Palm / Passion Sunday, April 5, 2020


The Christ Candle is Lit
We light a candle to remind us of the presence and the love of Christ that is with us all.

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge these lands upon which we worship, for those of us in Penticton, as the ancestral, traditional and unceded lands of the Syilx (Say-elks) / Okanagan First Nations. Together with Indigenous peoples we desire a different relationship based on respect and right relations.

Call to Worship:

One:   The story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, 
tells us that after his celebrated arrival
he went into the Temple 
and looked around at everything. 
As we gather for worship today 
may it be with a sense that Jesus 
is with us too, and is looking around. 

All:     May our eyes be open to see Him, 
may our hearts be ready to be seen by Him, 
and may we be transformed 
so that we see the world through His eyes. 
Amen. (Anne Siddel, Stillpoint Spirituality, adapted)

Lenten Candle Lighting: Each Sunday we have been lighting a candle to mark our Lenten Journey. This week we light the sixth candle as we journey with Jesus into Jerusalem.

Centering Refrain: Bless the Lord My Soul (Songs and Prayers from Taize 9) x 3
Bless the Lord my soul
And bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord my soul
who leads me into light.  (© 1991, Les Presses de Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc., agent Contributors: Jacques Berthier, Taizé. Used by Permission (©LicenSing #605256))

Remembering Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-17) 

21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying 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. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.[a]” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“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.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd[b] spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The 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!”

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Now we join in welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. This is the time to wave your branches or scarves or whatever you have (watch your candles) as we join together in singing:

Hymn: All Glory, Laud and Honour (VU #122)

Palm Sunday starts with much fanfare and loud Hosannas. Jesus rides into Jerusalem. People line the streets and cheer. They lay down their coats to greet him. 

There’s a lot happening in Jerusalem that day. When this story was taking place, it was the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jewish people would have been gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate this day. Passover is a commemoration and celebration of the Exodus, when God led the enslaved and oppressed people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land.

At the time, Jerusalem and all of the Middle East was under control of the Roman Empire. Now Passover had political undertones – it celebrated freedom – an escape – from Empire. The streets would be crowded with people and it was often tense –  ripe for a riot. So Rome would provide additional security during Passover. The Roman king would march into Jerusalem from the west side with a military procession. 

So here you have coming into Jerusalem from the west, the King, Empire surrounded by the military, waving their swords. And coming into Jerusalem from the east was Jesus, riding on a donkey, surrounded by women, fishermen, outcasts in society, cheering and waving palm branches, singing Hosannas. There is God in contrast to Empire, palm branches – a symbol of peace and anti-imperialism – in contrast to guns and swords.

Jesus is engaging in a radical, subversive act – he is intentionally creating a counter-narrative to the one being offered on the other side of the city. 

Empire is saying: power and force. 

Jesus is saying there’s a different way to be in the world, to make the world work. This way is rooted in love – indiscriminate love.

This understanding is helps us as we navigate our way toward Easter. Seeing Jesus making the choice of indiscriminate love. It can also be helpful as we navigate our world. There are always two ways of being in the world. We can take an approach of power or of love.

This scene feels so far away today. It does not feel like a time to celebrate. There is no one in the streets, yelling Hosanna as the world collectively watches with bated breath to hear about the latest numbers of those infected with the corona virus, those who recovered and those who have died. 

And yet, we can see that it is love, not power, that is bringing us together during these times. We are so inter-connected right now. Even though we can’t meet in person, this pandemic has made us aware of just how connected we are, how much we yearn for community and connection, how our actions affect each other — in our church community, the wider community and around the world.  

It is out of love for our family and neighbours that we stay home and practice physical distancing to reduce the spread of this virus and the impact on our front-line workers. It is out of love that we reach out and connect with each other. It is love that will lead us toward making a more just world. 

We are currently reading The Return of the Prodigal Son for the Lent book study. In the book, Henri Nouwen suggests adopting a practice of gratitude as a way to stay to connected to the love that exists within. He points out that gratitude “involves a conscious choice.” (85) Each time we make that choice, the next choice “is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious.” (86) He says that living in gratitude means to love without expecting love in return. This takes a leap of faith, but each time he takes that leap, it reveals God, with him and within those around him.

(Inspired by Nick Coates, Red Deer UC and “The Last Week”, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan)

Let us join together in a responsive prayer based on Psalm 118

A Psalm of Celebration (Based on Psalm 118)
One:   Though we have known hardship and pain,
though life has not always turned out as we had hoped,
we will stand here and say:

All:     God’s steadfast love endures for ever!

One:   Though life becomes more complex,
the deepest questions remain unanswered,
and the mystery of faith deepens, we will say:

All:     God’s steadfast love endures for ever!

