Theme: Palm Sunday (Come In)
Series: IN – Lent / Easter 2020
Bible Readings: Matthew 21:1-11 / 23:37-39 / 26:26-30 / 26:36-46
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Preached for the ONLINE 9am worship – Palm SUnday 5 April 2020
Kids Church Downloadable Material:
Call to Worship
Welcome to worship … coming from my home.
Truly, welcome. We want everyone to feel welcome this morning. For those who live nearby and are part of the Turramurra Uniting Church family … it is great to have you here this morning. I love you all.
For those who are part of other church families and are connecting with us today … welcome. We love having you here this morning.
I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, the Guringai people pay respect to elders past, present and emerging.
To the young, the old, the near, the far, the familiar and the first timer … welcome to worship this morning on today … Palm Sunday. After journeying through Lent for 5 weeks, we have reached this holy week which leads up to Easter.
Here at TUC, our goal that we have had for Lent is to explore the more personal side of Easter. As we journey closer to the cross, to not only understand the message of Easter but to personally know Jesus, who died and rose again for us.
So, Today on Palm Sunday, we are going to … well, practice what we have been preaching. Instead of our normal flow of worship … you know, singing, kids talk, bible reading, sermon, prayer, song etc… instead of that flow, I am instead breaking the whole service up into four sections.
In each section I am going to briefly explore a part of the Holy Week story where Jesus or other characters in the Easter story showed us an example of how we can connected deeper with God. Four examples of a spiritual discipline or action or a form of prayer which will help us grow closer in our personal relationship with Jesus.
So … are you ready for this?
Lets start, not with song but with a bible reading…
Section #1 – Praise (Triumphant Entry)
Reading: Matthew 21:1-11
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.”
Can you imagine the scene? For Jesus, this is the end of a long journey that had started weeks before in the top part of Israel, when Jesus turned his face towards Jerusalem … know that the time had come for the cross.
During that journey, Jesus had encountered many people, helped them, did some miracles, spoke into their lives and showed them the way to God. Much of Jesus best teaching was done in this last few weeks before the cross.
So after this long and emotional journey, Jesus is coming over the crest at the Mount of Olives and all of Jerusalem comes into view in from of him. The road leading down from the Mount of Olives is not one of the main entries to the city and is normally not that busy … but today, today was different.
You see, the Jerusalem gossip grapevine had been running hot. Everyone had been telling their friends and neighbours that this Jesus that they have heard so many stories about, this Jesus who has healed people and fed 5000 people … this Jesus was coming down the road toward their city. Within a few minutes there is a great crowd waiting along the road.
It was a spontaneous gathering of people … (which would not be allowed in this COVID-19 era ) … gathering out of excitement, curiosity, … maybe even hope … and as Jesus came close they were throwing their coats on the ground for him to ride over … just like they would do for a king. Others started waving palm branches as a sign of their excitement and joy that Jesus was coming. There was clapping and cheering!
And then … and then as Jesus came through the crowd, they started to sing, “Hossanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” This is a traditional song of praise. The crowds response to Jesus coming into Jerusalem was … to praise God.
This is the first type of prayer or spiritual action which can help us go deeper into our relationship with Jesus … PRAISE.
Praise is the expression of one’s admiration, respect, gratitude, devotion. Praise is our expression of how we feel about God. And as Jesus arrived at Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday … the crowd broke into praise! And it was loud and glorious and joyful praise.
The crowd was praising God so much that the priests actually asked Jesus to quiet them down. Jesus said to them, “No. This is a time for praising God. If they are forced to be quiet the rocks and stones will cry out in praise”.
This morning, let us be like the crowd on that Palm Sunday and let us praise God – loudly, joyfully, unashamedly. Let us think about who God is, what Jesus has done and express our love, respect, gratitude and devotion.
I am going to hand over to the worship band to lead us in a time of praise.
