Sunday April 5, 2020 (Palm Sunday)
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
Call to Worship
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem
Lo, your king comes to you;
Triumphant and victorious is he,
Humble and riding on a donkey,
On a colt, the foal of a donkey.
“Hosanna, Loud Hosanna!”
Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang; through pillared court and temple the joyful anthem rang. To Jesus, who has blessed them, close folded to his breast, the children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.
From Olivet they followed ‘mid an exultant crowd, the victor palm branch waving, the chanting clear and loud; the Lord of earth and heaven rode on in lowly state, nor scorned that little children should on his bidding wait.
Hosanna in the highest! That ancient song we sing, for Christ is our Redeemer; the Lord of heaven, our King. O may we ever praise him with heart and life and voice, and in his blissful presence eternally rejoice.
Prayer of Confession
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In humility and faith let us confess our sin to God.
Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we many delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.
Words of Assurance
I declare to you in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning. Is now and ever shall be. Word without end. Amen. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
He is Exalted
He is exalted, the King is exalted on high
I will praise Him
He is exalted, forever exalted
And I will praise his name.
He is the Lord, forever his truth shall reign
Heaven and earth rejoice in this holy name.
He is exalted, the king is exalted on high.
Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you taught us to pray, and to offer our petitions to you in his name. Guide us by your Holy Spirit, that our prayers for others may serve your will and show your steadfast love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord:
Let us pray for the world.
Let us pray for the church.
Let us pray for those who govern us.
Let us pray for world leaders.
Let us pray for the sick.
God of compassion, bless us and those we love, our friends and families that, drawing close to you, we may be drawn closer to each other, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Name one blessing from the previous week.
Name one challenge from the previous week.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him all creatures here below. Praise him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Matthew 21:1-11 New International Version (NIV)
21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Sermon “Hosanna” (Pastor)
Let us pray,
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be pleasing and acceptable to you, our rock and our redeemer…
Yesterday I saw a Facebook post that said ‘this is the Lentiest Lent I have ever Lented.” What my friend meant by this post is that no one expected to be giving up quite so much for Lent. Remember the years where we gave up chocolate, or coffee, or alcohol? Those sacrifices pale in comparison to what we’re being asked to give up this Lent, to protect the health of those most vulnerable to suffering severe complications from COVID-19.
On March 30, 2020, Governor Wolf extended Allegheny County’s Stay at Home Order through April 30, 2020. He extended the closure of non-essential businesses and schools indefinitely. Pennsylvanians are ordered not to host or attend gatherings. And to limit our essential shopping to once per week. All of this was done to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our hospitals don’t become too overwhelmed to care for the sick.
Governor Wolf’s Stay at Home order will significantly change how we celebrate Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter. Today on Palm Sunday, we’re trying a new form of worship, a Zoom meeting so that we can celebrate communion together.
Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Were this a typical Palm Sunday, we would all have palm branches. These represent the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.
Jesus arrived on a donkey to signify the reign of a new type of king. A prince of peace. Because donkey’s symbolize peace, Jesus is signifying to the crowd that he will bring peace through non-violence. Unlike a Roman official who would have come riding in on a chariot and war horse. Wielding a bow or other weapons. Reminding the crowd that Rome is in charge. And will resort to violence to maintain their power.
Jesus’ subversive donkey ride reminded all those waving palm branches, that Jesus, not Rome, is the true king of the Jews. Rome feels threatened by Jesus’ reign. And for that, Rome will execute him in just a few days’ time.
This week we’ll be living between the Hosannas of Palm Sunday and the Hallelujah’s of Easter. The road from Hosanna to Hallelujah must travel through Jesus’ arrest on Thursday, his death on Friday, and his empty tomb on Saturday. Were this a typical week, we would gather together on Thursday night to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. And on Sunday to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, hunt for Easter Eggs, and fellowship together. But this is not a typical week. We aren’t going to be able to celebrate Holy Week the way we’re used to.
One of the blessings of global pandemics is that they force us to evaluate our usual ways of doing things. Just as Palm Sunday signified to the Jews that change was coming, so too do pandemics remind us that our usual ways of doing things no longer work.
Here are just a few examples of things this pandemic is forcing us to reevaluate:
We are a global economy, whether we like it or not. Most of the goods we need to survive- everything from clothing to food to cars, we import from somewhere else. We simply cannot close our borders and ban all travel forever. This is the world we live in in 2020.
