Sunday, April 5, 2020
Sunday of the Passion / Palm Sunday
We start Holy Week with the triumphal entrance to Jerusalem and we walk with Jesus through this week. The scripture reading spans that whole week so that those who cannot attend church, hear about the whole event.
We are encountering the paradox that defines our faith: Jesus Christ is glorified king and humiliated servant. We too are full of paradox: like Peter, we fervently desire to follow Christ, but find ourselves afraid, denying God. Rather than unfold the story in one sitting, I am going to focus on each phase. Today, the triumphal entry. Maundy Thursday, the Last Supper. Good Friday, the crucifixion. In this time of sheltering in place, I invite you to enter the story, reflect on it, and travel with our virtual community through dynamics that are so similar to our reality today in the 21st century.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God, who is present, who gives life, who calls into existence the things that do not exist. Amen.
If you were to keep watch over sins, O Lord, who could stand? Yet with you is forgiveness, and so we confess.
Gracious God, have mercy on us. We confess that we have turned away from you, knowingly and unknowingly. We have wandered from your resurrection life. We have strayed from your love for all people. Turn us back to you, O God. Give us new hearts and right spirits, that we may find what is pleasing to you and dwell in your house forever. Amen.
Receive good news: God turns to you in love. “I will put my spirit in you, and you shall live,” says our God. All your sin is forgiven in the name of ☩ Jesus Christ, who is the free and abounding gift of God’s grace for you. Amen.
Prayer of the Day
Sovereign God, you have established your rule in the human heart through the servanthood of Jesus Christ by your Spirit. During these days of uncertainty, keep us in the joyful procession of those who with their tongues confess Jesus as Lord and with their lives praise him as Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn: #virtualchoir#inchristalone#acappella (Tap on this link and it will take you to YouTube)
Christ humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name. (Phil. 2:8-9)
Procession with Palms Traditionally we enter worship today from outside or from the narthex, symbolizing that we too are walking with Jesus into that eventful week. We do not have palms to wave but we do have the PALMS of our hands that we can now raise and wiggle in praise. Imagine seeing Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem and you standing there waving your hands. Raise your palms and wiggle them. Name a thank you for each finger. What has Christ meant to you: healing, guidance, comfort, wisdom, insight, life, ….
Readings and Psalm
Isaiah 50:4-9a The servant of the Lord submits to suffering
Psalm 31:9-16 Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. (Ps. 31:5)
Philippians 2:5-11 Humbled to the point of death on a cross
Processional Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11
1When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Hymn: All Glory Laud and Honor: (copy this internet address in the address bar, skip ads and listen to this song, or sing along with the words. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3a8fTTrAdE At the end of the hymn, tap the red button in the upper left corner to end the internet connection and you will be returned to this sermon.)
Place your hands, palm up on the table next to this sermon.
Today we walk into Holy Week. The Jews at that point in history were oppressed people under the rule of the Romans. Most of us live today in a form of lockdown, ordered by our government because of the unseen enemy, Covid-19. We cannot go to church. We are limited in socializing with friends face to face. Partners are not allowed to enter the hospitals to support the birth process and see the newborn. Look at your hands, look at those palms. We may not be able to raise palm branches as with the folks of old did but we can raise the palms of our hands while experiencing with them the grief of our reality.
The first point I see in the story is that Jesus sent two disciples into Jerusalem ahead of him to find a donkey and her colt and to bring them to him. Prophecy must be fulfilled. “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9” Fulfilled prophecy preceded the palm waving. They were to say to the owner of the donkey, “The Lord has need of them.”
Look at your palms, “The Lord has need of them.” Today we raise palms and praise in the face of our Roman domination, Corona virus fear, to fulfill prophecy and promise that God is working out His plan even today. God works through our humble hands to work out a future only He knows.
It is with our hands, our palms, today that medical people are comforting the sick. Parents hands today are turning into teaching hands as we work with children home from school. Neighbor hands are sharing food for the old and isolated. In so many ways, in the face of fear and disaster, we hear the voice of Jesus sending us with the message, “The Lord has need of them.” The Lord has need of your palms, your feet to go, your heart to be willing. Our palms can pick up the phone and encourage a friend. Our fingers can type a message to someone afar.
Place your hands, palm up on the table next to this sermon.
