Palm Sunday Worship Liturgy

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Meditative Hymn: A New Commandment #225

Call to Worship (Psalm 118:21-24, 26) (NRSV):
One: I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
All: This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

One: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
All: We bless you from the house of the Lord.

(Selected verses of Psalm 118 of the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)

Hymn #216 “Hosanna”

Opening Prayer (by John M Drescher)
O God, come among us.
We know something of the true way of blessedness
Revealed and realized in Christ.
We see his suffering and death--
The path of love that led to the cross,
The reward for faithfulness,
The led to the crown of thorns.
May we never be caught up in the momentum of hate.
Forgive when we have taken Christ’s sacrifice lightly
Or failed to rejoice in our salvation.
May we share the Saviour’s sorrow for sin
And know the secret of his strength.
Help us see, even in the darkest hour of trial
The shining of the true light.

(From Invocations and Benedictions for the Revised Common Lectionary, compiled and edited by John M Drescher. Copyright © 1998 by Abingdon Press. Reprinted by permission.)

Let us joyfully join with one voice in confessing our faith (from Living Faith).

Jesus was truly human. Tried and tested as we are, yet without sin, he experienced the depths of life. Jesus understands us. He felt the joy of friendship, the pain of rejection, and died a human death. He trusted the Father completely and lived in the Holy Spirit. Neither temptation nor threat prevented him from loving God and his neighbour as himself. He showed us what it means to be a child of God. (3.3.1)

Anthem/Hymn (Because He lives)

Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:1-11 (NRSV)
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying 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. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

‘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.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The 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!’

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

(Matthew 21:1-11 of the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)

Sermon: Is there a reason to celebrate Palm Sunday during COVID19 Pandemic?

Who were the people gathering to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” at Jerusalem's gate? Who was looking forward to seeing Jesus as their messiah?

Throughout his ministry Jesus was very clear on for whom he came. Jesus said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’ (Mark 2:17) He was seen with tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, and those who were at the margins of society. He made it very clear that for them he came. He often was in conflict with Pharisees, Sadducees and priests.

In today’s passage he was entering Jerusalem and his disciples who came from the people at the margins—none of them was a Pharisee, Sadducee or priest. These sinners were ones shouting with excitement as Jesus was entering the gate of Jerusalem. Those in power were probably absent and could not understand what the commotion was all about.

Why would these people at the margins be so excited?

In history we see many times when people who are poor, powerless, oppressed, enslaved and discarded by their societies rose up around charismatic leaders to overthrow their rulers. Their sufferings were too severe. Their hope was totally lost. Death and suffering were rampant while their masters were able to live well at their expense. They had nothing to lose. People at the margin gravitate to leaders who offer them hope. Revolts by them were usually severely put down until the poor became too powerful. Then, the oppressed rose up and upended the kings and governments. Like Spartacus in Roman times and Lenin and Mao in the 20th century, charismatic leaders used the anger of the populations to overthrow the existing powers. Was Jesus like these leaders?

From the very beginning Jesus resisted temptation to replace the political and social leaders of his time. He was very clear that he did not come for social and political change that many people were expecting. Instead, Jesus came to proclaim the arrival of God’s reign on earth—“the kingdom of heaven is near,” he cried.

As God’s reign came near, sinners and people at the margins of society could experience God’s love and how the world would change for them. In God’s reign, they could see themselves living as they would enjoy justice, peace and most of all love. It was not the overthrowing of the political and social structures that gave them hope. Instead, what they saw was how their lives would change because God’s reign would bring justice and peace for them. They could imagine how they were loved and how they could live to their heart's content. Perhaps that was why many joined with Jesus’ disciples and proclaimed Jesus as the one bringing God’s reign.

As they proclaimed the ushering in of God’s reign by shouting hosannas, they could live in hope again, find faith again, and be part of loving creation again. So far so good.

But what can this passage mean for us in this time of COVID19 Pandemic in 2020? Doctors and nurses are exhausted, leaders plead people to keep distance and everyone is doing their best to keep to themselves and news from around the world is terribly grim. Is there a hope? How can Christians celebrate Palm Sunday when the world is in this pang of pain?

