Procession with Palms
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna to the Son of David.
Let Us Pray
Mercifully assist us, O Lord
God of our salvation,
that we may enter with joy
upon the contemplation
of those mighty acts whereby
you have given us life everlasting;
through your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Processional Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11
1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
2 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.
3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately."
4 This 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."
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;
7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.
8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
9 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."
Blessing of Palms
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 these branches
and those who carry them.
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.
Hymn: “All Glory, Laud and Honor”
Refrain, All glory, laud, and honor
to you, redeemer, king,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
You are the king of Israel
and David's royal Son,
now in the Lord's name coming,
our King and Blessed One. Refrain
The company of angels
are praising you on high;
creation and all mortals
in chorus make reply. Refrain
The multitude of pilgrims
with palms before you went;
our praise and prayer and anthems
before you we present. Refrain
To you, before your passion,
they sang their hymns of praise.
To you, now high exalted,
our melody we raise. Refrain
Their praises you accepted;
accept the prayers we bring,
great author of all goodness,
O good and gracious King. Refrain
Prayer of the Day
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.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
My eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.
For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing;
my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.
I am the scorn of all my enemies, a disgrace to my neighbors, a dismay to my acquaintances; when they see me in the street they avoid me.
Like the dead I am forgotten, out of mind;
I am as useless as a broken pot.
For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around;
They put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life.
But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord.
I have said, “You are my God.
My times are in your hand;
Rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.”
Gospel: Matthew 26:14--27:66
The Betrayal by Judas.
14 Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests
15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
16 and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. Preparations for the Passover.
17 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’”
19 The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. The Betrayer.
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve.
21 And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
22 Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”
23 He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.
24 The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
25 Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.” The Lord’s Supper.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you,
28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.
29 I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”
30 Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Peter’s Denial Foretold.
31 Then Jesus said to them, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed’;
32 but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.”
33 Peter said to him in reply, “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.”
34 Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”
35 Peter said to him, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And all the disciples spoke likewise. The Agony in the Garden.
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
37 He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.”
39 He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
40 When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?
41 Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”
43 Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open.
44 He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.
45 Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.
46 Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.” The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus.
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people.
48 His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.”
49 Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him.
50 Jesus answered him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
51 And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear.
52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
53 Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?
54 But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”
55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me.
56 But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. Jesus Before the Sanhedrin.
57 Those who had arrested Jesus led him away to Caiaphas[y] the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
58 Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome.
59 The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death,
60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward
61 who stated, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.’”
62 The high priest rose and addressed him, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?”
63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
64 Jesus said to him in reply, “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’”
65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy;
66 what is your opinion?” They said in reply, “He deserves to die!”
67 Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him,
68 saying, “Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?” Peter’s Denial of Jesus.
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”
70 But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about!”
71 As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.”
72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man!”
73 A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away.”
74 At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately a cock crowed.
75 Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly.
Chapter 27 Jesus Before Pilate.
1 When it was morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.
2 They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. The Death of Judas.
3 Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver[aj] to the chief priests and elders,
4 saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.”
5 Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.
6 The chief priests gathered up the money, but said, “It is not lawful to deposit this in the temple treasury, for it is the price of blood.”
7 After consultation, they used it to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.
Gospel (continued): Matthew 26:14--27:66
8 That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood.
9 Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of a man with a price on his head, a price set by some of the Israelites,
10 and they paid it out for the potter’s field just as the Lord had commanded me.” Jesus Questioned by Pilate.
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.”
12 And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer.
13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”
14 But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed. The Sentence of Death.
15 Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished.
16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called [Jesus] Barabbas.
17 So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, [Jesus] Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?”
18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over.
19 While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”
20 The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.
21 The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”
23 But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.”
25 And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged,[au] he handed him over to be crucified. Mockery by the Soldiers.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium[av] and gathered the whole cohort around him.
28 They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak[aw] about him.
29 Weaving a crown out of thorns,[ax] they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
30 They spat upon him[ay] and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.
31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him. The Way of the Cross.[az]
32 As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross. The Crucifixion.
33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull),
34 they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.
35 After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots;
36 then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
37 And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
38 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.
39 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads
40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, [and] come down from the cross!”
41 Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.
43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
44 The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way. The Death of Jesus.
45 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
47 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink.
49 But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.
51 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split,
52 tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
53 And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
54 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
55 There were many women there, looking on from a distance,[bn] who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.
56 Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. The Burial of Jesus.[bo]
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus.
58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.
59 Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen
60 and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.
61 But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb. The Guard at the Tomb.
62 The next day, the one following the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate
63 and said, “Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’
64 Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.”
65 Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.”
66 So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.
Jerusalem was going to be Camelot, and Jesus was going to be King Arthur at least that's the way Pastor Thomas Long once characterized the situation.
The crowds were dreaming of trumpets, towers, tapestries, capes, sashes, long flowing robes, glimmering crowns, and sparkling silver scepters.
The disciples would be knights at the round table, shining in their armor, using might for right battling to snuff out evil.
And just like the popular musical, the rain would never fall until after sundown. By eight the morning fog will disappear.
There would be a legal limit to the snow. July and August could not be too hot. It was going to be Camelot.
Five hundred years earlier, the prophet Zechariah said that one day there would be a day like this. This ancient promise was etched indelibly
in the mind of a glory-starved nation. For half a millennium, they kept an eye out for David's successor to gallop into town and assume the throne.
The orchestra was forever practicing, "Happy days are here again."
