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St. John's Worship Service - Ash Wednesday 2023
Pastor Wende Bleam
Pastor Wende Bleam
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
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Ash Wednesday
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
7:30 p.m.

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Folcroft
      p: 610.538.4977          email:


On Ash Wednesday we begin our forty-day journey toward Easter with a day of fasting and repentance. Marking our foreheads with dust, we acknowledge that we die and return to the earth. At the same time, the dust traces the life-giving cross indelibly marked on our foreheads at baptism. While we journey through Lent to return to God, we have already been reconciled to God through Christ. We humbly pray for God to make our hearts clean while we rejoice that “now is the day of salvation.” Returning to our baptismal call, we more intentionally bear the fruits of mercy and justice in the world.
PRELUDE      Siciliano in f    (Bach)     Rick Vanstone, violin

+ The Holy Spirit calls us together as the people of God +

GATHERING SONG O Lord, throughout These Forty Days  (ELW 319)

PRAYER OF THE DAY  Let us pray. 
Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST READING: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
1Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near—
2a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
nor will be again after them in ages to come.
12Yet even now, says the LORD,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God
15Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;
16gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged;
 gather the children, even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her canopy.
17Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God’”

PSALM: Psalm 51:1-17
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your | steadfast love;
in your great compassion blot out | my offenses.
2Wash me through and through | from my wickedness,
and cleanse me | from my sin.
3For I know | my offenses, and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil | in your sight;
so you are justified when you speak and right | in your judgment. 
5Indeed, I was born | steeped in wickedness,
a sinner from my | mother’s womb.
6Indeed, you delight in truth | deep within me,
and would have me know wisdom | deep within.
7Remove my sins with hyssop, and I | shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.
8Let me hear | joy and gladness;
that the body you have broken | may rejoice. 
9Hide your face | from my sins, and blot out | all my wickedness.
10Create in me a clean | heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away | from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of | your salvation
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. 
13Let me teach your ways | to offenders,
and sinners shall be restored to you.
14Rescue me from bloodshed, O God of | my salvation,
and my tongue shall sing | of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
16For you take no delight in sacrifice, or | I would give it.
You are not pleased | with burnt offering.
17The sacrifice of God is a | troubled spirit;
a troubled and broken heart, O God, you will | not despise. 

SECOND READING: 2 Corinthians 5:20b--6:10
20bWe entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
6:1As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, 
“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

GOSPEL: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
The holy gospel according to Matthew. Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
 2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
 5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
 16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The gospel of the Lord.   Praise to you, O Christ.

SERMON                                Pastor Wende Bleam






HYMN OF THE DAY   On My Heart Imprint Your Image (ELW 811)



Brothers and sisters in Christ, today with the whole church we enter the time of remembering Jesus' passover from death to life, and our life in Christ is renewed.

We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and for God's mercy. We are created to experience joy in communion with God, to love one another, and to live in harmony with creation. But our sinful rebellion separates us from God, our neighbors, and creation, so that we do not enjoy the life our creator intended.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent—self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love—strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. Let us continue our journey through these forty days to the great Three Days of Jesus' death and resurrection.




Blessed be the holy Trinity,  one God, who journeys with us these forty days, and sustains us with the gift of grace. Amen.

Let us acknowledge before God and one another our need for repentance and God’s mercy. Holy God,

we confess to you our faults and failings. Too often we neglect and do not trust your holy word; we take for ourselves instead of giving to others; we spoil rather than steward your creation; we cause hurt though you call us to heal; we choose fear over compassion. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, as we seek to follow in your way of life. Amen.

Hear the good news: God so loved the world that God gave the only Son,
so that all may receive life. This promise is for you! God embraces you with divine mercy, forgives you in Christ’s name, and revives you in the Spirit’s power. Amen.


Sustained by God’s abundant mercy, let us pray for the church, the world, and all of creation.

O Lord, our God, you gather your church and call us to return to you. Accompany us throughout our Lenten pilgrimage. Create in us clean hearts and renew all the baptized to declare your praise. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Renew your creation, O God. Bring rains to parched places and heal lands affected by a changing climate, that all inhabitants of the earth experience your abundance. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Renew the nations, O God. Give voice to those on the margins and resolve to world leaders who seek to protect those most vulnerable. Loosen the bonds of injustice and bring an end to all violence, oppression, and persecution. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Renew your people, O God. Respond to those who cry out to you in secret or in seclusion. Equip us with compassion to care for those who experience homelessness, food insecurity, economic hardship, and illness.   We pray especially for the family of Dajauna, Kathy, Rich, Carol, Connor, Ana, Helen, Arlene, Jose, Hoon, Connie, Pat, Hazel, Deb, Joe, Ruth, Lisa, Bill, Rick, Dick, Alisia, Jacklyn, Lillian, Alexis, Jim and those we now raise before you in our hearts.  We pray for those affected by the Covid virus in mind, body or spirit.  Grant them healing and wholeness.  Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Renew this congregation, O God. Inspire our faith formation ministries and those who teach and lead . Invigorate us with lifelong curiosity and wonder as we grow as your disciples. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

O Lord, our God, we give thanks for all your faithful ones of every time and place. Renew us by the example of their lives of prayer and service, and at the last, bring us with them into your everlasting presence. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your steadfast love and your promise to renew your whole creation; through Jesus Christ our Savior.

The peace of Christ be with you always. And also with you.

+ MEAL +
+ God feeds us with the presence of Jesus Christ +

God of good gifts, receive these and all our offerings as we present them in faithful service for the sake of your gospel. Prepare our hearts to receive you in this meal as you pour out your very presence through Christ Jesus, the wellspring of eternal life. Amen.

Merciful God, we do not presume to come to your table trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant mercy.  Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat and drink the body and blood of your dear Son, Jesus Christ, that we may live in him and he in us, now and forever.  Amen.

In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
and gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.
Do this for the remembrance of me.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy name,
    thy kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those
    who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
    and the power, and the glory,
    forever and ever. Amen.

Here is food and drink for the journey. Take and be filled.


The body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ strengthen you and keep you in his grace. Amen.



Embodied God,
at your table, we have tasted the goodness of Jesus.
With the eyes of our hearts open to your promise,
empower us to hear the needs of our neighbors
and touch the world with your love.

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth.  May these ashes be a sign of our mortality and penitence, reminding us that only by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ are we given eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, our savior and Lord.  Amen.

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

Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation, that we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son, our Savior, bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

God, the giver of love,
 Christ, the resurrection and the life,
and the Holy Spirit of rebirth
bless you in this Lenten journey.

Go in peace. Serve in love.   Thanks be to God.

POSTLUDE      A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth    (Dachstein)