Acknowledging the Territory
As we gather this morning let us remember that we gather on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Mi’kmaq people. We gratefully acknowledge this and respectfully honour their traditions and spirituality.
Time of Quiet Centering
As we begin our worship together, let us take a moment of silence to center ourselves as we enter this sacred time. Allow all our cares and concerns you have brough with you to be set aside, and allow Divine peace to wash over us.
Service of Lenten Candles
During the season of Advent we light candles as we prepare to receive the Light of Christ at Christmas. During Lent we extinguish candles as we prepare for the day that Light was snuffed out.
Today we come to our last Lenten Candle. It is the Palm/Passion Candle. We remember the joyous shouts of “Hosanna!” and the steps of our Lenten Journey begin to dance as we willingly join the crowds. Like a great party or parade, we joyously celebrate. But barely have the shouts of joy and praise faded away when we hear another cry … “Crucify Him!”. With faltering steps we try to run away, but we cannot. We don’t want to be here, but we are. The sorrow overwhelms us as we become a part of that crowd to. This is all part of our Lenten Journey. If we are to see this journey through to the end we must walk through both the “Hosanna!” and the “Crucify Him!”.
Place Mask on table and extinguish the last Lenten candle.
Call to Worship:
Today is a day of great joy and excitement.
Today is a day of great pain and sorrow.
Today is the day we remember how Jesus was welcomed like a conquering hero.
Today is the day we remember how Jesus was betrayed and arrested like a common criminal.
Today is a day of extremes; of joy and of sorrow, of celebration and of anger, of praise and of condemnation.
Today is a day we remember that in all our joy and sorrow, in all our pain and excitement, we are not alone.
We follow in the footsteps of the one who points us to God.
And so this is a day to worship together.
Today, O God, we stand between joy and sorrow. With joy we shout Hosanna and welcome Jesus. Yet even in the shouts of Hosanna we sense the tension, the fear and the anger of those whom Jesus challenges. We realize how quickly the shouts of “Hosanna” can turn to cries of “Crucify Him!” We stand between joy and sorrow O God, because we know how easy it is to be swayed by the crowd. We stand between joy and sorrow, O God, because we know how easy it is to sit back and watch from a safe distance rather than getting involved. We yearn for the joy to last forever. We yearn for a way to avoid the sorrow. O God, as we stand between joy and sorrow, we yearn for the assurance that, no matter what, You stand with us. Amen.
Gift of Music He Came Riding on a Donkey VU#124
The scripture readings for this morning are divided into two totally separate part. The Liturgy of the Palms and the Liturgy of the Passion. Normally we divide the two sections and talk about them separately. But this morning we are going to hear the entire story at one time. Because of the amount of reading recommended by the lectionary, we are going to use only the gospel readings today. We begin with the story of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
We continue our story less than a week later. The disciples have gathered together to share the Passover Meal. Judas has already arranged to betray Jesus and during the meal Jesus has predicted Peter’s denial. And so we pick up the story as Jesus and the disciples leave the upper room, where they have shared their meal, and head across the Kidron Valley to The Mount of Olives, to a garden there known as Gethsemane.
Mark 14:32-46, 53–56, 66-72
Mark 15:1-27, 33-39
A Disappointing Hero
I want you to try to imagine yourself being in that crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem so long ago. Chances are that the reason you are there is because you are on your way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. You may have travelled some distance to get there and the feeling you have is that of a great festival or celebration. You may do this every year or this may be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But regardless there is an excitement and a festive feel in the air.
As you walk along the road into Jerusalem, word begins to spread that Jesus of Nazareth is coming. You have likely heard about him. You may have even seen him. Perhaps you were in one of the crowds that gathered to hear him speak. You have likely heard stories of him curing lepers, giving sight to the blind and making the lame walk.
He is certainly causing quite a stir. The temple authorities don’t think much of him because he is telling people that Yahweh loves them even if they don’t keep all the laws the Pharisees tell them they must. Plus, those he has cured of leprosy no longer seem to feel obliged to make the required sacrifices at the temple. It’s really messing up their control of things.
The crowd begins to part. He is coming up the road behind you. You step to the side along with everyone else. The dust on the road is thick because of all the people that have been heading to Jerusalem. Someone near you grabs a cloak and tries to cover the dusty path. Others follow and then some start cutting branches and lays them across the path to keep the dust down so people can see.