One:   And though the pain of the world
often seems more than we can bear or address,
we will stand firm in our faith and say:

All:     God’s steadfast love endures for ever! (Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality)

As we prepare for Holy Week, we listen to what unfolded for Jesus after his entrance to Jerusalem

Reading #1: Jesus Cleanses the Temple, Matthew 21:12-13 
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
    but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Centering Refrain: Bless the Lord My Soul (Songs and Prayers from Taize 9) x 3
Bless the Lord my soul
And bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord my soul
who leads me into light.  (© 1991, Les Presses de Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc., agent Contributors: Jacques Berthier, Taizé. Used by Permission (©LicenSing #605256))

Reading #2: Matthew 21:14 – 16
The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard[a] the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise for yourself’?”

We often have visions of a calm, peaceful Jesus. Yet in Scripture we also hear that Jesus got angry. Jesus turned over tables, he confronted religious authorities. 

Money changers had a role at the Temple. Each year at Passover Jews came from all over to make a sacrifice at the Temple. It was too far to bring animals to sacrifice with them so they would purchase them in Jerusalem. This was also the time that most Jews paid their Temple tax. Money changers would exchange Roman coins for currency used in the Temple. This was not bad in and of itself. But people were taking advantage of the situation. They were over charging for the sacrificial animals and charging exorbitant rates to change money – exploiting those who were living in poverty. 

Jesus was angry over injustice.

There are things in our world to be angry about. As we experience these unprecedented times and make adjustments to our lives to stay home and stay safe, we are reminded that there are people in our communities without a home; there are people who live close to the margins and are facing uncertainty and loss. This crisis is highlighting challenges in our economic system; people have been failed by systems that have been put in place to help. There are indigenous communities that in addition to dealing with these new measures, still do not have clean drinking water; People are experiencing racism and hatred.

VU #117 Jesus Christ is Waiting v 1-3

Reading #3: The Lament over Jerusalem Matthew 23:37 – 39

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate for I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Centering Refrain: Bless the Lord My Soul (Songs and Prayers from Taize 9) x 3
Bless the Lord my soul
And bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord my soul
who leads me into light. (© 1991, Les Presses de Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc., agent Contributors: Jacques Berthier, Taizé. Used by Permission (©LicenSing #605256))

Reading #4: Matthew 26: 1-5, 14-16
The Plot to Kill Jesus

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

you are cheap at the price, jesus:
thirty pieces of silver for a kingdom.

i bet judas and you had conversations galore about this
for three years nearly,
that this was no surprise to you.

i can imagine him taking you aside saying, ‘now, lord. now!
the people will listen and they’ll rally round you.
this is the kairos.’

and what was your reply?

did you have one
or was it a silent acceptance of what people cannot accept
that love is a different way
it is never by force
never by conflict
never by violence

that they saw the wrong conflict

this one was much bigger (Roddy Hamilton, Muddy Paws)

VU #117 Jesus Christ is Waiting v 4-5

Time of Silent Reflection

Pastoral Prayer 
Let us center ourselves for prayer. 

God of all hopefulness, God of my life
on this holy day of Palms and Passions
and through this
the holiest of weeks,
when our Lenten journey
finds its completion

through pain
losses of all kinds,
through fear
and finger pointing.

Fill us we pray, with the ability to
turn to you, 
In our hearts and minds and souls
Let you in
that we might turn to you,
return to you,
be transformed in you,
through you, by you,
for you.

once more,
this day, this week,
me, you.

May we become a new people,
a gentle people,
a people of
love and compassion,
born anew from our
deepest sorrow
through the breadth of your
and love.

And then, may we do likewise.
And, love.
Amen.  — written by Terri and posted on RevGalBlogPals A Place for Prayer blog (adapted)

(Each Sunday in Lent we are reciting a different version of the Lord’s Prayer)

Eternal Spirit 
Earth-Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, 
source of all that is and that shall be, 
Father and Mother of us all.
Loving God, in whom is heaven. 
The hallowing of your name echoes through 
the universe! 
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples 
of the earth! 

Your heavenly will be done by all created beings! 
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom 
sustain our hope and come on earth. 
With the bread we need for today, feed us. 
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. 
In times of temptation and test, spare us. 
From the grip of all that is evil, free us. 
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, 
now and forever. 



Music: Imagine 

The story of the last week of Jesus’ life continues with Holy Week Services this week. We will close with a blessing from Murray Pruden, Indigenous Minister at Pacific Mountain Regional Council, before our going forth hymn.

A Blessing

(Shared by Murray Pruden, Indigenous Minister, Pacific Mountain Regional Council UCC)

God loves you and Blesses you.
We pray that you always love yourself,
Heal and take care of yourself,
With the guidance of Jesus our friend and teacher, 

The Holy Spirit that brings us the source of our being, 

And the Creator, the maker of it all.

Going Forth: MV #215
Peace be with you, peace forever, 
peace be with you my friends.  
Till we meet again, 
may God be with you. 
Peace, peace, peace. (Words and music Alison L Wesley (Slaats) 2000. Words and Music copyright Alison L. Wesley (Slaats). Used by Permission (©LicenSing #605256))






The story of the last week of Jesus’ life continues

April 9     Maundy Thursday Taize Service 10 am
April 10   Good Friday 10 a.m. 
April 12   Sunrise Service 7:30 a.m.
UCC Easter Communion Service 12 pm

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