April 5, 2020 Palm Sunday
One of the downsides to worshipping through a screen is that it can feel like it isn't very sacred. Before worship starts, we recommend that you create a space for your worship. Ideas: find a beautiful spot by a window, lay out a special table cloth, light a candle.
We will be observing the sacrament of Holy Communion today. Before beginning the service, please prepare the table of the Lord in your own home, in your own way.
PRELUDE Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
CALL TO WORSHIP
HYMN NO. 198 Ride On! Ride On in Majesty! ST. DROSTANE
CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE OF GOD'S GRACE
CALL TO CONFESSION
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
ANTHEM Alleluia ROBERT REVICKI
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
SCRIPTURE Psalm 118:1–2, 19–29; Luke 19:28–40 The Message (MSG)
1-2 Thank God because he’s good, because his love never quits. Tell the world, Israel, “His love never quits.”
19-20 God tested me, he pushed me hard, but he didn’t hand me over to Death. Swing wide the city gates—the righteous gates! I’ll walk right through and thank God. This Temple Gate belongs to God, so the victors can enter and praise. 21–25 Thank you for responding to me; you've truly become my salvation! The stone the masons discarded as flawed is now the capstone! This is God's work. We rub our eyes — we can hardly believe it! This is the very day God acted — let's celebrate and be festive! Salvation now, God. Salvation now! O yes, God — a free and full life! 26–29 Blessed are you who enter in God's name — from God's house we bless you! God is God, he has bathed us in light. Festoon the shrine with garlands, hang colored banners above the altar! You're my God, and I thank you. O my God, I life high your praise. Thank God — he's so good. His love never quits!
God's Personal Visit
28–31 After saying these things, Jesus headed straight up to Jerusalem. When he got near Bethphage and Bethany at the mountain called Olives, he sent off two of the disciples with instructions: "Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you'll find a colt tethered, one that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says anything, asks, 'What are you doing?' say, 'His Master needs him.'" 32–33 The two left and found it just as he said. As they were untying the cold, its owners said, "What are you doing untying the colt?" 34 They said, "His Master needs him." 35–36 They brought the colt to Jesus. Then, throwing their coats on its back, they helped Jesus get on. As he rode, the people gave him a grand welcome, throwing their coats on the street. 37–38 Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed: Blessed is he who comes, the king in God's name! All's well in heaven! Glory in the high places! 39 Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, "Teacher, get your disciples under control!" 40 But he said, "If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.
Hidden in Plain Sight
I am going to focus on the text for Palm Sunday rather than those designated for Passion Sunday. And, I am even going to deviate from the lectionary. I would contend that in Luke 19:28-40 there are clues to the week ahead. Like those hidden picture drawings, if we look carefully, we will find images tucked within the larger scene. We will find words and events that reveal Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King, the One who saves us through his sacrifice, example and victory. The entry into Jerusalem (sans palms in Luke’s version) gives us hints to what the events ahead will accomplish.
The very stones will cry out should this prophet’s followers be silenced (Habakkuk 2:11). The king will ride over cloaks put down on the path before him (2 Kings 9:13, Psalm 118:26). The priest will ride on a ritually pure colt on his way to the sacrifice (1 Samuel 6:7). The saving work of Jesus Christ already completed and still to come is alluded to in this text, as we find images and references hidden in plain sight for those with eyes to see.
And his followers do see. At least for now. Luke’s version of the entry into Jerusalem is about Jesus’ followers, not the random crowds who love a commotion. Note verse 37: “The whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully and with a loud voice for all the deeds of power they had seen.” These are the ones who have experienced the saving presence and power of Jesus Christ and they recognize him as the king who comes in the name of the Lord. They echo the angels’ song at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest heaven.” If ever so briefly, Jesus’ disciples get it right. This is the Prophet, Priest and King who has come to save.
All of this is present or foreshadowed in Luke’s triumphant entry and the disciples, the multitude of them, raise their voices in joyful recognition of the saving work of Jesus Christ. Not even the stones are too thick to get it. All of creation is relieved of its groaning. This scene represents a foretaste of what’s ultimately to come, a respite from the slaughter, weeping, cleansing, destruction and death that must be endured for resurrection to happen.
