Worship Elements: April 2, 2023

March 1st, 2020

Palm/Passion Sunday

COLOR: Purple
PALM SUNDAY READINGS: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Matthew 21:1-11
PASSION SUNDAY READINGS: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14–27:66 (27:11-54)


This last Sunday in Lent heralds the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with Jesus the liberator. This Sunday also ushers in the beginning of Holy Week and what feels like defeat as we face the consequences of standing up to unjust authority. While it is difficult to move so quickly from joy
to sorrow, a good symbol can help us make this transition. The palms that are waved at the beginning of the service become the sign of our “letting go” into the sorrow of the events of the week to come. Encouraged by the steadfast love of God expressed in the scriptures, this is a Sunday to stand up together with Jesus even in the face of adversity.


Call to Worship (Psalm 118, Matthew 21)

(Needed: one liturgist, five readers, two acolytes, one gong & player, ten or so youth, and many children with palms. In a call and response fashion, the liturgist reads the unmarked words while the congregation reads the bolded words. Only these parts of the script need to be in the program.)

Liturgist: When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples ahead, 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.”

People: Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Liturgist: 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 spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

(Gong sounds)

Reader 1: (from the back) Open the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to God.

Reader 2: (from the back) This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.

Readers 1&2: I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.

Musical Offering (e.g., a choir may sing the choral introit “The Gates of the City.”)

(Call to Worship, Continued)
(Gong sounds)

Reader 3: (from the altar as the ten youths bring cloths down the center aisle and place them on the
altar) The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

All Readers: (from around the congregation, randomly, overlapping each other) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

(Gong sounds)

Reader 4: (from the baptismal font) O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success.

(Acolytes come forward with the light)

Reader 4: The crowds that went ahead of Jesus and that followed him were shouting:

People: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Reader 5: (from the front center aisle, indicating to acolytes as they pass) The Lord is God, and God has given us light.

(pause as the candles are lit)

Reader 5: With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

People: Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. God’s steadfast love endures forever! 

All Readers: You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God and I will exalt you.

Processional Hymn (e.g., “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna”)

(All persons should have palms to wave from their seats. The children process with palms, led by banners, ribbons on sticks, whatever makes a colorful and festive entrance.)

Unison Prayer of Confession (Matthew 21, Psalm 118)

O God,
we stand at the gate,
hesitant and uncertain;
we are reluctant to answer your invitation;
we are slow to embark on the journey
toward your reign.
Forgive us, we pray.
Grant us the help we need to be your people—
the courage to join you in the procession;
the selflessness to lay our cloaks before you;
the freedom to lift our palms to your glory;
and the knowledge that by your grace
we are forgiven. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Hear this good news!
The procession is ever moving forward.
We can join at any moment.
The invitation still stands!
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!
Glory to God! Amen!


Prayer for Illumination (Isaiah 50:4)

God of Courage,
give us wisdom,
that we may sustain the weary
with our words.
As we speak,
help us also to listen.

Response to the Word (Isaiah 50, Psalm 31)

Our God helps us!
We stand up together.
Our God is gracious.
We put our trust in the Lord.
God’s face shines upon us.
We find salvation in God’s steadfast love.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen!


Offering Prayer (Philippians 2)

Name above all names,
as you emptied yourself for others,
we offer ourselves and these gifts
as a sign of our hope in your reign.
Where there is death, bring life.
Where there is sorrow, bring joy.
Where there is injustice, bring courage for change.

Ritual of Passion (Matthew 27:11-54)

(As the Matthew text is read, play meditative music underneath. Invite people to bring their palm branches to the chancel and lay them on the steps or altar where they will wither throughout Holy Week. The invitation to this action should highlight the move from triumphal entry with the waving of palms to a much more somber mood as the week progresses.)


Benediction (Matthew 27:54)

“Truly this man Jesus was God’s Son.”
As disciples of Jesus, truly you are God’s children.
Go into this week with the knowledge
that resurrection will come,
even when it seems there is no tomorrow.
Be blessed and be a blessing,
with the courage to stand with those in need.
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.


Gathering Words (Psalm 118)

Open the gates!
Give us courage to walk through!
Lay down the cloaks.
We mark the journey to Love’s reign.
Lift up the branches!
Let us boldly proclaim God’s peace!

Passion Sentences (Psalm 31)

Grief wastes me.
Scorn surrounds me.
There is scheming against me.
My strength fails.
But your face shines.
I will trust in you.
And your love endures.
I will trust in you.

From The Abingdon Worship Annual edited by Mary J. Scifres and B.J. Beu, Copyright © Abingdon Press. 

comments powered by Disqus