Loading Events

« All Events

Event Series Event Series: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

5 March 2025 All day

Below you will find the Bible readings set for this occasion in the Revised Common Lectionary, with our Australian idiomatic paraphrases of them, plus prayers and sermons based on them.

Bible Readings (paraphrased)

Lections from The Revised Common Lectionary. Copyright 1992 by the Consultation on Common Texts(CCT) P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville, TN 37203-0003, USA. Used with Permission.

Ring the alarm bells on the holy mountain.
Sound the sirens for the whole city to hear!
Put the fear of God into everybody,
for the day when the LORD will step in is near –
a dark and menacing day,
a day of fierce heat and dark choking clouds!

Like a raging bushfire sweeping down the mountain,
a terrifying army comes.
Wave upon wave,
it leaves nothing but scorched earth in its path.
It is more terrifying than anything ever seen before,
or anything ever likely to be seen again.

But even now, at the eleventh hour,
the LORD calls to us saying:

“It is not too late!
Get back on track with me.
Show me you mean it with your whole hearts.
Go off your food and get on your knees.
Weep and mourn from the depths of your hearts,
and don’t try to con me
with crocodile tears and cheap black arm bands.

“Come back to me, the LORD your God,
for I am compassionate and generous,
as eager to forgive as any mother.
My love and loyalty always hold back my anger.
Given half a reason I’ll withhold sentence
and give everybody a second chance.

“What have you got to lose by trying?
Perhaps you can convince me to change my mind.
Perhaps I’ll even send good times instead of disaster
and you’ll be eating and drinking in my honour.

“Ring the alarm bells on my holy mountain.
Declare a day of national repentance.
Rally the people, every one of them.
Get them together to pray and fast.
Make sure everyone has prepared themselves properly,
and make sure no one is missing.
Bring the aged and infirm,
the toddlers and the newborn.
Call back the newlyweds from honeymoons
and cancel all leave.

“In the heart of the place of worship
let those who lead you in prayer do so with tears.
Let them cry out to me, the LORD your God,
and beg me to have mercy on you.
Let them plead with me not to make you a laughingstock,
a classic example of a failed nation.

“For why should the rest of the world scoff
and conclude that your downfall is my failure?”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

God has told me to shout until you people hear;
to hammer home the message until it gets through.
You are God’s people, but God feels betrayed by you.
Listen to what God has to say about your sins:

“Day after day, you look good:
you turn up to worship and pay attention to my teachings.
You act like a people who want to do what is right;
like a people who want to obey to the letter.
You ask me for directions before you do anything,
and you seem enthusiastic about getting closer to me.

“Do you want to know why your religious behaviour turns me off?
Do you want to know why I ignore your fasting and bowing?
I’ll tell you why. You put on a great performance of it all,
but then you go straight back to feathering your own nest
and ripping off your workers in the process.

“When you fast, it just makes you irritable and violent;
and when you behave like that, I’ll just hang up on you.

“Do you really think this is what I like to see:
a day of pious misery?
black clothes, long faces and crocodile tears?
giving up chocolate and ice-cream?
Do you think that’s worship?
Do you think that pleases me?
Give me a break!

“Do you want to know what I’d really like to see?
Dismantle the structures of injustice;
take your feet off the throats of the poor;
stop jailing the victims of unfair laws;
and quit plundering nature’s resources.

“Do you want to know what else I’d like to see?
Open your tables to the hungry;
open your hearts and your homes to the refugees;
open your wardrobes to those without clothes;
and don’t go hiding every time you see someone in need.

“Do that, and I’ll put your name up in lights!
Do that and our relationship will be healed in an instant!
I’ll put you under my personal protection;
anyone who attacks you will have to deal with me, the LORD!
I’ll be on hand to respond whenever you need me;
just say the word, and I’ll be there for you.

“If you abandon all forms of exploitation,
and avoid bad-mouthing others to gain an edge;
if you share what you have with those in need,
and respond to the real needs of suffering communities;
then you’ll find that the world will light up for you
and life will be one beautiful day after another.