That’s a word to be shared and savored this Palm (cloak) Sunday. The saving work of Christ is hidden in plain sight. Christ the Prophet, Priest and King is in the midst of us. Praise, joy and song are the right response. Blessing, peace and glory are present and surely coming. The immediate future is not bright, weeping, betrayal, denial, are all on the horizon, and yet, the ultimate future is sure, forgiveness, reconciliation, and the reign of God relentlessly on the way.
No one can deny the reality of slaughter and suffering. Therefore, we are called to point out the hidden pictures that reveal Christ the Prophet, Priest and King, God for us and with is in the very thick of it all.
With this passage in mind, I found three glimpses of the saving work of Christ even as destruction loomed. I watched an interview with Francine Christophe, a Holocaust survivor. She tells the story of a few pieces of chocolate her mother was saving for her daughter, but instead gave to a woman shortly after she’d given birth in Bergen-Belsen. It’s a powerful story in the middle of pervasive death, demonstrating the power of handing over that which another has need of.
The second hidden picture of life in the midst of death came in the form of a woman thanking the strangers who surrounded her with care and prayer in Whole Foods. The author learns of her father’s suicide while grocery shopping and collapses in sobs.
“I never saw you after that. But I know this to be true, if it were not for all of you, I might have simply gotten in the car and tried to drive myself home. I wasn’t thinking straight, if I was thinking at all. If it were not for you, I don’t know what I would have done in those first raw moments of overwhelming shock, anguish and grief. But I thank God every day that I didn’t have to find out. Your kindness, your compassion, your willingness to help a stranger in need have stayed with me until this day. And no matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life-altering moment, it is not all darkness. Because you reached out to help, you offered a ray of light in the bleakest moment I’ve ever endured. You may not remember it. You may not remember me. But I will never, ever forget you. And though you may never know it, I give thanks for your presence and humanity, each and every day.”
The third story that both embodies and foreshadows the Kingdom of God came in the form of a Facebook post from Greg Allen-Pickett. He shared the following:
“Asked by the BBC to identify the defining moment in his life Desmond Tutu spoke of the day he and his mother were walking down the street. Tutu was nine years old. A tall white man dressed in a black suit came towards them. In the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture of respect. But this day, before a young Tutu and his mother could step off the sidewalk the white man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her!
The white man was Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican priest who was bitterly opposed to apartheid. It changed Tutu’s life. When his mother told him that Trevor Huddleston had stepped off the sidewalk because he was a man of God Tutu found his calling. “When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God” said Tutu.
Huddleston later became a mentor to Desmond Tutu and his commitment to the equality of all human beings due to their creation in God’s image a key driver in Tutu’s opposition to apartheid.”
The Holocaust went on, a daughter’s grief continued, apartheid remained the law of the land for years – and yet, hidden in those large, painful narratives was both the embodiment and the foreshadowing of the Kingdom of God. Christ, Prophet, Priest and King, is present and actively working for life in the face of death. Individuals sometimes get it right even while there is so much wrong all around them.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we are keenly aware that it is also Passion Sunday. The week ahead will bring sorrow and suffering, but Luke 19 reminds us that within it all, hidden in plain sight, is the saving work of Jesus Christ, Prophet, Priest and King.
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HYMN NO. 498 Loaves Were Broken, Words Were Spoken BEACH SPRING
THE LORDS PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
JOYS AND CONCERNS OF THE CONGREGATION AND THE WORLD
We are praying for comfort and safety for all during this time of COVID-19 isolation and concern. Sharing the joys and concerns of our Westminster Presbyterian church family during church services "in person" is on hold right now, but please share them through our internal electronic Prayer List, which you receive every other week. Contact Sherry Hatter-Miller at the Church Office (330-263-2398) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any joy or concern you care to share.
Also, our Congregational Care ministry is available to you for assistance as much as we can during these times. Normally, we provide care in times of need (meals following surgery, transportation when needed, etc.), and now with distancing in place, we are staying in touch with all through calls, cards, and emails. We care about each one of you. Please contact us for any reason, even if you just want to talk during a long, "at-home" afternoon at email@example.com.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
HYMN NO. 197 Hosanna, Loud Hosanna ELLACOMBE
CHORAL BENEDICTION Hosanna from "Jesus Christ Superstar" WEBBER/RICE
Thank you to those who participated in the creation of this worship service: