Worship Connection: April 9, 2017 (Option 1)

March 12th, 2017

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)

Note: We have been following the theme of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AT THE CROSS, highlighting people whose lives Jesus transformed. Today’s theme is “The Burden-Bearer Rides Home” and for Palm Sunday a special series of monologues is used, featuring the people we have met throughout the Lenten Journey. There is still a scripted presentation of the Gospel Lesson, which may be then rolled over into the monologues. The same people who portrayed the characters should be portraying them on this Sunday.

CALLS TO WORSHIP

Call to Worship #1:
L: This is a day to let your heart take control of your lips.
P: We can’t keep silent. Our hearts are bursting with praise for Jesus, King of our lives!
L: In spite of the shadow of the cross over the palm-strewn way, Jesus rides in the hearts of those who surrender to him.
P: We commit ourselves wholly to Jesus and ask him to be present in our lives always. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2:
L: The way has been prepared.
P: For the crowds it is the way of celebration.
L: For Jesus it is the way of completion
P: Amid shouts and waving palm branches, he comes into the Holy City.
L: Open your hearts this day to receive the Savior.
P: We open wide our hearts and spirits to receive Jesus the Christ. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3:
[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2109, “Hosanna! Hosanna!" offer the following call to worship as directed. This call to worship may be used as a special processional for the choir.]

Soloist and choir: singing leader part and response part, verse 1 of “Hosanna! Hosanna!" through 1 time

L: Look! He is coming! The King of all creation is riding into Jerusalem!
P: He is seated on a donkey’s back! He does not look like royalty.
L: Yet the crowds cheer and wave branches from the palm trees.
P: Is he riding into a royal welcome or to condemnation?

Soloist and choir: singing leader part and response part, verse 2 of “Hosanna! Hosanna!" through 1 time

L: Let us join the celebration and raise our voices to welcome the Lord of Life!
P: Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord. AMEN.

Call to Worship #4:
L: Wave high your palm branches! The Lord of life approaches!
P: Sing with great joy for the Savior has come to us!
L: Even the beast of burden on which he rides seems to be royal.
P: All creation shouts praises to the King of Kings!
L: Hosanna! Hosanna!
P: Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna! AMEN.

PRAYERS, READING, BENEDICTION

Opening Prayer
O Lord God, whose Son followed your will, both as Servant and Savior, and now rules in the hearts of those who accept him as King: Open our hearts to his rule, that we may rejoice in the blessings of his kingdom and share with those who honor him with their lives. In his name, we pray. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession
Patient God, we confess that we love a parade. We are very happy to see banners waving and hear people shouting their praises. Our hearts thrill to the spectacle. But we fail to see the sadness on the face of the Savior; our shouts block out his sorrow. He comes to us as King, and we expect that royal treatment will follow. We do not and cannot believe that in a few days we will be among those who will turn our backs and run from his presence. How fickle we are, O Lord. Yet you continually forgive us and call us to turn our lives around--to see the needs of others, to reach out in trust and faith, to be willing to witness to your good news of saving love. Heal our hearts and give us courage for the days ahead; for we ask this in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Words of Assurance
Though you have fallen short, God reaches out to you in loving forgiveness. God is with you, celebrating this day and walking all the way to the cross with you. For the time of salvation is near. AMEN.

Pastoral Prayer
Are you ever amazed, O Lord, at our responses to the Savior? We get all excited about the parade into Jerusalem. We gather palm fronds and distribute them among those present so that they can wave them in triumph, replicating the parade and the crowd. Children sing the praises of Jesus. Adults remove their cloaks and place them on the road in front of the donkey so that he may not make a misstep. We could stay at this scene forever and enjoy the moment. But we are being called forward, through the gates of the Holy City to the Temple and from the Temple to the Cross. Be with us and give us courage to face what lies ahead. Strengthen our faith that we will remain steadfast at the time of reckoning; for we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Reading
[This may be used as the introduction to the gospel lesson.
Note: If you are not going to do the dramatic presentation from each of the people Jesus met, you may want to use this as the dramatic presentation of the scripture.]

Narrator:
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethpage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples with these instructions:

Jesus:
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.

Narrator:
This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “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 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 those that followed were shouting:

Congregation:
Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!

Narrator:
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil. People were wondering who this person was? Some said that he is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.

***************
[Note: If you are going to replace the reading of the scripture with the dramatic presentation, you may want to use this.]

Narrator:
The crowds surged into Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. This was the high, holy time--a time when something wonderful could happen in the lives of believers. They came offering sacrifices and prayers, bringing their hopes and dreams, their burdens and sorrows. All these were mingled together with the aromas of incense and sacrifice--smoke billowing toward heaven - toward God.

Congregation:
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Behold, the king comes. He comes riding on a donkey. Surely this is the son of God. Hosanna in the highest!

[Nicodemus enters.]

Nicodemus:
I came here to the central part of the city to be part of the usual festivities that surround the preparations for Passover. Everything must be done correctly, and I am one of those who is charged with that authority. But my heart isn’t in it. I can’t seem to get the face and words of Jesus out of my mind. He is like no other prophet we have ever known; there is something so different about him. A great teacher? Perhaps. But something more. He saw into my soul. He knew my longings and my burdens. Now he has come to Jerusalem. I saw him, riding on a small donkey. People were waving palm branches, and some were even throwing their cloaks in the path in front of the donkey. His disciples were shouting. People began to sing, “Behold, the King comes!” The King of this kingdom? I don’t think so. His kingdom would be much larger. I don’t know what’s in store for him here. I do know that he is in great trouble with the Temple hierarchy. They want to get rid of him. He threatens their authority; and more, he challenges their faith. He is a dangerous person in their eyes. [Nicodemus leaves.]

[The woman at the well enters.]

Woman at the well:
So this is Jerusalem. I have never been here before, but after the time we spent with Jesus, that miraculous day when he told us of God’s power and love for us, I had to follow him here. I have been on the outskirts of town on the Mount of Olives with some of his followers. We listened to him speak in that soft tone that seemed to comfort us. Today, he rode a small donkey down the path into the city. It seemed that all Jerusalem turned out to greet him. People were stripping palm fronds from the trees and waving them like banners and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord!” Some people lined the path of the donkey with their cloaks, so that he would not step on stones or stumble. What an incredible sight! This city is so fortunate. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One, and he comes to bring them good news of peace. [pause] But I sense something sinister here. Something is not right. There are whispering voices and suspicious glances; the religious leaders are more in evidence that I thought they would be. Perhaps it is only my imagination. After all, I am an outsider. [pause] Maybe it is always like this at Passover. [The woman at the well leaves.]

[The blind man enters.]

Blind Man:
The colors are unbelievable! People, plants, colors, shapes, forms! It is almost too much for me to take in. When Jesus healed me--gave me back my sight--I decided to become one of his followers. I am nobody special. I’ll never be one of the main disciples, but I will always praise God for the gift I have received through Jesus. Like the woman at the well over there, I was also on the hillside at Mt. Olivet. I stood among the many that wanted to enter Jerusalem with Jesus. I have never seen the golden city before now. I followed him down the path. He was astride a small donkey. People were waving palm branches and putting their cloaks in the pathway. It was overwhelming! “Here comes the King,” they shouted. I agreed with them. He would be the one to rule in my live. I wanted to learn more about him and the good news he brought. There is so much to see. One of the things that bothers my sight is the sense that I get that some people here don’t like him. They seem to be wary of Him. I’ve even heard some whispers of finding ways to get rid of him. But I can’t be sure of that. After all, there is so much to see, so much to do. [The blind man leaves.]

[Martha enters.]