The power of this virus is truly deadly. We are seeing huge numbers as people are dying all over the world in ways we have never seen in the past half century. We can only imagine what it will be like to lose 15,000 people in Ontario alone in the worst case scenario. All of us shudder in fear. In this terrifying fear, almost all of our paying jobs are put on hold. The leaders are doing their best to keep the virus from spreading.

Christians do not have any special answers to those who are seeking a way out for the world. We pray for vaccines to be developed quickly. We share concerns with our neighbours whose family members are infected with the virus. We, like everyone else, do our part by staying home as much as we can. Yes, it seems like the Palm Sunday celebration ought to be the last thing on our minds.

As we work through this COVID19 Pandemic, we need to remember that one basic thing in life does not change. Life and death are intertwined. Death is as much part of life as it has ever been. Deaths by this virus means lives ending sooner for many. Because death has always been with us our perspective on life is not changed even now. That is, our hope is in God who offers us life in the new creation as revealed through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I am not saying this lightly and making a claim that we will survive only if we put our faith in God like those Christians who are gathering to worship to prove their faith against their governments’ pleas. Our hope is in God only if we are able to have faith in life today but also tomorrow. Our faith has to lead us to a meaningful tomorrow. This shocking pandemic makes us take a good look at who we are and what we are living for. In a way this pandemic refocuses us on the life that is true and truthful away from superficial life full of vanity.

As Christians we know that the true and truthful life is found only in Christ. This life places us in the new creation. There, fear is no more because it is full of God’s love. This immense love for us was shown in Christ through his death. In his death, then, we find the true meaning of what it is to live. Especially in this fearful time with death everywhere, it is important for us to remember that our life is always with God under God’s reign. We are with God always because God loves us through Christ. This love is ours because Jesus laid down his life for us.

When we read Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem we see and experience this love in action. In this love we meet Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. In Jesus, then, we no longer fear death. After all, Christ defeated death. This is what it means to live under God’s reign. Going to Jerusalem to die for us, he shows us the way for us to face our own deaths. Walking with him, then, we find strength to lay down our lives for others in all circumstances. This is why we read over and over again about Jesus entering Jerusalem to face death as we struggle to take up our cross. We ask ways to lay down our lives for those who are suffering in our world today not only with death brought on by this virus but also by many other diseases and unjust evil acts.

Living in God’s reign, our task is to find ways to share this hope of new life especially with those who are afflicted with this disease. Earlier we wondered if this passage has anything to say to us today. Of course it does! In shouting hosannas, we share with the world that God’s reign is already here in Jesus. In the world full of fear of the COVID19 Pandemic, we proclaim God’s reign so that all may have hope in God’s love and have hope in the new creation. Sharing in this proclamation, we help the world to begin living in hope--always pointing to this new life in Christ where all tears are wiped away and all find life in God's love. In the meantime, we live out this hope by steadfastly loving those who are struggling with COVID 19 (including those who are infected and their families, all frontline workers including doctors and nurses, those who are staying home to stop the spread) as well as feeding the hungry, giving our last shirt to one who does not have, and reaching out to those who are ignored by our society. Then, only then, they, the people at the margin, will join us and shout together, “Hosanna!” for they, too, shall have hope in God’s reign.

As they shout with us and proclaim God’s reign, they will share with the world the life where all tears are wiped away, where all their cries are heard, where all their needs are satisfied and where all their fears are cast out by love. Amen.

Hymn: #217 Ride on, ride on in majesty

Ride on, ride on in majesty; hark all the tribes Hosanna cry.
O Saviour meek, pursue they road with palms and scattered garments strewed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty; in lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty; the angel hosts beyond the sky
look downward sad and wondering eyes to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty; the last and fiercest strife is nigh.
Thy Father on the sapphire throne expects thee, loved, anointed Son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty; in lowly pomp ride on to die.
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain; then take, O God, thy power and reign.