Praise Songs (x2)
– How Great is our God
Section #2 – Lament (Jesus weeps over Jerusalem)
Reading: Matthew 23:37-39
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[c]”
This is not a Holy Week reading that we normally would have, but this is Jesus … a few days before Good Friday, moving around the city. Jesus knows the situation. He knows that the world has gotten itself into a mess, that our house, our society, our hopes and dreams are … desolate. Jesus knew that the love of this world was growing cold. Jesus knows that even when God has sent prophets to tell us about God’s love and call us to come back to God’s love and embrace, instead of heeding the message … we have stoned them, pushed them away, refused to hear their message.
And then it is almost that everything that he is seeing, everything that he is thinking about, all the emotions that he was feeling just bubbled over in the moment of raw honestly from Jesus.
Jesus cries out … speaking to this city he loves, to the people he loves … why are you doing this? Why are you rejecting me? How I long to draw you close like a hen gathers her chicks … but you are not willing. Can you not see where this is leading … you are on a road to destruction! Please come back.
There is a phrase for what Jesus is doing … he is lamenting. A lament is an old word for when a person in a raw, unfiltered, honest way, expresses how they are feeling and the injustice or suffering they are facing. It’s an outlet for our frustration, sorrow, loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening or why. A lament is not a list of complaints but rather an emotional expression of the reality that a person is facing.
Many of the Psalmist also lamented.
- Psalm 6 “Be gracious to me, Lord for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.”
- Psalm 10 “Why do you stand far off, O Lord?”
- Psalm 13 “Why do you hide yourself in time of trouble?” How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?”
- Psalm 22 (which Jesus quoted on the cross)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
A lament is suffering turned into prayer. It’s the worship of people who feel out of balance and out of place. Historically, it has been the prayer of minorities, the poor, and the persecuted … but in this new era we find ourselves in, many people around the world are finding this practice of lament helpful.
I was reading an article by an Italian priest who said that a month ago he would never have considered praying a lament, but now after seeing what is happening to his country, to see his congregation suffering, after ministering to wives who could not say goodbye to their dying husbands … a lament is the way of connecting with God that makes most sense.
So this morning, I want us to consider praying a lament… you might like to pray one by yourself … but if you can’t then I am happy to guide you through it…
Hear our cry, Almighty God.
Listen to our prayer.
Please help us.
Please help our community, our nation and our world.
How long will we have to hide in our homes from this invisible enemy? Where will it strike next? And whom? And what if…?
Our screens relay a continuous escalation of suffering and death around the world. I know so many people who are worried and anxious. We are tired and overwhelmed by the weight of having to deal with so many life-altering unknowns.
Heavenly Father, from the depths of our pain and confusion,
we cry out to You.
From fear-filled hearts and anxious minds, we plead with You. Rescue us, Father of compassion and grace.
We lift up our eyes to You, Lord God,
we look to you as the one that our help comes from.
Almighty God, You are our Rock, our Refuge, our hiding place.
You calm our thoughts and fill our despairing hearts
with peace and strength.
In Your Presence we find rest.
You restore our souls.
In you do we trust.
TIME OF QUIET … HOW LONG
Section #3 – Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
Reading: Matthew 26:26-30
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
This reading is part of the last supper narrative, where Jesus invites us to share in the elements of bread and the cup as symbols of what he was just about to do on the cross – his body would be broken and his blood would be shared. We are invited to remember what Jesus did and to give thanks.
So far we are looked at two different ways of engaging with God, going deeper in our relationship with Jesus … through praise and through lament. Our third one is thanksgiving.
When we give thanks to God, when we pause and count our blessings … it seems to put us in a place where we are more open to God. Being thankful makes us more open to seeing the way that Jesus is at work within in and around us.
We are just about to share together in Communion (I hope you have your elements ready), but first, let us take a few moments – wherever you are … to think about what you are thankful for.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
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 right, and a good and joyful thing,
always and everywhere to give thanks to you,
Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
You formed us in your image
and breathed into us the breath of life.
Your love for us is so strong, so unconditional
That even when we turn away, and our love for you grows cold,
your love remains steadfast.
Through Jesus, you not only gave us the invitation to return home to you, through Jesus death and resurrection you open the door for that to happen.
And so, with your people on earth
and all the company of heaven
we praise your name and join their unending hymn:
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.
