Category Archives: Ash Wednesday

A Better Savior


More Poetry from Steve Brown

A Better Savior
Inspired by the the book of Hebrews, by the Holy Spirit, and Pastor Michael Zarling

The best Savior, Jesus is He
The best Leader, The root of Jesse

The best covenant, His pact is key
The best tabernacle
Worshiping in spirit and truth; can we all agree?

The best mediator, The one appointee
The best focus, The man hung on the tree

The best access, Through the trinity three
The best sympathizer, For all sinners to see

The best resurrection, Now He is free
The best Savior, For you, for me.

A Confession of Sins Based on Psalm 51

A Confession of Sins Based on Psalm 51

King David was one horrific sinner. But wow did he know how to confess. What follows is a great Confession of Sins because it comes directly from God’s word (as written by David).

M: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
C: according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
M: Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
C: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
M: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
C: Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
M: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
C: Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
M: Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
C: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
M: Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
C: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
M: Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
C: Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 

A Better Savior

Lenten & Holy Week Resources from the book of HebrewsA Better Savior

By: Michael Zarling
with a few Contemporary song choices by Steve Brown (marked in red)

Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author uses the word “better” as he portrays Christianity as the one true religion, and Jesus Christ as the one true Savior from sin (Heb 6:9; 7:19; 7:22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:4; 11:16; 11:35; 11:40; 12:24). The author uses similar comparative words like “greater” (Heb 3:3; 6:13; 6:16; 7:7; 9:11; 11:26) and “superior” (Heb 1:4; 8:6) to demonstrate the supremacy of Christ to anything in the Old Testament.

The book of Hebrews is full of allusions to the Old Testament which will allow the preacher to explain some of the factors that were important to Old Testament believers, but may be relatively unknown to our people today (i.e., the tabernacle, the covenant, the sacrificial work of the priests, the work of mediating done by Moses and the priests, etc.). Preachers have the opportunity to take their people back in time so that they might learn to deeply appreciate the Old Testament. Then preachers can lead their people to reflect on the great changes Jesus brought about when He fulfilled the Old Testament laws and the promises of the old covenant.

The theme of A Better Savior allows the preacher to make a comparison each week to something special from the Old Testament that was a picture of forgiveness for God’s people. But God did not work forgiveness through these means, because it was impossible for animal blood or the observance of rules and regulations to remove the stain of sin from people (Heb 10:4). Rather, everything in the Old Testament pointed ahead to Christ whose perfect sacrifice would remove all sin. That’s because He is the better covenant, the better sacrifice, the better mediator, etc.

With this Lenten theme, it would be easy to overlap ideas in order to bring other pictures from Hebrews into the sermon. However, each sermon theme almost demands that the preacher stay focused on that specific theme and carry it throughout the sermon.

Each service resource contains a sermon theme, text, suggested Psalm, Psalm prayer, and suggested hymns (from “Christian Worship – A Lutheran Hymnal” and the “Christian Worship Supplement.”).

Sermon Themes

Hebrews 3:3               A better leader

Hebrews 5:5-10          A better high priest

Hebrews 7:27             A better sacrifice

Hebrews 8:6               A better covenant

Hebrews 9:11             A better tabernacle

Hebrews 12:24           A better mediator

Hebrews 12:1-3          A better focus                         Palm Sunday

Hebrews 10:15-25      A better covenant                   Maundy Thursday

Hebrews 4:14-16        A better sympathizer              Good Friday

Hebrews 11:32-40      A better resurrection             Easter

Service Resources

Hebrews 3:3               A better leader

Sermon thoughts: The preacher may want to change the theme to “Better than Moses.” The writer to the Hebrews steadily makes the argument through his epistle that Jesus is superior to anyone and anything. He turns his attention to the Israelites’ leader, Moses. It would have been difficult for a Jew to think of anyone greater than Moses, their great leader who led their nation out of slavery in Egypt, who led the Israelites through 40 years of desert wandering, and who brought their nation to the edge of the Promised Land. Jesus’ superiority to Moses was not a matter of faithfulness, but position. Moses was only part of and servant to the house of Israel. Christ (the first time the author uses that title is in chapter 3) is greater because He is the “Son over God’s house.” He owns the house and rules over it – not in the distant past, but in the present reality and into the eternal future.

Supplement Psalm: 143

Contemporary Song: “Marvelous Light” by Charlie Hall

Psalm Prayer for 143:

Lord Jesus, you bring light to those who dwell in darkness and make your love known to them. Enter not into judgment with your servants, but strengthen us in the saving faith and guide us into the land of perfect peace where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever.

Supplement Psalm: 69

Psalm Prayer for 69:

O most merciful Lord, hear us in the truth of your salvation, that, delivered from the filth of sin, we may be written in the Book of Life by your heavenly finger; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 3:1-6


121: “Jesus, Grant that Balm and Healing”
123: “Lord Jesus Christ, You Set Us Free”

Contemporary Song: “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin

Sermon Hymn:

126: “Lord Jesus, You Are Going Forth”

Service Resources

Hebrews 5:5-10          A better high priest

Sermon thoughts: Though the phrase “a better high priest” is not specifically mentioned in Hebrews, throughout the book, the writer makes the comparison between Jesus and the high priest. He specifically makes a comparison between the mysterious Melchizedek and Jesus Christ. The preacher may even want to focus on that comparison with the theme of “Better than Melchizedek.” In Hebrews 5:6, the writer references Psalm 2. Jesus is a high priest who is far greater than Melchizedek or Aaron or any other high priest, for He was appointed forever. He combines both a king’s power and the priest’s sacrifice, just as Melchizedek did in the days of Abraham.

Psalm: 2

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 2:

Lord God, you anointed your Son to be king for the sake of your Church. Help us, as members of his kingdom, to serve him faithfully and to come to the full knowledge of his grace and glory, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 5:5-10 or 5:1-10


121: “Jesus, Grant that Balm and Healing”
713: “In Silent Pain the Eternal Son”

Contemporary Song: “The Greatness of Our God” by Jason Ingram, Reuben Morgan and Stu Garrard

Sermon Hymn:

126: “Lord Jesus, You Are Going Forth”

Service Resources

Hebrews 7:27                         A better sacrifice

Sermon thoughts: How inadequate the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was. No matter how much animals’ blood was spilt, it could not erase the sinner’s guilt. Only one perfect sacrifice could do that – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God. This sacrifice was made once and for all. Christ was both the priest and the sacrifice. Here the preacher will want to focus on the sacrifice, since another preacher will focus on the priestly aspect of Christ. 

Psalm: 22

Supplement Psalm: 22

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 22:

Father, when your Son hung on the cross, he cried out to you in agony and grief. You gave him the strength to endure so that death might be destroyed and life restored. Have mercy on us all our days and preserve us in true faith unto life everlasting; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 7:27; 10:1-10


100: “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth”
101: “Behold the Lamb of God”
714: “The Lamb”

Contemporary Song: “Beautiful Sacrifice” by Tammi Rhoton and Elizabeth Foster”

Sermon Hymn:

128: “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

Service Resources

Hebrews 8:6               A better covenant

Sermon thoughts: The preacher may also reference Hebrews 7:22. The old covenant was replaced, not because it was imperfect or flawed, but because it was inadequate and incomplete. God’s covenant through Moses was a two-sided covenant. God told the Israelites that if they obeyed Him, then certain blessings would follow. But the covenant did not give the people the power to keep God’s Laws. Jesus Christ came to fulfill and complete the old covenant when He pronounced from the cross, “It is finished!” Jesus then replaced the old, conditional covenant with a new, unconditional covenant.

Psalm: 118

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 118:

Lord Jesus, when you rose victorious from death, you gave us a day of great rejoicing. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone of our faith. Let cries of joy and exultation ring out to celebrate the good news of your resurrection, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Contemporary Song: “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 8:6-13


98: “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now”
99: “Oh, Come, My Soul”

Sermon Hymn:

106: “Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain”

Service Resources

Hebrews 9:11             A better tabernacle

Sermon thoughts: The preacher can demonstrate the sharp contrast between the superiority of the tabernacle in which Christ serves as high priest and the “man-made” tabernacle used by the Jews. Though the tabernacle was an inanimate object, God still considered it tainted by sin. Therefore the high priest had to sprinkle blood both on the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. Plus, the high priest had to enter the tabernacle every year. Christ came from a more superior tabernacle from heaven. Plus, he offered one sacrifice of His blood to purify everything.

Psalm: 84

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 84:

Almighty God, grant that during our earthly pilgrimage we may so treasure your Word and sacraments that being nourished in faith we may one day dwell in the courts of heaven to praise you forever; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Contemporary Song: “Better is One Day” by Matt and Beth Redman

Supplement Psalm: 122

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 122:

Almighty God, bestow your peace on those who walk in the courts of your house, and pour out your blessing upon those who dwell in the house of the Lord; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 9:11-12, 21-28


112: “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
715: “What Grace is This”

Contemporary Song: “The Wonder of the Cross” by Vicky Beeching

Sermon Hymn:

114: “Christ, the Life of All the Living”

 Service Resources

Hebrews 12:24                       A better mediator

Sermon thoughts: The themes of covenant, priest, Moses and sacrifice are already covered by other preachers. The focus of this comparison is that Jesus is a better mediator. As the mediator, Christ was the go-between of two parties – the holy and righteous God and sinful mankind. Moses and the priests often acted as mediators between God and man. They would take the blood of the animals to bind the people to the regulations of the covenant. As mediators, Moses and the priests would ask God to soften His anger. They would also give God’s people the Lord’s message. Jesus is the perfect mediator of Hebrews 8:6, 9:15-22 and 12:24. He is the arbiter between us and God with His perfect sacrifice on the cross. He continues to intercede for us in heaven. He was once and always will be our advocate.

Psalm: 130

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 130

God of might and compassion, open your ears to the prayers of your people, who wait for you. Do not leave us in the depths of our sins, but listen to your Church pleading for the fullness of your redemption; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Contemporary Song: “Psalm 130” by Luke Dowler

Supplement Psalm: 116

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 116

God of mercy and might, through the resurrection of your Son you have freed us from the anguish of guilt and the bonds of death. Be with us on our pilgrimage and help us glorify you in the presence of all your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 12:24; 9:15-22


115: “He Stood before the Court”
118: “O Dearest Lord, Thy Sacred Head”
129: “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”

Contemporary Song: “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin

Sermon Hymn:

116: “In the Hour of Trial”


Holy Week Resources for 2013

Palm Sunday – Hebrews 12:1-3 – A better focus

The Christian life is an endurance race. We run with continued preparation and proper focus. The saints who have gone before us and have already finished their race are an encouragement to us. But most of all, we look to Jesus and His cross. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. In Him, our race is already won. This lesson also helps us keep our focus as we anticipate the celebration of the Three Holy Days (the Triduum).

Contemporary Song: “O Church Arise” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend


Maundy Thursday – Hebrews 10:15-25 – A better access

Under the old covenant, sinners dared not come through the curtain to enter into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle. But Jesus has torn that curtain in two, thus giving us sinners access to God’s holy presence. This access comes not by blood sprinkled on a door – like the blood of the Passover lamb sprinkled on the doorframes – but by Christ, the perfect Passover Lamb, sprinkling His blood on our hearts and sprinkling His baptismal waters on our bodies. All the barriers have been removed so that we may approach the God of the Covenant in the full confidence of forgiveness.

Contemporary Song: “The Power of the Cross” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend


Good Friday – Hebrews 4:14-16 – A better sympathizer

The theme of the better high priest has already been proclaimed in the Lenten series from Hebrews 5:1-10. These three verses of Hebrews 4:14-16 give the preacher the opportunity to preach how Jesus Christ is not only true God, but also true man. Jesus knows what we face on a daily basis because He was repeatedly tempted, yet He remained without sin. From experience He knows what we are going through and we receive comfort from the fact that He is able to sympathize with us in our weakness. We also find our confidence in Him because He is not only able to sympathize with us, but He is also able to help us in every need.

Contemporary Song: “The Compassion Hymn” by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend
– and  –
“Better than a Hallelujah” by Chapin Hartford and Sarah Hart (made popular by Amy Grant)


Easter – Hebrews 11:32-40 – A better resurrection

Women like the widow of Zarephath, the Shunamite woman and the widow of Nain, all received their children back from the dead. Lazarus, Eutychus and the daughter of Jairus all came back to life, but they were all subject to death. Christ promises a better resurrection. The list of martyrs in Hebrews 11 prized the resurrection to come as far greater in value than their earthly lives.

Contemporary Song: “By Faith” by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

I would like to thank Pastor Zarling for sharing his work. He truly has a generous servant’s heart.

Please leave a reply below if you would like to have an electronic copy of this program emailed to you (specify WORD or PDF):

A Lenten Litany

A Lenten Litany

The following was used at our Ash Wednesday service. I found it particularly helpful to transition my focus from Jesus’ ministry that we covered throughout the season of Epiphany to the Cross which will be our focus throughout the season of Lent.

