Sunday Worship Service
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Service for the Lord’s Day
~ Palm Sunday ~
March 28, 2021 10:00 a.m.
Pastor Joan Priest , Worship leader
Mr. David Warfield, Director of Music Ministry
Elder Jean Degrooth Liturgist
Dave Gaiewski GATHERING WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP BY PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ACKNOWLEDGING WHO WE ARE,
AND RECEIVING THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S GRACE.PRELUDE Fughetta on All Glory, Laud, and Honor Austin Lovelace
GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS
BLESSING OF THE PALMS
CALL TO WORSHIP
We come to prepare for the holiest of weeks.
We will journey through praise, with joy on our lips.
we will travel through betrayal and death, cradling hope deep in our hearts.
Jesus leads us through this week, and we will follow,
for he is the life we long for, he is the Word who sustains us.
We wave palm branches in anticipation, we lay our love before him, to cushion his walk.
Setting aside all power, glory, and might, he comes:
modeling humility and obedience for all of us.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna!
*HYMN #196 All Glory, Laud, and Honor VALET WILL ICH DER GEBEN
All glory, laud, and honor
to thee, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring!
Thou art the King of Israel,
thou David’s royal Son,
who in the Lord’s name comest,
the King and blessed One. [Refrain]
The people of the Hebrews
with palms before thee went;
our praise and prayers and anthems
before thee we present. [Refrain]
To thee, before thy passion,
they sang their hymns of praise;
to thee, now high exalted,
our melody we raise. [Refrain]
Thou didst accept their praises;
accept the prayers we bring,
who in all good delightest,
thou good and gracious King! [Refrain]
These stanzas for Palm Sunday have been selected and translated from a much longer Latin poem written by a bishop who was the leading theologian in Charlemangne’s court. They are sung to a 17th Century German chorale, as adapted for these words in the mid-19th century. PRAYER OF CONFESSION God of unfailing Love, we come before you on this day with thankful and joyous hearts because your love knows no bounds. No boundaries, limits, or obstacles—including those of our own making—can thwart your loving kindness from following us all the days of our lives. Yet during this week, your story of passion mirrors to us how we have tested your love and spurned your compassion. We kneel before you in awe of the Mystery of your faithfulness. We kneel before you in gratitude, forever thankful that even during passion week your love held strong. As we enter into Holy Week brace us with fortitude and gratitude and with the assurance that you are with us, world without end. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACELaying aside judgment, God offers us redemption; setting aside anger, God embraces us with love; letting go of grief, God pours living water upon us. This is the good news, my friends: God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen. PASSING OF THE PEACE (USING ASL)HEARING
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD, WRITTEN & PROCLAIMED. GOD’S WORD IS CENTRAL TO OUR FAITH;
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God. SECOND READING Luke 19:28-40
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God. PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
SERMON A Cheering, Chanting, Dizzy Crowd
How many of you have ever attended a huge festival or maybe the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Boston Marathon? Every hotel room in town is booked, every store is open, there are vendors on the street selling food, items of clothing, and trinkets, people on street corners playing music, and people up and down the streets waiting for the big event to happen. Doesn’t that sound awesome right now?! Soon! Well, this is what the Passover Festival looked like back in the day of Jesus. Passover week was the most sacred week of the Jewish year. A time to commemorate their freedom from slavery in Egypt so long ago. Everyone who could, went to Jerusalem. The crowds were so tremendous, guards were posted everywhere, just to keep order.
So, imagine that spring day in the year 30 of two very different processions or parades entering Jerusalem. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession.
From the east, Jesus rode a donkey, a colt in fact, which would have put him on eye level with the crowds. Down he came from the Mount of Olives, cheered on by his followers who threw their cloaks and branches on the streets, waved palm branches and shouted “hosanna”! Jesus, from the peasant village of Nazareth, who carried a message about the kingdom of God: of equality, justice, love. The one who was coming in the name of the Lord, quietly, slowly, but profoundly, proclaiming the peaceful reign of God.