Then you see him. He is riding on a donkey, surrounded by his disciples. It was just like the prophet Zechariah had promised. The Future King would come riding into Jerusalem victorious, but riding on a donkey, a symbol of peace and humility. Was this Jesus the Future King? Was he the one who would triumph over Rome? Was he the long awaited Messiah?
The excitement reached fever pitch! As Jesus passed by many from the crowd fell in behind him shouting “Hosanna” and praising God. Perhaps this was it. Perhaps he was heading to Jerusalem to take over. You fall in with the crowd, waiting, watching, expectant. Surely you are about to witness something amazing, something historic. You can hardly wait to see what happens next.
Jesus entered Jerusalem, went into the Temple, and looked around at everything. But since it was already late in the day, he went out to Bethany with the twelve disciples.
What? He simply left? But he was supposed to overthrow Rome. Even if he wasn’t going to do that right now, surly he should have at least addressed the crowd. So many people had gathered. So many people were shouting his praises. So many people were watching, waiting, hoping … hoping for a miracle, hoping for healing, hoping for freedom, hoping for … something … anything … and he just turned and walked away. How disappointing.
Perhaps he wasn’t all he was made out to be. Perhaps the stories were just that, stories. Perhaps he wasn’t all that you had heard, all you had hoped for. Perhaps you had gotten your hopes up for nothing. How disappointing.
There had been no military coup under the leadership of Jesus. There had been no miracles, no healings, no forgiveness of sins, no redistribution of wealth, no freedom for slaves. There hadn’t even been on of his famous speeches. It seemed he hadn’t even acknowledged the adoration of the crowd. He simply rode into town, checked out the temple and then left.
Imagine how you might have felt. He had accepted your praise and adoration yet he had barely even acknowledged you. You were so excited and hopeful, waiting to see what he would do next, but he had done nothing. He had built up your hopes only to let you down. How would you feel? Disappointed? Disillusioned? Perhaps even a bit embarrassed for having been taken in by such an obvious charlatan?
If you had actually been there that day, can you honestly say you would not have experienced at least some of those feelings, even if you didn’t want to?
And we all know that it is a very short leap from disappointment and disillusionment to angry. How dare anyone get our hopes up like that and then dash them into the ground? How dare anyone accept our praise and adoration and then do nothing? How could they not be what we hoped for or expected?
Anger…disappointment…disillusionment…embarrassment…a sense of betrayal. All of these emotions are very human reactions and much as we would like to think we would never feel that way, how sure are we that these thoughts might not, at least sub-consciously, creep in?
But life goes on. The preparations for Passover continue and the atmosphere of celebration seems to take over once more. Nothing more is heard about Jesus, until the morning after the Passover meal has been shared.
At this point you do not know that he shared the Passover meal with his disciples. You do not know that one of his inner-circle betrayed him to the temple police. You do not know that he was arrested under cover of night to ensure his followers didn’t cause problems. And you don’t know he has been deserted by all those closest to him. What you do know is that it is time for Pilate to release one prisoner as part of the Passover celebration. So, you go and join the crowd waiting to see who will be released.
That’s when you see him again. He certainly looks a lot different than he did a week ago. It is obvious he has been beaten. You might even start to feel sorry for him. After all, what had he really done that was so bad? He may have claimed to be something he was not, but was he really worse than any of the others who have made similar claims?
Then you start to hear the whispers among the crowd. Did you know he threatened to tear down the temple? Can you image Jerusalem with no temple? There would be no more Passover. There would be no more sacrifices, no more way of obtaining forgiveness for sin. Yahweh would desert the people. Things might be bad right now but can you image how bad they would get if Yahweh deserts us?
And without the Temple Authorities to speak up for the people to the Romans, who knows what would happen. If this Jesus continues to stir up unrest the Romans could decide to arbitrarily execute anyone who was suspected of being one of his followers. They had done that before.
You were part of that crowd cheering him on when he arrived in Jerusalem. What if someone had seen you and reported to the Romans that you were one of his followers? You might be one of those executed simply for being there. There would be no trial. You wouldn’t stand a chance. Perhaps this Jesus is a lot more dangerous than you initially thought.