(Copyright: Public Domain)

We know it is a very difficult time. As you go about doing daily duties, help us to keep the church functioning and bring Christ’s ministry to others. Your envelopes could be left in the church’s mail box, or if you call Betty-Ann she will arrange a way to get your offerings deposited either through PAR or by other means.

Pastoral Prayer

Dear God, we thank you for your infinite grace and mercy for all those who are under your care. We name our sisters and brothers who need your special care.

We thank you that you are continually blessing Lily, Dennis, Jody, Norma, and Bob N. with recovery. As they continue to strengthen, be with them. Know that they depend on you each day. Do not withhold your blessings of healing from them.

Phyllis and Janette are in a home where COVID 19 has infected a person. We pray that they and all residents in that institution will overcome this virus. Keep those care workers safe as they do everything to keep the residents healthy, safe and worry free.

May Edna be safe as she mourn her brother's death in a place where COVID19 is threatening so many lives. May you guard and protect her and all those in that province.

Thank you, O Lord, for giving Ruth strength and foresight to stay at her home. Things have not been easy for her especially lately. Keep her in your care. Listen to her cries.

Carol needs so much care. We thank you that through John you have been caring for her. Keep both in your love and mercy.

We thank you that Steve and Ollie are safe. They miss us and we miss them, O God. In and through your Son may we continue to enjoy being part of your Son's communion.

We give you thanks. We have received the good news that Katalin who went to visit her family in Hungary is now recovered from her colds. Continue to bless her until she returns to us safely so that in your mercy we may share the joy of reunion.

Isobel is weak and frail. Bless her as you have blessed Bob. Continue to be with her and strengthen her in you.

In your mercy Andy has been able to go for treatment every day. Be with him always. Bestow upon him traveling mercies as he goes far and returns each day tired. Also be with all who care for him so that through them Andy might gain strength and recover.

We are thankful that Doris is back at her place after being in the emergency. We are saddened to hear that her daughter and family cannot visit her. She misses them terribly. In their place, may you be with her and give her comfort.

Ron and Linda are safely back and doing well. We thank you that you have looked after them with health and strength while they were away from us.

Bob and Virginia are doing their best. Be with them. Give them your presence. More than many they need you to protect and guide them.

We pray for all our doctors, nurses, caregivers and support staff who are working so hard through this pandemic. May you give them your presence, guidance, wisdom and strength! May they be able to be your hands in healing in this time of difficulty. We also raise our voices and pray for all those whose loved ones have been infected with COVID 19 in Canada especially and throughout the world. Be with them and guide them, O Lord, and hear their cries. Give us grace to care for them through prayers.

We also pray especially for political and social leaders, and all those invisible workers who are making our lives bearable and more comfortable. There are so many who are working very hard. Be with everyone of them, O Lord.

Our words are never enough to express fear, loneliness and anxiety that have been triggered by this pandemic. Most of us do not know the depths and breaths of suffering that have taken hold in this country and others. Open our being to your Spirit so that in you we may become one with those who are suffering in our world today.

Do not forget, O Lord, your children who are filled with fear, anxiety, grief, sorrow and sadness. Many are feeling alone and abandoned. May you be with them through each and every one of us. May we have compassion and love to share abundantly with them.

In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Closing Hymn: #214 All glory, laud and honour

All glory, laud, and honour to thee, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring!

1. Thou art the King of Israel, thou David’s royal son,
who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed one.

2. The people of the Hebrews with palms before thee went;
our praise and prayer and anthems before thee we present.

3. To thee before thy passion they sang their hymns of praise;
to thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise.

4. Thou didst accept their praises; accept the prayers we bring,
who in all good delightest, thou good and gracious King.

(Copyright: Public Domain)

Benediction: (by John M Drescher)

Go forth from here; take up your cross.
Follow Christ in faith,
Knowing that he promised his presence
To all who faithfully follow in his footsteps.

(From Invocations and Benedictions for the Revised Common Lectionary, compiled and edited by John M Drescher. Copyright © 1998 by Abingdon Press. Reprinted by permission.)