Speaking of our economy. Our economy is built on the back of low-wage, low-skill, hourly workers. This virus is devastating communities that can’t social distance. Like New York City communities in the South Bronx and Western Queens. Communities where folks live on top of each other, with chronic health conditions, as they live paycheck to paycheck.
Our healthcare system is under resourced, stressed, and changing hourly. Our doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides, physician’s assistants, all those who care for the elderly and the mentally handicapped, are doing a heroic job of doing the best it can to serve the sick of every community. Many of them are pleading with the American public to stay home, to not hoard resources, so that we don’t make their difficult jobs impossible.
Friends, a global pandemic is the perfect moment for Jesus to ride into town on a donkey. To remind us that things are not as they should be. But that the kingdom of God is unfolding all around us. As systems shake and institutions crumble, we are reminded of what to entrust our hope. Even when we don’t know what tomorrow will look like, we know that Jesus loves us. Jesus is with us. And Jesus will continue to lead us through whatever this is.
My challenge for us, on this extraordinary Palm Sunday is to place ourselves in the shoes of the crowd gathered to witness Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The crowd that knows things are not as they should be. That wants to hope for a future where things will be better for the least of these. How might God be calling them and us to follow in the way of Jesus for such a time as this?
For me this means doing everything I can over the next month to stay home. It means doing online grocery delivery. Even though it costs more. Even though it means one less trip outside of my home. Because it means one less opportunity for me to either catch the virus, or pass it along to someone else. It means not visiting in person with friends or family. Even though I’m dying for face to face human interaction. But for now I will settle for family game nights via Zoom. It means caring for my Mom’s cat. Even though Cleo keeps waking me up at 5:15 every morning demanding to be fed. And she keeps walking across my puzzle table and messing it up. It means bearing these everyday inconveniences to demonstrate my love for the most vulnerable in my communities.
Following Jesus for such a time as this will look different for all of us. It will be tough. It is okay to have a bad day. Or a good cry when your vacation plans have been postponed indefinitely. But the good news of Palm Sunday is that we were created to do tough things. When I reflect on some of the tough things you all have done in your lives, it gives me hope that I can stay at home for another four weeks.
I want to close by saying that we will get through this pandemic. We will be able to gather together again soon. Life will return to a new normal eventually. Until then we are called to trust that Jesus will lead us through whatever this is. And to participate in the inbreaking of the kingdom of God where we can, as we can, and with what we can.
Thanks be to God,
In Jesus’ name,
Invitation to the Lord’s Table
Friends, this is the joyful feast of the people of God! They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.
According to Luke, when our risen Lord was a table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
This is the Lord’s table. Our Savior invites those who trust him to share the feast which he has prepared.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise, O Lord our God, creator and ruler of the universe. In your wisdom you made all things and sustain them by your power.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all the faithful of every time and place, who forever say to the glory of your name:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Remembering your gracious acts in Jesus Christ, we take from your creation this bread and this wine and joyfully celebrate his dying and rising, as we await the day of his coming.
With thanksgiving we offer our very selves to you to be a living and holy sacrifice dedicated to your service.
Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died,
Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these your gifts of bread and wine, that the bread we break and the cup we bless may be the communion of the body and blood of Christ. By your Spirit make us one with Christ, that we may be one with all who share this feast, united in ministry in every place. As this bread is Christ’s body for us, send us out to be the body of Christ in the world.
Breaking of the Bread
The Lord Jesus, on the night of his arrest, took bread, and after giving thanks to God, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take, eat. This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way he took the cup, saying:
This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.
Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the saving death of the risen Lord, until he comes.
The gifts of God for the people of God.
Congregation partakes of the bread. Congregation partakes of the wine.
Prayer After Communion
Loving God, we thank you that you have fed us in this Sacrament, united us with Christ, and given us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet in your eternal kingdom. Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
All Glory, Laud, Honor
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.
The company of angels are praising thee on high,
And mortal men and all things created make reply.
The people of the Hebrews with palms before thee went
Our praise and love and anthems before thee we present.
To thee, before thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise;
To thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise.
Thou didst accept their praises; Accept the love we bring,
Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King.
Remember, you go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a plan and a purpose to you being there. Christ who dwells in you has something he wants to do, through you, wherever you are. Believe this and go in his grace, and love, and power.
See you on Thursday April 9, 2020 at 7pm for our Maundy Thursday Service. E-mail me at email@example.com if you would like a Zoom invitation to participate in the service.