“I, the LORD, will always be there to guide you;
even in the grip of drought,
I’ll keep you healthy and well fed.
You’ll be like an irrigated vineyard with its own deep bore,
green and lush and full of life!

“Your ruined houses will be renovated and new;
you’ll be able to restore the homes
that have been in your families for generations.
You’ll get a reputation for making dreams possible,
for enabling everyone to find a good place to live.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

O God, your love never gives up.
Have mercy on me now! 

I’m relying on your record of generous mercy:
please wipe my slate clean!

Scrub away the filth I’ve been living in;
Scour away the stain of my sin.

I know only too well what I’ve done;
my sins stare me in the face.

It is you I’ve double-crossed, you I’ve betrayed;
I’ve done things which I knew you despised.

You have all the facts and you know what I deserve;
what ever you decide is fair enough.
I’ve been on the wrong side of you forever.
I turned my back on you before I was born.

You want honesty that comes from deep within,
so teach me your wisdom,
let it take root in my heart.

Get the bleach out and give me the treatment!
Soak me and wash me
until I’m as white as snow. 

Open my ears to laughter and music.
Though you ground me into the dirt,
let me now rise to the sounds of joy.

Turn a blind eye to my record;
disregard my prior convictions.

Renovate me from the inside, O God;
rebuild my heart and rewire my brain;
install in me a new fault-free operating system.

Don’t cut me off from you now,
or withdraw your Holy Spirit from me.

Rekindle in me the joy of being safe in your care,
and fill me with an insatiable desire to follow you.

Then I’ll show others how to get back on track;
they’ll quit their corrupt ways and come back to you.

Get me out of this mess before I get blood on my hands, God.
Only you can get me out alive,
and I’ll tell everyone that you did.

Lord, as soon as you’ve got me out
and it’s safe to open my mouth,
I’ll be singing your praises with all my might.

I know I can’t fool you with hollow religion, God.
I could perform all the rituals perfectly, by the book,
but it wouldn’t mean a cracker to you.

What you want to see is a genuine heart-felt apology
and a commitment to a total life-change.
You will never turn away anyone who comes to you heartbroken
and promising to turn over a new leaf.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

On Christ’s behalf we beg you to accept the generous peace deal that God is offering. The way of reconciliation is on the table before you: you’d be mad to turn your backs on it! Even though Christ had never been sucked into sin like us, God lumped him in with us, so as to make it possible to lump us in with him. United with him, we can become examples of all that God considers to be right and true.
We are working together, shoulder to shoulder with God, and we urge you not to take God’s extravagant generosity for granted.
In the scriptures God says,

“At exactly the right moment,
I heard your call.
The day you needed help,
I was there to bail you out.”

Well, this is it — the exact right moment. This is the day to throw off the shackles and walk free! It won’t be our fault if you don’t take this chance — we’re doing everything in our power not to get in anyone’s way. There’s no point in nit-picking over the details of our work. We have endeavoured to be faithful servants of God and we’re confident that we’ve got the runs on the board. It’s not as though we’ve had it easy either. We have hung in there through hard times, tough times and horrendous disasters. We’ve been bashed, lynched and locked up. We’ve worked ourselves into the ground when things needed to be done, sometimes even going without sleep and food. And through all this we have maintained our integrity — our intentions have been pure and our heads have been clear. We have managed to hold on to our patience, generosity, and holiness of spirit. Our love has been genuine, our speech truthful, and God has continued to work powerfully through us. We have armed ourselves with nothing but an iron commitment to doing what’s right, and we’ve grasped the work of justice with both hands. Sometimes we’ve been honoured and sometimes slandered. We have been true to our word and yet denounced as charlatans. We’ve been treated as nobodies even though everyone knows who we are. We’ve been written of as dead, but here we are, brimming with life. We’ve been flogged to within an inch of our lives but never quite killed. We’ve almost drowned in tears and yet we are still bubbling with joy. They say we are poor, and yet many are enriched by us. They say we have nothing to offer, and yet everything is ours to share.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

While Jesus was teaching his followers on the mountain, he said:

“It is good to put the disciplines of godly living into practice, but be on your guard against the temptation to start doing it for show. The God who conceived you knows what’s going on, and if the good things you do are done only to impress people, you’ll get no credit for them in heaven.

“Don’t go blowing your own trumpet every time you do something charitable. If you give money for the relief of poverty, don’t go asking for public acknowledgement. The world is full of sponsorship schemes and naming rights deals, but it is all hypocrisy. It’s got more to do with image management than with concern for the poor. Of course it works as a business strategy, but I can assure you that there will be no rewards beyond that. God brought you to birth and understands everything you do, even what you do in secret. So if you want credit from God for giving money to charity, give it anonymously. Go out of your way to keep it quiet – don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. It is that sort of unpretentious generosity that God will reward.

“The same principle holds true when it comes to the inward disciplines such as prayer and fasting. When you pray, don’t turn it into a exhibition. In the media and even in worship services you’ll see people leading so-called ‘prayers’ that look and sound more like campaign speeches, carefully crafted for public consumption. It’s nothing more than hot air; sheer hypocrisy! No doubt they’ll succeed in impressing lots of people, but I can assure you: that’s the only reward they’ll ever get. Take my advice: do your praying behind closed doors so that you won’t be tempted to start grandstanding. Find a place where you can take off your masks and just open yourselves to God in quietness. By getting yourself out of the spotlight, you’ll have a chance of becoming aware of God’s presence – a reward in itself!

“When you are fasting, don’t go drawing attention to the fact. Some hypocrites make a big display of sitting at the table with long faces while everyone else eats. They might gain a reputation for being very religious and self-controlled, but they won’t get anything else out of it. It’s a waste of time training yourself to control one appetite while simultaneously indulging your appetite for adulation. Instead, when you are fasting, maintain your usual outward appearance and demeanour as best you can, so that no one will twig. God always has a loving eye on you and will see to it that your secret fasting reaps rich benefits.

“Don’t go piling up investments here on earth, where they can be wiped out in an instant by fire or flood, or a market crash. There is only one investment strategy that can never fail or be eroded. Invest everything you are and everything you have in the ways of heaven. It is a simple fact that whatever you invest yourself in will monopolise your concerns and therefore shape the person you will become.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


Let us lift up our hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

All glory and honour are yours
everywhere and always, O God,
for in your kindness and mercy,
your patience and faithfulness,
you are always ready to forgive and not punish.

We give you thanks and praise for your Son,
our saviour and brother, Jesus Christ,
by whose example and strength
we resist all evil,
and turn our backs on its lures
of comfort and honour, of power and success,
seeking instead to store up treasure in heaven,
knowing that though we may seem to have nothing,
in purity, knowledge, patience and kindness,
we really possess everything.

Therefore with .....

©1999 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

We thank you for the example our saviour and brother, Jesus Christ,
by whose strength we resist all evil,
seeking instead to store up treasure in heaven,
knowing that though we may seem to have nothing,
in purity, knowledge, patience and kindness,
we really possess everything.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

(Preface reformatted)

We give you thanks and praise, O God,
for in your kindness and mercy,
your patience and faithfulness,
you are always ready to forgive and not punish.

We thank you for your Son,
our saviour and brother, Jesus Christ,
by whose example and strength
we resist all evil,
and turn our backs on its lures
of comfort and honour, of power and success,
seeking instead to store up treasure in heaven,
knowing that though we may seem to have nothing,
in purity, knowledge, patience and kindness,
we really possess everything.

Therefore, with our hearts lifted high,
we offer you thanks and praise at all times
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

The Lord your God is kind and full of mercy,
always ready to forgive and not punish.
Christ, by uniting with us and sharing in our sin,
has enabled us to share in the righteousness of God.

Sisters and Brothers,
  your sins are forgiven;
    be at peace.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


Sermons will open in new tabs from our SYCBaps church website.

  1. Doing the right thing: a modest entry to the kingdom
    A sermon on Matthew 6:1-6 by Paul Sheppy
  2. Riches in Heaven and Light in the Body
    A sermon on Matthew 6: 19-23 by Peter Mugabi


5 March 2025