Service for Palm Sunday. 1 April 2012
Year B, Palm Sunday.
Call to worship: Psalm 118:25-29 from Uniting in Worship
Hymn: Together in Song 333. All glory, praise and honour
Prayer of Adoration and Confession.
God of Palm Sunday,
God of Good Friday,
God of Easter,
We thank you for the wonder of this week –
That Jesus took each step of the journey
In obedience to you.
Although he was human as we are-
He didn’t give in to the temptation to give up
Or run away.
We thank you that he faced the crowds –
The crowds of Palm Sunday who cheered him on
And those who condemned on Good Friday.
We thank you that he faced the pain, and the struggle
Of what obedience to you really meant –
And in that pain, chose obedience.
We thank you that he faced the betrayal,
The abuse, and ultimately the death,
In obedience to you
And in his loe for us.
We thank you that the love you give –
That the love Jesus lives –
Is stronger than death.
We thank you for the promise of your great love –
That we can follow Jesus: share his life,
Share in his death,
And share in eternity.
That we are the crowd who cried Hosanna!
Bud we really didn’t know what we were asking.
We didn’t know that as we asked for Christ to save us,
We were asking for so much.
We were thinking too small –
We were thinking about only ourselves
And the needs we could see.
When you were thinking about all people,
In all times and places
That we are the crowd who cried Crucify!
It’s not that we’re fickle, or maybe we are.
But he what he was giving wasn’t what we were asking for.
We believe we know all the answers,
We don’t want a God who will disagree with us
We don’t want a king who will disappoint us.
We were only thinking what we wanted, what seemed good in our eyes.
When you were thinking about what we really needed,
And always would need.
Forgive us we pray
The times we think about ourselves –
And forget the bigger picture of all the people of your world,
That you see.
Forgive us, we pray,
The times we want to give you advice –
And forget that you were doing your job
Long before we ever existed.
Forgive us, we pray,
The times we sway from one thing to another –
And cannot make up our minds as to whom we will serve.
We pray in and through Jesus, who came to save us. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness:
On Palm Sunday, the crowds came out to Jesus and yelled “Hosanna”, which means “save us”, and the truth is that is exactly what he had come to do. Jesus came to save us from ourselves – from our own failings, our accidental mistakes, our deliberate misdeeds – from everything that has separated us from God.
So I have confidence to say to you: Our sins are forgiven!
Thanks be to God!
Kids Time: Palm leaves. Does anyone know a story from the Bible about palm leaves? Let’s have a parade! (go through the church with palm leaves.)
Hymn: We have a king who rides a donkey
What were they looking for, those crowds on Palm Sunday? A parade? A celebration? A protest rally?
Political tensions were at fever point as the Passover approached. They always were. That was why Pilate was actually in Jerusalem. Otherwise, he could find somewhere more pleasant from which to manage Israel, which was what he usually did. For the festival, Pilate always had to be in town, and he brought reinforcements for the military garrison there. So there were more foreign soldiers than usual, on alert more than usual, ready to react quickly to anything which might jeopardise Roman rule.
At Passsover, the Israelites celebrated the freedom God had given them from Egypt, and some would always question: if they could be free from Egypt, why not from Rome? There were Jews from all over Israel, and foreigners who subscribed to the Jewish faith from all over the known world; all crowded into the city. They were there to make their sacrifices at the temple, and to celebrate freedom. And many of them resented celebrating freedom, under the watchful gaze of the foreign soldiers who ran their country. All they needed was someone to stir them up, someone who could be a focal point for all their unrest. They needed a king of the Jews.
Some had probably pinned their hopes on Barabbas. He was a well-known bandit, but he was also known as someone who was a problem to the Romans. And he had a few followers. With the right support, he could have formed an army, except that he’d already been arrested and imprisoned.
Another Passover was approaching. And God’s people may not have been slaves as they were in Egypt. But in a sense, their situation was worse. They were in the land of promise and freedom. And they were living under the rule of a foreign military power. Surely the God of the Passover, who had rescued them from slavery, who had given them this land, understood their plight? Surely God hadn’t abandoned them?