On the opposite side of the city, a very different procession or parade was coming from the west. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of an imperial cavalry, highly decorated, proud horses, sitting high above the people, and soldiers, so many soldiers. His group approached the city brandishing weapons, banners, sun glinting on metal and polls. The sounds: marching of feet, creaking of leather, clinking of bridles, beating of drums, swirling of dust. Power, authority, majesty and control. He came to show the importance of the empire and military occupation, with a goal to make sure oppressed people did not find deliverance (1)
Two very different processions. And we know Jesus planned this alternative procession into the city, precisely and purposefully, with the goal to completely contrast what was happening on the other side of the city. The one riding that donkey had been sent to offer the world another way, another path to victory, an avenue to true peace. Complete with a young donkey, not a horse. For we know that Jesus could have walked into the city that day. Or for that matter, he had some connections with the wealthy (think Zacchaeus or Nicodemus.) Certainly, he could have borrowed a horse instead. Rather, he sent his disciples to get a donkey: A donkey is known as the pack animal of the poor, the one known to be a protector of their owner if made vulnerable, the one even willing to die for their owner, so that they may live. No wonder Jesus chose a donkey. (2)
And the crowd that day? They wanted a parade, they needed a parade, we need a parade, just not yet! So, hearing Jesus is coming the cheering, chanting, dizzy with expectation crowd, rolled out the red carpet for this man, as if he was just as important as the King. Laying their coats or cloaks was literally like rolling out the red carpet so he wouldn’t have to walk on the dusty roads, and to wave palms was like banners in a parade or confetti on the returning champion team. Not exactly marching bands or beautifully decorated floats but the best they could do. The crowd had heard his stories, seen his miracles and knew he was a prophet. Down he came from the Mount of Olives, cheered on by his followers who shouted “hosanna! Hosanna save us”, they cried. They wanted and expected a revolutionary to overthrow the government and be their new king. They wanted a parade, but Jesus came riding a donkey, not above the people looking down on them but at eye level, an equal. Jesus would have no part of being the kind of king they wanted. Jesus was committed to being God’s kind of king.
You see we are not that different from those cheering crowds back then. But as Pastor Lose describes, while we identify with their cry, we are also aware of their confusion. “Yes, they want salvation but on their own terms, perhaps imagined as a dramatic defeat of the Roman and restoration of Israel. What they don’t imagine, what they don’t really want, truth be told, is a Savior who dies. A savior who identifies with them completely and fully, rather than elevates them to where they’d like to be. They don’t want a God who changes them by challenging their view of themselves, their neighbors, and their values, they want a God who reinforces and even validates their values and beliefs. Hosanna Save us, but don’t change us”. (3)
There confusion is similar to our confusion. Save us doesn’t mean, solve our problems, rid of this virus, answer our questions, O God. We too like the idea of being saved but don’t always understand what it means to be changed, transformed in the eyes of God. How does God save us? How does God save you? Or how is God changing you? Coming out of this pandemic is quite strange, isn’t it?! We are still nervous and cautious. We aren’t quite ready for the parade, the party. I had to travel by airplane last week for the first time in a year and was nearly in a state of panic. How have we been changed this past year?
And yet as we emerge, slowly, I believe we will be changed in that we will we feel so very blessed with things we took for granted, worshipping together, eating and celebrating together. The party’s, the parades. But before the party, the parade, we must name the loss we have experienced this past year. I am putting together a Service of Remembrance later in April so that we can take a moment and name the losses of this past year. Loss of loved ones whom we couldn’t gather and honor, loss of jobs, relationships, the loneliness, isolation. And then, I hope we can begin to plan those celebrations, the parties, the parades once again, and begin to reach out to our neighbors once again and be the church. The church which serves not ourselves, but the community, the world.
We all would rather be saved, fixed, cured, back to normal but God is in the business of transforming us. Saving us in that way. Because here’s the thing. Christianity is not a self-improvement program, it is a transforming program, a transforming program where we are moved to look outward, not inward. To see the needs of others rather than our own hopes. Our existence, our meaning, our well-being, our future is bound up in the existence, meaning, well-being, and future of those around us.
We need this transformation, why? Because it is how we can enter the week ahead. If we really enter this coming Holy Week with all of the confusion and emotions as the disciples did, and really allow those feelings to invade our lives, it might allow us to reflect in a much deeper way what is really going on in this world and in our lives in particular, and where God is moving us during this time. You see if we don’t face the struggle that Christ did, if we go from the parade of Palm Sunday to the party of Easter, if we believe life is one long party for those who trust in God, then what happens when the party ends? What happens to the time we live in right now? Does faith end because good times have been put on hold for a year? For some it has. If we don’t face the struggle of Jesus, then we can’t face our own struggle with the confidence and assurance that God is with us and we are never alone.
That triumphal entry of Jesus wasn’t a first century Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, it was a statement. It was an in-your-face statement to those in power, those looking at him as a heretic, dangerously drawing large crowds and all those miracles. And here’s the real surprise in this story. Jesus enters Jerusalem amid the cries which he knows will turn into accusations. He avoids the privilege of his divine state and takes on the form of a servant and dies the death of an outcast. Why does he do this? It’s not to show us how messed up we are, we already know that. It was to invite us into an authentic relationship with God and with each other. Because in the end, Christ does come to save us, hosanna, not from the Romans, not from the authority, but from ourselves, from a world that teaches that what matters most is what I want rather than sees the possibility, that meeting my neighbor’s need will also satisfy my own heart’s deepest desire. Jesus came to save yes, but also to transform. He came as God’s Messiah but not to change the order of that time, he came with the love of God poured out upon the world in a way that dissolved all the things we use to differentiate ourselves from others. He came to form a single humanity that knows itself and those around them as God’s people.