M: Let us live this Lenten season with the cross before us.
C: Show us your cross, Lord Jesus!
M: In times of prosperity, when success and comfort would draw us away from the way of the cross,
C: Show us your cross, Lord Jesus!
M: In darker times of trial and worry when we feel alone, abandoned to wander in the valley of the shadow,
C: Show us your cross, Lord Jesus!
M: In the routine of each day, in the work we do, in our lives with family and friends, in the light of each day, and in the rest of each night,
C: Show us your cross, Lord Jesus!
M: Heavenly Father, as a family of believers in this congregation, we pray that all we do together be governed by your love for us in Christ.
C: Keep his cross before us, so that we are always ready and eager to follow him!

(source unknown)

Psalm 51 – “Change My Heart Oh God”

Psalm 51 – “Change My Heart Oh God”

For our Psalm of the day on 10/11, we have combined portions of Psalm 51 with the song “Change My Heart of God” by Eddie Espinosa.  Here is the script that we will follow:

Pastor:  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
All:      Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Pastor:  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
All:      Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

Congregation Sings: “Change My Heart Oh God” #33, Chorus

Pastor:  O Lord, open my lips,
All:      and my mouth will declare your praise.

Pastor:  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
All:      you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

Pastor:  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,
All:      Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. – Isa 64:8

Congregation Sings:  Chorus, Verse , Chorus

For more information on this song, and to hear it, follow this link:

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of International Bible Society

Ash Wed Ceremony

I’m just reissuing this post to display the piece of artwork that we used for our Ash Wednesday ceremony.


ash-wedFor Ash Wednesday, we had our worshippers form a single file line, during an evening worship service, approach a poster with a cross drawn on it, and made a smudge of a cross, out of ashes, onto the poster.  They were asked to think about their sins and what Jesus accomplished on the cross for their sins as they approached the station.  During this ash ceremony, we played a worship DVD video marketed by Integrity Worship of a song entitled “At the Foot of the Cross (Beauty into Ashes) by Kathryn Scott.  Don’t forget to provide some sort of wipes so your people can clean their hands after handling the ashes.



One word of advice, if you try this, use a rough canvass like paper that will easily accept the ashes as glossy paper just makes a mess.



This photo is the finished product of our worship.  It has the fingerprints, in the shape of a cross, for each worshipper in attendance that night.


photo taken by : Melissa Vandermause (2/28/2009)

Ash Wed – Song Choice

Ash Wed – Song Choices

The Psalm that we usually use on Ash Wednesday is Psalm 51.  This is a great penetential Psalm.  Everytime I read it, I am amazed by how familiar I am with certain parts of it, because we use it in our liturgies all the time.  There’s a nice contemporary song based on this Psalm; it’s “Change My Heart, Oh God” by Eddie Espinosa and its in both the LAPPY and BOB songbooks (songs 38 and 33 respectively).

The message is short and simple, yet voices a beautiful prayer:

Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You

You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

CCLI Song No. 1565
© 1982 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Music Services)
Eddie Espinosa

The song uses two sections of scripture, combined together into a prayer, asking God to change our lives.  I emphasize the point that music does not change our lives – the Holy Spirit does.


Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.  – Isa 64:8


Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  – Ps 51:10


The song is “congregational friendly” and is easily learned.

By the way, if you are ever looking for a supplier of either Palm fronds or ashes, we use the following:

Ash Wed – Responsive Reading

Ash Wed – Responsive Reading

Pastor:              Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent.  The date is set by counting back forty days from Easter (excluding Sundays), which takes us to the Wednesday seven weeks before Easter.  Why forty days?  Each day symbolizes one of the forty days when Jesus fasted in the wilderness, before Satan tempted Him.

Congr:At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.  –  Mark 1:12-13

Pastor:              Ashes are a reminder, in Scripture, of our mortality and frailty resulting from the curse of the Fall.


Congr:”Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, – Genesis 18:27b

Pastor:              The Bible also uses ashes as a sign of sorrow or repentance.


Congr:Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing.  She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went. – 2 Samuel 13:19

Men:               We are to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  – Matthew 3:8

Women:          We must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.  Acts 20:21

Men:               We are to Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.  – Matthew 3:2

Pastor:            The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  – 2 Peter 3:9

Congr.:            We are to Repent and be baptized, all of us, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.  And we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  – Acts 2:38

Pastor:              If we repent, and turn to God, so that our sins may be wiped out; times of refreshing may come from the Lord,  – Acts 3:19

Scripture text NIV (Emphasis mine)

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of International Bible Society