Secondly, I want to focus on “Hosanna!” Jesus entered Jerusalem, humbly, mounted on a donkey and the people waved their palms and shouted “hosanna.” Take the palms of your hands now and raise them towards the ceiling and say “hosanna.” Hosanna comes from a Hebrew word meaning “save now” or “save us, we pray.” It can be said as an acclamation of adoration and praise for anticipated delivery. Indeed, the Jews thought Jesus was entering Jerusalem to bring about a military victory, restore the Jewish nation, and bring people deliverance from the hardships of life. Even we are looking for protection from illness, financial distress, and isolation. We wave our hands in anticipation. They didn’t understand and probably we don’t either. We see through a glass dimly.
Hosanna, we look to Jesus and deliverance is in His hands to be done God’s way. People wanted a political solution and Jesus fulfilled the law that “he who sins must die.” People wanted release from the fear and hatred that defined their lives. Jesus gave a new command on Maundy Thursday, “A new command I give you, love one another.” Forgive your enemy. Turn the other check. Do good to those who persecute you. God’s deliverance does not always come in ways we expect. God’s deliverance does not come from the government, from health organizations, nor from social reforms. All those are important but only because they support the deliverance Jesus brings in the reformation of our hearts.
Hosannas rang out as Jesus, sat humbly on the back of a donkey. Humility. Somehow humility is involved in our hosannas. We look to God for him to save us but equally we must submit to his plan. Later this week we will see the crowds turn on Jesus and demand crucifixion. God answers prayer but I fear often I am slow to humble myself and accept.
Place your hands, palm up on the table next to this sermon.
Thirdly, I note that as the crowd entered Jerusalem, there was turmoil and people were asking, “Who is that man?” Reminds me of the Lone Ranger? Who is that masked man? It is in the midst of the turmoil, as people raise hands needed by the Savior, shouting hosannas of deliverance that people ask and we testify. “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Have you noted how many people have felt compelled to speak to the hope that is within them. Services are being broadcast in various formats. A church member phoned a friend who did not have internet access and read the service over the phone with her. Musical groups are finding ways to perform from car trunks, parked six feet apart, in parks. I saw a posting this morning of someone who sent a gift to a neighbor on the back of a hand propelled little car! Who is this Jesus? Not all the posting proclaim the identity of Christ but share the talents of palms. How do you use your voice, your feet and your palms to share with others the praises in your heart today?
Palm Sunday we enter Jerusalem with Jesus. Disciples have been sent to find donkeys that carry Jesus in the palms waving in the air. We join Jerusalem in raising our palms in praise. Our Savior comes riding on a donkey, the colt of an ass. We sing hosanna, save us we pray, now. We are challenged to find new ways to share what Jesus has meant in our lives, in our hopes and in our prayers for those on our heart. Lift your palms with me and sing:
Hymn: Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing : (Click, listen, close) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1YPmQibTRw
Prayers of Intercession
Turning our hearts to God who is gracious and merciful, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
God of mercy, awaken your church to new proclamations of your faithfulness. By your Spirit, give us bold and joyful words to speak, that we sustain the weary with the message of your redemption. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of mercy, quiet the earth where it trembles and shakes. Protect vulnerable ecosystems, threatened habitats, and endangered species. Prosper the work of scientists, engineers, and researchers who find ways to restore creation to health and wholeness. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of mercy, drive away fear and anger that cause us to turn against one another. Give courage to leaders who seek liberation for the oppressed. Bring peace and hope to those who are in prison and those who face execution. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of mercy, send your saving help to all who suffer abuse, insult, discrimination, or contempt. Heal the wounded. Comfort the dying. Bring peace to those suffering chronic or terminal illness. Tend to all who cry out for relief. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of mercy, we pray for all who will prepare and lead worship in this Holy Week. In all things, show us the ways that you call us to die to self, to live for you, and to give of ourselves for the sake of others. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of mercy, when we breathe our last, you raise us to eternal life. With all your witnesses in heaven and on earth, let us boldly confess the name of Jesus Christ, our resurrection and our hope. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
According to your steadfast love, O God, hear these and all our prayers as we commend them to you; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Holy and generous host, you set a table where we feast as friends. Prepare us to witness to your goodness with every gift you have given us to share, that all people may know your peace through Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Prayer after Communion
We thank you, living God, for the body and blood of your Son, which sustains us in the wilderness and the garden alike. As Christ has loved us in this feast, so send us to love Christ in our neighbors. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation. Holy God, speaking, spoken, and inspiring, ☩ bless you, unbind you, and send you in love and in peace. Amen.
Go in peace. Share the good news. Thanks be to God.