to us through His word today. Take a deep breath in and out. And another in and out.

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the season of Lent that leads us to the glorious celebration of Easter Sunday. The early church observed the death and resurrection of Jesus with great devotion and began using the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare themselves for the celebration of renewed and eternal life that the resurrection of Jesus brings. This is a season of reflection, sacrifice, reconciling with our community and strengthening our faith.

I invite you to join me in making the most of this Lenten season. Let’s challenge ourselves through self-reflection, prayer, fasting, and self-discipline to deepen our spiritual connection by reading and meditating on God’s word.

As we start this journey of repentance, let’s humbly bow before the Lord, our Maker and Savior, recognizing our human weaknesses and seeking his guidance and blessings while coming together to make this a season of growth and transformation.

We will begin our journey towards Easter with an Old Testament prophecy of Jesus’ life, character and mission while on earth. Isaiah 53 paints a sobering picture of the Son of God and how he will come to be known the man of sorrows. He did not live a sad life on Earth but one that was well-acquainted with sorrow, more than humanity would ever be. Even though Jesus has experienced the worst that the world has to offer, he came out victorious and that gives us reason to celebrate. Over the course of these 40 days, we will learn what it means to both hold the sorrow of our own brokenness and sin, while also holding onto the hope and victory we have in Jesus.

Let’s read Isaiah 53.

Indeed, who would ever believe it?
    Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told?
    Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?
Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—
    he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So he was despised and forsaken by men,
    this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
    he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him.
Yet it was our suffering he carried,
    our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness.
We just figured that God had rejected him,
    that God was the reason he hurt so badly.
But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so.
    Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him.
He endured the breaking that made us whole.
    The injuries he suffered became our healing.
We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep,
    scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits;
The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer,
    the sins of us all.
And in the face of such oppression and suffering—silence.
    Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it.
Like a sheep to a shearing, like a lamb to be slaughtered,
    he went—oh so quietly, oh so willingly.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away.
    From this generation, who was there to complain?
Who was there to cry “Foul”?
    He was, after all, cut off from the land of the living,
Smacked and struck, not on his account,
    because of how my people (my people!)
Disregarded the lines between right and wrong.
    They snuffed out his life.
And when he was dead, he was buried with the disgraced
    in borrowed space (among the rich),
Even though he did no wrong by word or deed.
Yet the Eternal One planned to crush him all along,
    to bring him to grief, this innocent servant of God.
When he puts his life in sin’s dark place, in the pit of wrongdoing,
    this servant of God will see his children and have his days prolonged.
For in His servant’s hand, the Eternal’s deepest desire will come to pass and flourish.
As a result of the trials and troubles that wrack his soul,
    God’s servant will see light and be content
Because He knows, really understands, what it’s about; as God says,
   “My just servant will justify countless others by taking on their punishment and bearing it away.
Because he exposed his very self— laid bare his soul to the vicious grasping of death—
   And was counted among the worst, I will count him among the best.
I will allot this one, My servant, a share in all that is of any value,
   Because he took on himself the sin of many
   and acted on behalf of those who broke My law.”

Keep this scripture close at hand this season. Remind yourself of why we repent, why we grieve and why we celebrate. Jesus gave up his own life and carried the death of many so that we could live.

PRAY
Righteous God,
in humility and repentance
we bring our failures in caring, helping, and loving,
we bring the pain we have caused others,
we bring the injustice on society of which we are a part,
to the transforming power of your grace.
Grant us the courage to accept the healing you offer
and to turn again toward the sunrise of your reign,
that we may walk with you in the promise of peace
You have willed for all the children of the earth,
and have made known to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

WRITE and DISCUSS

  1. In light of Isaiah 53, how does this change the way you view and celebrate the season of Lent and Easter?
  2. What do you hope to come away with at the end of these 40 days? Between you and Jesus? Between you and your community?
  3. What is one piece of Isaiah 53 that encourages you to a life of repentance? What gives you hope?