Then you hear someone shout, “Release Barabbas, Crucify Jesus”. Other take up the cry. More and more people are shouting for Jesus to be crucified. They must really be concerned. They must really think he is dangerous. Maybe they know something about him that you don’t. Maybe they are right.
At the time you don’t know that it is the Temple Authorities that are working up the crowd. You don’t know that they are the ones who think Jesus is so dangerous. You don’t know they are worried about their own security if too many people were to start taking Jesus seriously. All you know is that everyone seems to be demanding his crucifixion. You don’t dare go against them of you might be next. Maybe you join in the shouts of the crowd or maybe you just remain silent, but the results are the same. Jesus is handed over. He is whipped, beaten, mocked and finally led away to Golgotha, the place of the skull, the hill of crucifixion.
The crowd follows. You may not have intended to go with them, but somehow you are drawn along. You find yourself there, watching. They try to drug him, like they do all the prisoners, but he refuses. They strip him of his clothing and then the soldiers cast lots to see who gets what. They always do that. It’s considered part of their pay. There are two others crucified with him.
Suddenly the sky begins to turn black, but there doesn’t seem to be any rain or wind. It’s so strange. You have to strain to see him now. Then you hear him cry out, “God, where are you? Why have you abandoned me?”
Some people laugh. Some just shake their heads. Someone tried to offer him some cheap wine to help dull the pain, but he lets out one last cry and then there is silence.
There are no shouts of triumph as he dies. Even the laughter seems to die away. It’s so quite. It’s as if the whole earth seems to stand still. Then you hear it. A single voice. The soldier standing at the foot of the cross. Even though it is little more than a whisper, in the silence it rings through, loud and clear.
“This man really was the Son of God!”
“This man really was the Son of God!”
What have you done? What have you done?
Gift of Music Ride On, Ride On In Majesty! VU#127
We Offer Our Gifts
We believe that God has called and continues to call each of us. One of the ways in which we answer is through the gifts that we offer back to God. Those gifts may be the offering that we place on the offering plates at the back of the church, they may be offerings we make through Par or through online donations, they may be donations we give to others beyond the walls of this church. Or they may be the offerings of our time, our abilities and our commitment. But whatever it is that we offer God this day, let us asks God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray; Loving God, bless and the gifts that we offer you today whatever those gifts may be. Bless them and use them, we pray. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now let us take a moment now to offer our silent prayers for all those named in our prayer jar and all those in our thoughts, our minds and our hearts … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
As we gather together on the Palm/Passion Sunday we come to the cross.
We look up. We see the broken Christ, and we pray for our broken world.
We pray for refugees who have had to flee from their homes and communities because of violence, terrorism and war … we pray for boys forced to fight and girls forced into prostitution … we pray for those hated by their neighbours or bullied by peers or authorities …
We pray for the broken in our broken world and God calls us to reflect and to act.
We come to the cross. We look up. We see the suffering Christ and we pray for the suffering in our own community.
We pray for the homeless … we pray for the abused, the children, the intimate partners, the elderly … We pray for those we know who are sick, family members, friends, members of our faith community … we pray for those who have lose loved ones … we pray for those who have had to put dreams and hopes to one side, especially during this time of pandemic …
We pray for all those who suffer and God calls us to reflect and to act.
We come to the cross. We look up. We see the abandoned Christ and we pray for those who are alone and isolated and who feel abandoned.
We pray for those isolated by Covid-19 … we pray for the unemployed… we pray for those living far away from family and friends … we pray of those who are isolated by fear or anger … we pray for those who feel unwanted and loved … we pray for those whose friends have let them down … and we pray for ourselves when we have let others down.
We pray for all those who feel abandoned in our world and God calls us to reflect and to act.
We come to the cross. We look up. We see Christ looking down at us.
In him we see reflections of our own brokenness.
In him we see reflections of our own suffering.
In him we see reflections of our own fear and isolation.
And as we stand, looking up at the cross, we reach out to you, O God, in faith and in trust. Amen
Gift of Music Go to Dark Gethsemane VU#133
In a world that seeks to avoid suffering, we follow the suffering servant all the way to the cross. But as we go out from this place of worship, we go knowing that the journey does not end here. We know that nothing, not life, not death, not anything this world can throw at us, can separate us from God’s Divine love. And so, we go knowing we are not alone. God is with us. Thanks be to God.