Editor’s Note: Missio Alliance is partnering with eleven:28 Ministries to provide Lenten meditations entitled “You Are My Witnesses: A Spiritual Journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter,” by Amy Bost Henegar. These reflections will begin today, Ash Wednesday, and be available on Sundays starting the second Sunday in Lent, culminating on Easter. We invite you to set aside 10 minutes or so to move through the meditation below. You can listen to the podcast version here and/or read along with the edited transcription below. We are grateful to eleven:28 for sharing this resource with the Missio Alliance community and pray that it helps you in your Lenten journey this year.
On this Ash Wednesday, let’s begin by reminding yourself that you are in God’s presence. Notice how God may be speaking to you today. Let yourself simply dwell on a word or a phrase that catches your attention or moves your heart and let your heart respond to God in prayer.
Now please repeat these words: “Open my heart to you, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.”
Take a moment to notice your breath. ‘
Observe the shifting of breath and energy in your body.
Notice how God is breathing life into you at this very moment.
As God breathed into life into the first human beings,
As the Spirit of God breathes life and energy into our souls every moment of every day,
You are right now receiving the gift of breath.
As you inhale, feel the energy of God lifting you up
And as you exhale, surrender to gravity, grounded in the vocation of service in this world.
Just rest in this space for a moment. Observe your breath. Offer your thoughts and feelings to God without trying to control or change anything.
A reading from John 8:3-11:
A couple had been caught in the act of adultery though the scribes and Pharisees brought only the woman and they made her stand there in front of everyone. “Teacher,” they said, “This woman has been caught in the act of adultery. In the law of Moses the punishment for this act is stoning. What do you say about it?” Now they were posing this question to trap Jesus so that they could charge him with something. Jesus simply bent down and started tracing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in their questioning, Jesus straightened up and said to them, “Let the person among you who is without sin throw the first stone at her.” Then he bent down again and wrote in the dust. The audience drifted away one by one, beginning with the elder. This left Jesus alone with the woman who continued to stand there. Jesus finally straightened up again and said, “Where did they go? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Teacher,” came the reply.
“I don’t condemn you either. Go on your way but from now on, don’t sin any more.”
Jesus writes in the dust. What a strange thing to do.
The crowd standing around him,
A woman standing next to him. Embarrassed. Ashamed, fearful of the angry mob picking up stones.
And he bends down and writes in the dust. We wonder why.
It is clear that Jesus will not use this woman as a pawn in any sort of theological game or as an object of theological debate.
So he bends down and writes in the dust.
From Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your brow, you will eat bread until you return to the earth, just as you were taken from it. You are dust and to dust, you will return.”
Where did they go? As Jesus was writing in the dust, did they remember? “Remember that you are dust and to dust, you will return.”
Did they remember?
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth. Grant that this dust may be a sign to us of our mortality and penitence, so that we may remember that only by your gracious gift, are we given everlasting life through Jesus Christ, our savior.
May the almighty and merciful God who desires not the death of a sinner but that we turned from wickedness and live accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and restore us by the Holy Spirit to newness of life. Amen.1
We pray today in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray:
Our father, which art in heaven
Eternal God, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and all that shall be,
Not only Father, but Mother of us all,
May the hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
May the way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
May your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
May your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love now and forever.
Praise be to God who gives beauty for ashes, hope in the morning, and strength for today. Until we meet again, go in peace.3
 “Thanksgiving over the Ashes,” and “Pardon” from The Book of Common Prayer, The Episcopal Church, 1979
 The Lord’s Prayer, adapted from the New Zealand Anglican Book of Common Prayer
 Benediction from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals p. 369