So . . . when Jesus decided it was finally time for the world's most anticipated parade, they were ready. As he rode like a conquering king into his capital city,
tourists from all over Israel lined the street and cheered wildly. The crowds shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David, the promised one." They cheered until they were hoarse.
They laughed and cried and danced and sang. The disciples thought it was the best day they had ever known, and they weren't far from the truth.
The crowd lining the parade route should be commended for their enthusiasm. They weren't just there because they loved a good parade.
They were there because they wanted to believe. If this crowd had seen the faintest glimmer on the horizon, they would have gone looking for the pot of gold.
Many people, on the other hand, believe so little that they never even consider joining the parade. They're too preoccupied with the trivialities that
they mistakenly think are important. We have to hope that if we'd been in Jerusalem that day, we would have joined in the celebration, but who knows.
The crowd that lined the road was filled with people whose routines could be interrupted. There were old men who had been making this Passover pilgrimage for over fifty years.
There were children who didn't know exactly what was going on . . . but they were having a ball! There were people of all ages . . . people who believed at least
enough to overlook the fact that Jesus was an outlaw sought by the authorities. They believed enough for a lump in the throat, goose bumps, and the wide eyes of wonder.
If this was the one they had been expecting for so many years, then the big takeover was about to begin.
But all too soon . . . their hopes and dreams were destroyed. He was like no king they'd seen before.
What kind of king walks to work, sleeps beneath the stars, lives among the poor, and fills his calendar with people for whom kings have no time?
Whatever questions the crowd had were answered five days later when the grand marshal of the parade was nailed to a cross.
Like that Palm Sunday crowd, we too, are tempted to praise Jesus without following Jesus. We want to see what we want to see.
We would like a Jesus who makes our lives easier. I have in my mind the Messiah I think I'd most enjoy following. You probably do as well.
But, in order to follow, we have to give up our ideas about the path Jesus should take, and admit that his way leads to the cross.
There are many who try to live as Palm Sunday Christians, keeping a safe distance from the one they say they're following. It's simpler to set our own agenda.
That's why our goals often reflect the popular ideas of what it means to be a religious success. The Christian community is tempted to skip the struggles and
become the home of convention, caution, discretion and reasonableness.
The Church is tempted to line the road on Palm Sunday, but turn away when Jesus continues to the cross. We are tempted to be admirers rather than followers.
However, Christ's church is not the fellowship of the comfortable, but of the cross.
To follow Christ can me to go against the grain: to tell the truth in a world that lies; give in a world that takes; love in a world that lusts;
serve in a world that waits to be served; worship in a world that entertains and carry a cross in a world that crucifies those who love.
No doubt, this will be the strangest Palm Sunday. Today there are no parades . . . no packed churches. Today we worship apart from one another.
But . . . today we can be comforted by memories of previous Palm Sundays.
Mary and I spent a month in Key West, Florida in the spring of 2017. It is one of our very favorite places on earth. When in Key West, we worship at
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Duval Street. The former rector, Father Larry Hooper, is a good friend. It has been my great honor to preach there on occasion
and even to serve as the supply priest a few summers ago.
Palm Sunday in Key West is incredible! For one thing, on the Sunday prior to Palm Sunday, parishioners are reminded to bring a few palm branches for their own
yards for Palm Sunday. Here in Wisconsin, we have to order palm branches weeks before palm Sunday . . . sometimes at a hefty price. In Key West, you bring your
own . . . very cool! At St. Paul’s, the Palm Sunday liturgy begins outside in the beautiful courtyard. The priest begins the liturgy with the familiar words,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. The gathered congregation responds, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The gospel is read, the palms are blessed
and all begin singing the processional hymn, “All Glory, Laud and Honor” while parading around the courtyard and eventually entering the sanctuary. It is a grand beginning to a solemn week.
I will miss our being together this Palm Sunday. May you take time today for prayer and reflection. May you thank God for God’s good blessings.
May you pray for those who are presently on the front lines combating this dreadful pandemic. Most importantly, may you remain hopeful. Be safe!
Peace and love,
Prayers of Intercession
As we return to the waters of baptism during this season of Lent, let us pray for the church, those in need, and all of God's creation.
We pray that the same mind be in your church as was in Christ Jesus; that we continue to bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. God of mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for those who have asked for our prayers. We pray also for the men and women serving in our military. We pray for these and all whom we name before you in our hearts . . . (silence for reflection) . . . God of mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray that all of us, who desert, deny, or betray you, be forgiven; that during this Holy Week ears are opened to the life-giving story of your death and resurrection. God of mercy,
hear our prayer.
Hold us in communion with the faithful witnesses who have gone before us, until that day when we join them at the feast that is to come. God of mercy,
hear our prayer.
Good and gracious God, we ask all these things and whatever else you see that we need with a sure and certain hope in your goodness and mercy, through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane”
Go to dark Gethsemane,
all who feel the tempter's pow'r;
your Redeemer's conflict see.
Watch with him one bitter hour;
turn not from his griefs away;
learn from Jesus Christ to pray.
Follow to the judgment hall,
view the Lord of life arraigned;
oh, the wormwood and the gall!
Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suff'ring, shame, or loss;
learn from him to bear the cross.
Calv'ry's mournful mountain climb;
there, adoring at his feet,
mark that miracle of time,
God's own sacrifice complete.
"It is finished!" hear him cry;
learn from Jesus Christ to die.
Early hasten to the tomb,
where they laid his breathless clay;
all is solitude and gloom.
Who has taken him away?
Christ is ris'n! He meets our eyes.
Savior, teach us so to rise.