04-05-20 Sermon

WELCOME

Gathering

P: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

C: Hosanna in the highest.

Processional Gospel

P: The holy gospel according to St. Matthew, Chapter 21.

C: Glory to you, O Lord.

1When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5“Tell the daughter of Zion,
 Look, your king is coming to you,
  humble, and mounted on a donkey,
   and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
 “Hosanna to the Son of David!
  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
 Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

P: The gospel of the Lord.

C: Praise to you, O Christ.

Blessing Of Palms

P: The Lord be with you.

C: And also with you.

P: We praise you, O God, for redeeming the world through our Savior Jesus Christ. Today he entered the holy city in triumph and was proclaimed messiah and king by those who spread garments and branches along his way. Bless those who would carry those branches today. Grant us grace to follow our Lord in the way of the cross, so that, joined to his death and resurrection, we enter into life with you; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C: Amen.

Procession

P: Let us go forth in peace,

C: in the name of Christ. Amen.

At this point we would normally process to the Sanctuary.

Prayer of the Day

P: As we now enter into the contemplation of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and meditate on the salvation of the world through his sufferings, death, burial, and resurrection, let us pray.

C: Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross.  In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Today’s Bible Readings

Isaiah 50:4–9a

The servant of the Lord expresses absolute confidence in his final vindication, despite the fact that he has been struck and spit upon. This characteristic of the servant played an important role in the early church’s understanding of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

4The Lord God has given me
  the tongue of a teacher,
 that I may know how to sustain
  the weary with a word.
 Morning by morning he wakens—
  wakens my ear
  to listen as those who are taught.
5The Lord God has opened my ear,
  and I was not rebellious,
  I did not turn backward.
6I gave my back to those who struck me,
  and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
 I did not hide my face
  from insult and spitting.

7The Lord God helps me;
  therefore I have not been disgraced;
 therefore I have set my face like flint,
  and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
  8he who vindicates me is near.
 Who will contend with me?
  Let us stand up together.
 Who are my adversaries?
  Let them confront me.
9aIt is the Lord God who helps me;
  who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 31:9–10, 15-16

9Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
  my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.
10For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing;
  my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.
15My times are in your hand;
  rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.
16Let your face shine upon your servant;
  save me in your steadfast love.”

Philippians 2:5–11

Paul uses an early Christian hymn to help us comprehend Jesus’ obedient selflessness on the cross and how God has made Christ lord over all reality. The perspective of the cross becomes the way we rightly understand God, Christ, our own lives, and fellowship within the community of Christ.

5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6who, though he was in the form of God,
  did not regard equality with God
  as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself,
  taking the form of a slave,
  being born in human likeness.
 And being found in human form,
  8he humbled himself
  and became obedient to the point of death—
  even death on a cross.

9Therefore God also highly exalted him
  and gave him the name
  that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus
  every knee should bend,
  in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue should confess
  that Jesus Christ is Lord,
  to the glory of God the Father.

Matthew 27:11–54 

In fulfillment of scripture and obedience to God’s will, Jesus goes to the cross so that a new covenant in his blood may bring forgiveness of sins. Even the soldiers who crucify him recognize him to be the Son of God.

11Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

15Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

24So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

32As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
38Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ ” 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Prayers of Intercession

P: Turning our hearts to God who is gracious and merciful, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

P: God of mercy, awaken your church to new proclamations of your faithfulness. By your Spirit, give us bold and joyful words to speak, that we sustain the weary with the message of your redemption. Hear us, O God.

C: Your mercy is great.

P: God of mercy, quiet the earth where it trembles and shakes. Protect vulnerable ecosystems, threatened habitats, and endangered species. Prosper the work of scientists, engineers, and researchers who find ways to restore creation to health and wholeness. Hear us, O God.

C: Your mercy is great.

P: God of mercy, drive away fear and anger that cause us to turn against one another. Give courage to leaders who seek liberation for the oppressed. Bring peace and hope to those who are in prison and those who face execution. Hear us, O God.

C: Your mercy is great.

P: God of mercy, send your saving help to all who suffer abuse, insult, discrimination, or contempt. Heal the wounded. Comfort the dying. Bring peace to those suffering chronic or terminal illness. Tend to all who cry out for relief (especially). Hear us, O God.

C: Your mercy is great.

P: God of mercy, we pray for all who will prepare and lead worship in this Holy Week. In all things, show us the ways that you call us to die to self, to live for you, and to give of ourselves for the sake of others. Hear us, O God.

C: Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

P: God of mercy, when we breathe our last, you raise us to eternal life. With all your witnesses in heaven and on earth (especially), let us boldly confess the name of Jesus Christ, our resurrection and our hope. Hear us, O God.

C: Your mercy is great.

P: According to your steadfast love, O God, hear these and all our prayers as we commend them to you; through Christ our Lord.C: Amen.

