Repentance and Renewal

An Ash Wednesday Service Based on Psalm 103 and the Book of Hosea

This liturgy is designed for a service at the beginning of Lent—either on Ash Wednesday or the first Sunday in Lent—but can be adapted for use at other times. A free-standing cross, the beginning and the end of our Lenten journey, may be visible, but worship planners should take care that the themes of Ash Wednesday—repentance, confession, renewal—are not conflated with Good Friday. The liturgy includes only basic elements, leaving space for the worship planner to fill in the contours.

“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds” (Hosea 6:1, NLT).

God Calls Us

The service begins in silence. Worship planners may communicate the need for silence through signage, a message on a screen, or a note in a printed order of worship. Also print and/or project Hosea 6:1 to provide a focus for reflection as worshipers arrive. Lighting should be subdued, but enough to sustain congregational participation. Just before the service begins, the musicians play an appropriate instrumental prelude. As the prelude ends, a worship leader invites the congregation to stand for the Call to Worship.

Call to Worship
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have been your downfall! Bring your confessions and return to the Lord.
—Psalm 103:1–4, NRSV; adaptation of Hosea 14:1

Songs of Repentance
Suggested Songs
“Come to Me, O Weary Traveler” Dunstan, LUYH 123, GtG 183
“God, Be Merciful to Me” Psalter, LUYH 622, SSS 509
“Cast Down, O God, the Idols” Stuempfle, LUYH 626
“Remember Not, O God” Psalter, LUYH 632, GtG 430, PsH 254

Imposition of Ashes
On Ash Wednesday, an elder or other designated leader invites the congregation forward near the end of the last song to receive the imposition of ashes with these or other words: “Child of the covenant, beloved of God, repent and believe the gospel.” After the congregation has received the sign, the elders and deacons impose ashes on each other. The imposition may take place near the cross, allowing worshipers time for reflection around it if desired.

God Cleanses Us

Invitation to Confession
A worship leader invites the congregation to sit, stand, or kneel as appropriate with these or other words: “Beloved, I invite you to share in an act of confession before our Holy God, who desires faithful love and not sacrifice” (adapted from Hosea 6:6).


Act of Confession
Voice 1: When you were a child, I loved you, and out of a strange land I called you my own. But the more I called you, the more you wandered from me. You sacrificed to the idols in your heart. Even when I taught you to walk and took you in my arms, you did not know that I was the One who healed you. O, how I would bind you to myself with cords of love!
—adapted from Hosea 11:1–4


All: Holy God, our love for you rises and disappears like a vapor. We hear your voice beckoning us back to you, but we do not heed it. Instead, we violate your covenant love, and our passion for sin heats up like a vicious fire waiting to consume everyone in its reach. Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, O Lord, so that we may offer you our praises. Bind us again with your cords of love.
—adapted from Hosea 6:4–7, 7:4–7, 14:2, and 11:4


Assurance of Pardon
Voice 2: Beloved, the Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. He has ransomed us from the grave and redeemed us from death!
—adapted from Psalm 103:12–13 and Hosea 13:14, NLT

All: Glory to God forever. Amen!

God Consecrates Us

Prayer for Illumination
O Lord, give us ears to hear your Word, wisdom to understand it, and a will to walk in it, through Jesus Christ, your eternal Word.
—adapted from Hosea 3:4 and 14:9

Scripture Reading
Hear the Word of God as it comes to us from [. . .]

Suggested Readings
Hosea 2:14–23 (God’s restoration and covenant love)
Hosea 6:1–6 (Return to the Lord)
Hosea 10:1–5, 12 (Idolatry or righteousness)
Hosea 11:1–4 (Cords of love)
Hosea 14:1–9 (A promise of healing)
Luke 10:25–37 (The Good Samaritan)
The reading from the gospel of Luke may seem unusual for an Ash Wednesday or Lenten service, but the image of the Samaritan when read through a Christological lens recalls the promise of Hosea 6:1.

The Word of the Lord.
Come, Lord, and seal these words on our hearts by your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Proclamation of the Word

Song of Response
Suggested Songs
“When Asked, Who Is My Neighbor” Brink, LUYH 294 (if using the reading from Luke 10 earlier in the service)
“Spirit Divine, Inspire Our Prayer” Reed, LUYH 617, GtG 407, SSS 571
“Holy God” Traditional, LUYH 631
“Take, O Take Me As I Am” Bell, LUYH 741, GtG 698, SSS 215

God Communes with Us

(based on Hosea 14:4–8)

Invitation to the Table
Beloved, the prophet Hosea describes a coming day of abundance when corn, wine, and oil are the fruit of a renewed creation (Hosea 2:21–22). Christ invites those who know him to gather at his table—a sign and foretaste of that future.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Holy God, you created us to worship you alone. Even when we abandoned your ways to worship the idols of our hearts, you did not abandon us to sin and death.

Your steadfast love endures forever!

In time you sent your prophet Hosea, proclaiming again your covenant love and fierce mercy. Promising to heal our faithlessness, to love us freely, and to turn your anger away, you pointed us toward a future when we would dwell under your shadow again and blossom like a vine.

Your steadfast love endures forever!

At the right time, you sent your only Son, Jesus the Messiah, the True Vine, to restore us to fellowship with you and each other through the shadow of the cross. Rooted in him, we are the branches of a new creation.

Your steadfast love endures forever!

Words of Institution
Righteous Father, renew us by your Word and Spirit at this table, and embolden us like Hosea to call others to new life in your kingdom through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. Come, Holy Spirit.

The Lord’s Prayer
Beloved, come to the table, for all is now ready.


Songs of Renewal
During the singing, after receiving the bread and cup, worshipers may go to prayer stations and/or prayer ministers to receive prayer, especially for renewed strength over the Lenten journey. If oil is used for anointing, the ministers may use these or other words after praying for the recipient: “Beloved, receive this oil as a sign of the Lord’s restoration. Amen” (Hosea 2:22). Oil should not be used, however, if the people have already received the sign of ashes.

Suggested Songs
“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” Hernaman, LUYH 132, GtG 166
“Not unto Us, O Lord of Heaven” Psalter, LUYH 573, PsH 115, PH 227
“I Waited Patiently for God” Bell, LUYH 670, GtG 651, PfAS 40B
“Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God” Getty and Townend, LUYH 746

God Commissions Us

Blessing and Sending
You divine messengers,
bless the LORD!
You who are mighty in power and keep his word,
who obey everything he says,
bless him!
All you heavenly forces,
bless the LORD!
All you who serve him and do his will,
bless him!
All God’s creatures,
bless the LORD!
Everywhere, throughout his kingdom,
let my whole being bless the LORD!
—Psalm 103:20–22, CEB

Be wise, walk in the Lord’s ways, and be careful to observe them. Keep others from stumbling, but whenever you fall, return to your God with faithful love and justice, and wait continually for him.
—adapted from Hosea 14:9 and 12:6, CEB

Alternative charge
Press on to know the Lord; whose appearing is as certain as the dawn; who will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that give drink to the earth.
—adapted from Hosea 6:3, CEB

Song of Sending
Suggested Songs
“O God, We Kneel Before Your Throne” van Baak Griffioen, LUYH 680, SSS 544
“Before the Throne of God Above” Bancroft, LUYH 682, SSS 541
“God, the Father of Your People” Mulder and Newton, LUYH 927, PsH 322

Rev. Dr. Brian Turnbow is ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church. He has served congregations in the Netherlands and Ecuador and has guest lectured in the areas of worship and prayer at Houston Graduate School of Theology and Fuller Seminary, Texas.

Reformed Worship 138 © December 2020 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.