Then, through the milling, agitated crowd, came the word that Jesus, who had gained some fame as a prophet and a miracle-worker, was coming into town, riding on an unbroken colt. There couldn’t have been a Jew in Jerusalem that day, who didn’t know exactly what that meant. They all knew the words of the prophet Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter 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.
Every Jew in Jerusalem that day, also knew that Zechariah went on to describe graphically, God’s establishment of the king’s kingdom – freedom for all of Israel’s oppressed, and wholesale slaughter of the nation’s enemies.
So they came out: the zealots and agitators, the curious, the fearful, the careworn, the devout who believed God had come to save them, the ones who wanted to keep peace, and those who wanted war, the foreign soldiers, and the Jewish leaders.
And the crowds threw down their cloaks and palm leaves, whatever they could find to carpet the way of the king on a donkey. They waved palm leaves like protest placards or royal pennants. And they cried “Hosanna!” – which is not a cry of joy, but a desperate plea, it means “save us!”
The soldiers kept their hands on their swords and their eyes open. Watching. Watching the crowd, trying to assess what would happen next. How great was the danger? How many in the crowd might be carrying weapons in their clothing? Did this “king” look as if he was about to declare war? Would he try to fulfil that plea “Save us!” Watching each other. Where was each person placed? Did they have the numbers to win if it came to a fight? Watching their officers. Would the command come, to put down the rebellion as soon as it started, or even before it started?
The Jewish leaders watched. Watched Jesus, who they’d been at odds with for three years for all sorts of reasons. Watched the crowd as it yelled itself into a frenzy. And watched the soldiers as they stood tense, ready to fight. They knew Pilate’s reputation for bloody retribution if there was any sign of rebellion. They knew the danger all this attention would bring. And whether their disputes with Jesus really had been this serious or not until this time, they knew he had to be stopped. For the sake of the nation, a rebellion against Rome simply could not be risk. Better that one man die, and the whole nation be spared.
And somewhere in the push and shove of the crowed were Jesus’ disciples, all of the people, men and women, who’d travelled with him, provided for his needs, listened to his teaching. Probably closest to him, were those special ones who made up the inner circle of disciples, the twelve men he’d chosen to trust himself to most. In the hubbub of the crowd and the pushing an d the yelling; some of them would have been wondering if Jesus were going to declare himself king, and take control of the nation; some would have been wondering about the strange things Jesus said about coming to Jerusalem to be handed over to his enemies and be killed; one was hatching a plan to force Jesus’ hand, to make him declare himself once and for all to be God’s Son, or be destroyed if he refused to do so.
All this was happening, as the crowds pushed and shoved. As Jews from all over the world came to try to get a look at this man who was declaring himself a God-appointed king.
“Save us!” the crowd yelled. And many of that same crowd would yell “Crucify!” before the week was out. How could they know on Palm Sunday, the price that would have to be paid to save them?
“Save us!” They yelled. And Jesus continued the path to salvation.
Hymn: Together in Song 353 The glory of our King was seen
Prayers of the People:
All these years after that first Palm Sunday,
So many in the world still cry out “Hosanna!”; “Save us!”
People in many parts of the world still live under foreign oppression. Hosanna!
Peace is a remote dream, even in that part of the world where Jesus lived and taught the way of peace.
In many parts of the world, it is still not safe to be a follower of Christ. Hosanna!
The label of “Christian” can target people for violence, for abuse, and even imprisonment and death.
Even in Australia, people bear the scars of past wars and past oppression, Hosanna!
Many here are discriminated against because of their colour, education or class, and even in their own homes some are in danger from the people they ought to be able to trust the most.
People fall prey to soul-destroying drugs, Hosanna!
People become addicted to the false hope of gambling, to all sorts of lies and false idols.
Hosanna! Save us!
We pray in the name of Jesus,
Who himself came to save.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: Together in Song 348 Ride on, ride on in majesty