PASTOR’S SERMON

PALM/PASSION SUNDAY—4-5-2020—MT. 21

After years of wandering, Clint Dennis realized something important was missing from his life. He decided to attend church. As he entered a church for the first time he noticed people putting on long robes. They were also tying ropes around their waists and wrapping headdresses around their heads. “Come be a part of the mob,” a stranger told him. It was Palm Sunday and the church was reenacting the Crucifixion in costume. He would be part of the crowd that shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Hesitantly he agreed.

Then another stranger hurried up to him. “The man who was supposed to play one of the thieves on the cross didn’t show up,” he said. “Would you take his place?” Again Clint agreed and was shown to the cross where he would look on as Jesus died. Just then, though, something about Clint’s manner caught a member’s eye. He turned to Clint and asked, “Have you ever asked Jesus to forgive your sins?” “No,” Clint replied softly, “but that’s why I came here.” There beneath the cross, they prayed, and Clint asked Jesus to come into his heart. What the church didn’t know was that Clint had been in prison for ten years. He was a real thief. Even after his release he had gone on stealing cars and trucks until he realized that something was missing from his life.

The time had come for Jesus to make his way to the holy city of Jerusalem. He and his disciples had been traveling the countryside. A crowd followed them nearly everywhere they went. His teachings about the coming of the kingdom of God excited both the disciples and the crowds.

The disciples were thinking what would happen once Jesus entered Jerusalem and took power. He tried to tell them what would happen. He would “undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” The disciples didn’t understand. “God forbid it, Lord!” Peter exclaimed. “This must never happen to you.”

The crowds also had their expectations. They thought Jesus would not only establish his kingdom but would also overthrow the hated Romans. They thought something wonderful was about to happen and they were going to be part of it. On that first Palm Sunday expectations were running high. Something was about to happen. Everyone could feel it.

And something did happen. FOR ONE THING, Jesus fulfilled a prophecy. Centuries before Zechariah had prophesied of this day, “Lo, a young king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he humble and riding on a donkey….” Jesus fulfilled this ancient prophecy.

Father Henri Nouwen found a sculpture of Jesus on a donkey in the Augustiner Museum in Frieburg. He calls it one of the most moving Christ figures he knows. The fourteenth-century sculpture originally came from a small town close to Breisach on the Rhine. It was made to be pulled on a cart for the Palm Sunday procession.

Nouwen found himself drawn to this sculpture. He sent postcards of it to his friends and keeps one in his prayer book. Looking at the face of Jesus he reflects, “There is melancholy, but also peaceful acceptance. There is insight into the fickleness of the human heart, but also immense compassion. There is a deep awareness of the unspeakable pain to be suffered, but also a strong determination to do God’s will. Above all, there is love, an endless, deep and far-reaching love born from an unbreakable intimacy with God and reaching out to all people, wherever they are, were, or will be. There is nothing that he does not fully know. There is nobody whom he does not fully love.”

Jesus rides upon a donkey fulfilling an ancient prophecy, but clearly in total control. He knows what will happen to him in Jerusalem. Still he rides on. He does not seek to avoid the task to which he has been called.

It reminds me of a routine comedian David Brenner used to do about Superman in the movies. Go back with me in your minds. Picture this scene. Superman is confronting one of the bad guys. The bad guy would fire at Superman with a gun. Superman would smirk and throw his chest out. The bullets would bounce harmlessly away. But did you ever notice what happened next? Brenner said, “And then when the guy ran out of bullets, he would throw the gun at Superman. And Superman ducked.” He ducked! I’ll bet you never thought about that before. Bullets bounced off of him, but when a gun was thrown at him, Superman ducked.

Perhaps that amusing insight will serve to remind us that Jesus did not have to enter Jerusalem. He could have ducked his mission. But still he rode on.

MEANWHILE, the people celebrate. Jesus no sooner got on the donkey than the crowds that followed him erupted in cheering. They “spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” People ran ahead of him shouting “Hosanna.” The time had finally arrived. Jesus was about to act. Jesus would enter Jerusalem like a conquering king entering the capital city to claim power for himself.

The city was already overflowing with people celebrating the Passover. When they saw Jesus approaching riding a donkey, they came alive with excitement. Spontaneously they joined in the shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in highest heaven!”

A lady tells about the Palm Sunday celebration at her church. It was their tradition to celebrate Palm Sunday with members marching outside the church waving palm leaves as they sang the Palm Sunday hymns. Because they knew that Palm Sunday was but a prelude to Good Friday, however, the congregation was careful not to get too giddy as they did this. After all, as she says, “We already know, as Paul Harvey says, `the rest of the story.’”

It’s hard to put your whole heart into the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when you know what comes next. “So, the adults hold back…” she writes, “And somehow, we think if we don’t get too exuberant with the palm frond on Sunday, maybe we can escape the nail on Friday.” The first Palm Sunday crowd was filled with excitement as Jesus made his way into the holy city. The people were filled with expectation. They did not hold back their celebration in any way.