Martha:
We decided to spend Passover in Jerusalem this year. Even though our home is ready for the holiday, we wanted to come with Jesus to Jerusalem. There may be some way in which I can help. I know how to make preparations for meals and for accommodations and how to deal with the vendors for food. Personally, I prefer to be a background person and help in any way that I can. Lazarus wanted us to become part of the group that traveled down the path from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem. He said it would be like a parade. I would rather have just gone into the city and begun to make arrangements for our sojourn. However, there is nothing that I would not do for my brother. So we followed Jesus down the path. He rode on a donkey. The crowds were gathering and swarming to meet Jesus, shouting and calling out to him. They waved palm branches. It was a parade! I wondered if Jesus was pleased. Everyone seemed to love him. But he wore a look of sadness, just as though all the burdens of the people had been heaped upon his shoulders. Something is wrong. This should be a time of triumph, but it isn’t. [Martha leaves].

[Mary enters.]

Mary:
You can just imagine how exciting it was to march down that path from Olivet to Jerusalem! People were shouting out to Jesus and celebrating his presence. This was a great parade! They were waving palm branches! Some of the people were throwing their cloaks on the path in front of the donkey. I was so happy! I wanted to shout to everyone who came to see Jesus, “Here is the Messiah! Here is the King!” Some of the people seemed to know that, for I heard shouts of “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” The Lord entered the Holy City and things will never be the same. He will change things. Those who oppress will be brought low. Peace will be restored to our nation and our people. At last we will be the people whom God called out of bondage, and we will be a people of light. [pause] Martha says that something isn’t right. Martha is worried, but that’s Martha. She always worries. She will see. Jesus will turn things around here. Just you wait! [Mary leaves.]

[Lazarus enters.]

Lazarus:
Yes, I am the one whom Jesus raised from the dead! You know, it’s hard for me to talk about that. I am told that I died. Then one day, he came, and behold, I am alive again! And my life has taken on a new dimension. I feel such a sense of freedom and peace. I wanted to walk into Jerusalem with Jesus. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, “Jesus raised me from the dead! He is Messiah, the Anointed One of God!” I convinced Martha, the reluctant one, and Mary, the eager one, to accompany me on the journey from the Mount of Olives into the city. We would be part of a parade that would forever change the lives of all people. We would march in with the King. Jesus mounted a donkey for the trip into the city, a sure sign that the King is coming, a definite reminder of the passages in Isaiah’s scroll about the King, the Anointed One of God. He would ride into the city on a donkey, a beast of burden. I believe that he is the One! But the look on his face gives me concern. He looks as though he has the burdens of us all on his shoulders. He should be excited. But he looks sad. It is as though he knows something that we don’t know. It makes me uneasy to see that expression. I wish I knew. Is something going to happen to him? Is there something I can do to protect him? Is this going to be his triumphal entry, or will it be something else? I don’t know what to think. I will just be grateful that I am with him. I will help him all that I can. Everything will be all right. I’m sure. [Lazarus leaves.]

[Note: This might be a good place for a brief message on Palm Sunday and expectations.]

Benediction
Lord, just as we have entered Jerusalem with you, be with us in all the Jerusalems we will be facing. Guide our steps. Encourage our hearts. Give us abundant faith to follow you. AMEN.

ARTISTIC ELEMENTS

The traditional Color for today is: PURPLE; however, I have chosen to leave the “character” colors in place.

SURFACE:
There are no risers on the worship center.

FABRIC:
The worship center is covered with a purple base cloth and the strips of cloth that have been gathered from the cross during Lent. The strips of burlap, left at the foot of the cross, are now tossed on the fabric as it is draped on the worship center; some of them may fall into the “puddled” fabric on the floor.

CANDLES:
Place two white candles on either side of the open Bible.

FLOWERS/PLANTS:
From a local florist, gather two bunches of Ti Palms, the kind that are used in funeral baskets. Place them in containers--preferably earthenware--on either side of the candles. Use traditional palm fronds to be given to the congregation and also to place some of the on the fabric on the worship center.

ROCKS/WOOD:
Not recommended for this setting.

OTHER:
Place an open Bible on the center of the worship table, flanked by the white candles and the arrangements of Ti palms.

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