And so I ask you this, if Jesus rode or walked or came into the town of Groton today, what would he be riding in or on? What would demonstrate to us right away that he associates with the poor, the vulnerable, that he would sacrifice anything, for us to begin to understand God, to show mercy and kindness and grace. AND – What kind of parade do we need?
Today we need to be reminded, Jesus brought a different kind of parade. Not a majestic parade only for the chosen, only for the pure, but a march, a procession for people who expected it the least. A joyful celebration of a people united with one message and that message is so simple – love. Love one another. Jesus loved people even when they deserved love the least, when they were least lovable. He didn’t expect righteousness, he taught it, he demanded it, knowing that love and sacrifice are more fulfilling and powerful, than authority and rulers. Everything about the parade and all of the events of this holy week to come were purposely created or happened because Jesus knew what was to come. And when he is questioned about his excited disciples, or this cheering, chanting, dizzy crowd, he dismisses their worries, whimsically pointing to the loose, jagged stones scattered in the Kidron valley, and saying, “If these disciples or this crowd were silent, these stones would shout out.” There’s no stifling of our hosannas.
In a week’s time another stone will feature in the story of Jesus, a stone that rolls shut to seal him in the tomb. But what was meant to be the last word is only the next-to-last word, and the silent stone, rolled away, will bear witness to those who come looking for the living one in the tomb that the last, most joyful word, belongs to God.
But here and now, it’s for us to shout with our lips and our lives, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” For if we are silent, the stones will have to shout.
As Dr. Taylor states, “It’s our turn now, our turn, to show the world what God looks like, to show the world what love looks like, to show the world what it looks like to love your enemies, and not only your enemies, but the immigrant, and the alien, the stranger, and the other. Show the world what it looks like to forgive those who trespass against you, to forgive the one who sinned against you – who sinned against you – to forgive this one not once, not seven times, but seventy times seven times. Show the world.” (4) It’s our turn to show the world what mercy looks like, to be the change we need to see in others. Let us present a Jesus procession, a parade of righteousness, of justice, of equality, of respect, of forgiveness. A procession of people, humble, protective, giving, showing unconditional love to the world, being a family which helps others move through their holy weeks of hard times, so that we can come together next week in the knowledge that we are a resurrection people. We have been transformed, we are saved, we are forgiven, we are loved.
I close with the poem A Cheering, Chanting, Dizzy Crowd by Thomas Troeger
The cheering, chanting, dizzy crowd it stripped the green trees bare,
And hailing Christ as king aloud, waved branches in the air.
They laid their garments in the road and spread his path with palms
and vows of lasting love bestowed with royal hymns and psalms.
When day dimmed down to deepening dark the crowd began to fade
till only trampled leaves and bark were left from the parade.
Lest we be fooled because our hearts have surged with passing praise,
Remind us, God, as this week starts where Christ has fixed his gaze.
Instead of palms, a winding sheet will have to be unrolled,
A carpet much more fit to greet the king a cross will hold.
O Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. Amen.
Borg, Dr. Marcus and Cossan, The Rev. John Dominic. The First Week, Day One.Hunt, The Rev. Dr. Janet H. Humble and Mounted on a Donkey.Lose, The Rev. David. Cries, Confusion, Compassion. 3/22/18.(4) Taylor, The Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor. Players and Protagonists in the Kingdom of God. 3/20/16.
RESPONDING GOD HAS SPOKEN, AND WE RESPOND. WE AFFIRM OUR FAITH, PRAY FOR THE WORLD, RE-COMMIT OURSELVES TO MISSION,
PRESENT OUR TITHES & GIFTS, AND OFFER THANKS THAT GOD CONTINUES TO SPEAK TODAY. * HYMN #1 Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! NICAEA
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
perfect in power, in love, and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Much of the imagery of this hymn comes from Revelation 4:2-11, which its author, an Anglican Bishop, knew as a reading for Trinity Sunday, The tune, written specifically for this text, reinforces the Trinitarian theme by strong dependence on the D-major triad. PRESENTING OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS (If you’re joining us via Zoom,
we invite you to make your offering online.
Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING & DEDICATION
Holy God, we shout “Hosanna” along with the crowd.
And somehow, this chance we have to give our time and
treasures is a grace of your salvation. So, open our
Open our hands. Open our lives. Accept our
gifts, O God, we pray. Amen.
SHARING OUR JOYS & CONCERNS
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
RESPONSE: LORD IN YOUR MERCY, HEAR OUR PRAYER
SENDING WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.CHARGE & BENEDICTION
We leave worship this morning without a postlude – leaving us to ponder the events of Holy Week.