FOR JESUS, however, above the shouted “Hosannas,” and the waving palm branches, stood the cross. He was not deluded by the cheering crowds. He knew what was coming next. He knew what he must do. There was no turning back.

Kenneth Lyerly of Kenosha, Wisconsin was the narrator at his church’s Easter cantata a few years ago. He remembers that as they were about to go into the sanctuary to sing, the pastor came up to him and asked if he would be willing to carry the cross out at the end of the service. Kenneth agreed without giving it a second thought. “But as the cantata went on,” he recalls, “I had a lot of time between narrations to think about what I had been asked to do.” 

From where he was standing, he could see the cross at the rear of the sanctuary. “As I thought about carrying it out, I had a strong feeling of not being worthy.” He thought that someone else should do it. “I wondered why the pastor had asked me. Why hadn’t he asked someone else?” These thoughts distracted him from what he was supposed to be reading in the cantata. His eyes kept returning to the cross.

At the end of the service, the pastor brought the cross over and handed it to Kenneth. He was struck by its size and weight. “It wasn’t a very big cross,” he said, “but at that moment it seemed very large and very heavy.” The walk from the front of the church to the back seemed a long way. “A part of me wanted to get it over with; to get out of there and put it down, because I felt very uncomfortable with it.”

Then something unexpected happened. “When I got out into the narthex, I turned and watched as the children started to come out of the sanctuary.” A little boy looked up and touched the cross. He asked, “Did Jesus really die on a cross like this?”  “It was all that I could do to say yes,” Kenneth later said, “but I did manage to get it out. I’ll never forget what happened next. His face lit up as he began to comprehend, probably for the first time in his life what Jesus had done for him. As I lay the cross down, I felt very pleased that I had been given the opportunity to carry it.”

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus knew that before the week was over, he would be carrying a cross through the streets of Jerusalem. There would be no cheering crowds that day. He knew what he had to do to fulfill God’s will. He had to give his life for a dying world.

In Korea there once stood an ancient bell famous for its beautiful tone. It had been commissioned by a king as a way of showing the people’s devotion to Buddha. The king’s advisors had told him that making a huge temple bell would secure the nation from foreign invasion. The specialist who cast the bell had produced several failures until he concluded that the best way to produce a great bell was to sacrifice a young maiden:

Soldiers were sent to find and fetch such a young girl. Coming upon a poor mother in a farm village with her small daughter, they took the child away, while she cried out piteously: “Emille, Emille!”  “Mother! O Mother!” When the molten lead and iron were prepared, the little girl was thrown in. At last the bell maker succeeded. The bell, called the Emille Bell, made a sound more beautiful than any other.

When it rang, most people praised the art that had produced such a beautiful sound. But whenever the mother whose child had been sacrificed heard it, her heart broke anew. Her neighbors, who knew of her sacrifice and pain, could not hear the beautiful tone without pain either.Only those who understand the sacrifice can feel the pain. Others just enjoy the sound. Do you hear the sound? Do you understand the sacrifice? Jesus fulfilled an ancient prophecy. He set his course. He finished his race. And he did it for you and me.  AMEN.

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

The Book of Common Prayer reminds us that if one is unable to actually consume the consecrated bread and wine due to extreme sickness or disability, the desire is enough for God to grant all the benefits of communion (BCP, p. 457). When being present at a celebration of the Eucharist is absolutely impossible, this act of prayer and meditation can provide the means by which you can associate yourself with the Eucharistic Action and open yourself to God’s grace and blessing.

Blessed be God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

Let the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me, O Lord, to mercifully cleanse my heart and defend me from all adversities; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: Revelation 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.

The Psalm: Psalm 23:5-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The Gospel: John 15:5

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing.

If time and circumstances permit, confess your faith with the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

In your own words, pray for your own needs, for those on your heart, for the peace of the world, and for the Church. 

After offering these intercessions, continue with the

Act of Contrition

O God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you and for all the wrongs I have done and the good I have not done. Especially I confess….Forgive me for Jesus’ sake, and grant me strength and wisdom to amend my life. Amen.

Act of Reception

In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day, (and remembering particularly my own parish and those worshiping there) I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death, and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.

And particularly for the blessings given me…. I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart. I unite myself with you and embrace you with all my heart, my soul, and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen.

Our Father…

Come Lord Jesus, and dwell in my heart in the fullness of your strength; be my wisdom and guide me in right pathways; conform my life and actions to the image of your holiness; and, in the power of your gracious might, rule over every hostile power that threatens or disturbs the growth of your kingdom, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ my Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, + the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with me now and always. Amen.

Spiritual Communion is excerpted from Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.

Permission is given to reproduce this text for use in local worshiping communities.