We praise you God because
you have shared your mercy and justice with us,
not only as gifts to be received from you,
but as gifts that we are to share with the world.
We see this gift most clearly in the gift of your Son, Jesus.
Jesus showed us what a life of mercy and justice looked like:
In mercy, he gave food to the hungry.
In justice, he broke social custom and shared tables with the powerful and the lowly at once.
In mercy, he cared for the sick.
In justice, he broke religious custom & healed on the Sabbath.
In mercy, he had compassion for the poor.
In justice, he spoke out against the Empire that held them in poverty.
In mercy, he washed his disciples’ feet.
In justice, he died without protest to expose a corrupt system.
But that wasn’t all.
God’s mercy and justice burst forth when Jesus died,
and his resurrection gave hope to us all.
Even death cannot stop God’s incredible grace.
So, we ask God’s Holy Spirit to be poured out on this meal,
on these gifts of mercy: bread and juice,
that we may remember Jesus’ ministry of love and justice,
that these gifts of mercy may become for us
the body and blood of Christ,
so that we may show mercy and do justice,
not just for ourselves,
but for the transformation of the world.
We pray this in Jesus name who taught us to pray together:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
BREAKING THE BREAD
Invite people to lift their “bread”
The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.
Invite people to lift their “cup”
The cup over which we give thanks is a sharing in the blood of Christ.
The body of Christ, given for you. Amen.
The blood of Christ, given for you. Amen.
Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery
in which you have given yourself to us.
Grant that we may go into the world
in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
SONG: Light of the World
Prayers of Intercession.
Section #4 – Committing to God’s Will
(Garden of Gethsemane)
Reading: Matthew 26:36-46
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
We have praised, lamented, given thanks and now we have come to our last way of deepening our relationship with God … a prayer of commitment.
Often when we explore this reading we talk about Jesus’ amazing commitment to God’s mission. Even knowing the road before him, Jesus was able to pray, “Not my will, but yours be done”. Amazing commitment … that Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to walk this road, all the way to the cross.
But there is another invitation in this reading that I wanted to focus on to finish with… the invitation of Jesus to the disciples to be part of the story too, to be part of the journey too. Jesus invites the disciples … “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
You see, the Easter journey is not one that Jesus ever intended to walk alone – and still doesn’t intend to walk alone. The invitation is there for us all to come in … to draw close to Jesus and to walk the journey too. Jesus invites us to come in and keep watch with him too.
How do we respond? I can never be too critical of the disciples for falling asleep as this part of the story probably happened at about 1am in the morning after the disciples indulged in a 6 hour long meal with food and wine. It was always going to be hard to stay away … but Jesus invited them to be part of the journey and they missed the opportunity.
We are living in a crazy time, we are tired, feeling a sense of grief and loss, maybe feeling anxious and worried … and yes we probably have a good reason to say to Jesus this easter … we are just too tired, too overwhelmed to enter into the Easter story this year. But the invitation is there.
We are standing at the start of Holy Week. This week is a roller coaster of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday before arriving at the joy of Easter Sunday … and Jesus is inviting us to come in … to walk this end part of the journey with him.
David Livingstone, who was a missionary to Africa in the 1800’s was once asked why he gave life as a doctor in England to be a missionary in Africa. His answer was that Jesus invited him to.
He wrote in his journal a prayer of commitment that went something like this:
I will go anywhere, as long as you go with me
I will endure any burden, if you are there to sustain me.
The only thing that I need
is the tie that binds me to your heart.
Let us all make the commitment to respond to Jesus’ invitation and to enter into this holy week … with hearts full of praise, with honestly about our feelings, with a sense of thanksgiving and a commitment to journey with Jesus.
Closing Song: Hosanna, I see the King of Glory
Note that the Easter Journey is not finished…
- Maundy Thursday
- Good Friday
- Easter Saturday – The great Vigil
- Easter Sunday
As we enter into this holy week,
let us keep our eyes on Jesus.
He will show us where we need to go.
And may the blessing of God be with us,
This week and forevermore