Passion/Palm Sunday

What words express the hope, the anticipation, the surge of the excited crowd?

What words fill the air of our worship centres?  filling the hollows of the week ahead?

How do we express the shadow looming?  the darkness beneath the palms?

Worship Words resources for Palm/Passion Sunday:

Worship resources, easy access on this site:

This service was compiled in 2007 for Boronia Church of Christ, Boronia, Victoria, Australia

Call to Communion
Face the music. Jesus calls us to follow him, not just to another party of praise, but to the hard work of bringing God’s love and justice into this world of violence and fear. Let us prepare ourselves by confessing our sin.

Prayer of Confession
One: Source of all Life, we gather as your people, broken and regretful.
All: Eternal One, hear our prayer of confession.
One: We like the path of life to be easy, comfortable, untroubled.
We get angry and impatient when problems arise and hardships persist.
All: Please, forgive us.
One: We like the way to be fun and happy. We do not want the hard way that Jesus takes.
All: Please, forgive us.
One: We like power on our side and miracles for our benefit.
We do not like to confront the powers that be nor to face the drudgery of everyday living.
All: Please, forgive us.
One: We want to live free of fear, confrontation and risk. We do not like to face the music.
All: Please, forgive us.
One: Merciful One, forgive us our sins and strengthen us to be truly faithful.
All: Help us follow Jesus and face the music. Amen.

Words of Promise
God hears the confession of our hearts and lips.
Through faith we are forgiven and in hope are empowered for new life.

Words of Institution
As we hear once again the words of Paul describing the Last Supper Jesus had with his friends before his arrest, trial and death, let us each feel a new commitment to journey with Jesus to face the music, to face hardships, disappointments, and even suffering and harm for what is right.

Hear the words Paul shared with the people of Corinth, explaining this mysterious and powerful gathering:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when we has betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Break Bread: When we share the bread, we share in the bread of life.

Lift up Cup: When we drink from the cup, we share the cup of suffering.

Come for all things are ready.

Sharing the bread and the cup:

Bread: The bread of life!

Cup: The cup of suffering! The cup of salvation!

Prayer of Thanksgiving
On this first day of the week that is called “Holy Week,” we thank you for Jesus’s courage to do your will. Strengthen us through this meal to stand by him, to truly be the courageous body and blood of the faithful, and to accept risk and confrontation as elements of faithfulness. As this week passes, speak to us through its events, reminding us of your constant love, surprising grace, and caring power. Amen.

A Palm Sunday dialogue

Mark 14:27-31  (Year B)

Introduction to Dialogue:

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable to You.

Australians call them Stuff-ups. What is a “stuff up?” Wait for an answer. Yes! Blunders, errors, mistakes. When I commit them, I just want to duck and cover. The last thing I desire is to stick up my hand in the midst of my friends and say: “yeah, that was me.”

Blunders include our verbal gaffes, our errors of estimation of ourselves and the situations around us. Here is one: [Cite a recent gaffe from current news likely to be familiar to the congregation.]

Here is another: “My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.” Do you recognize who said that? Yes, Neville Chamberlain Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1938. He said this upon returning from a meeting in Munich with Hitler . Twelve months later Germany invades Poland. Great Britain and Europe plunge into World War II. We can only shake our heads and wonder about Prime Minister Chamberlain when he said, “…peace for our time.” What was he thinking?

This Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday we remember one of the great gaffes of the New Testament. There in, is today’s lesson.

 

Jesus: “You will all become deserters…”

 

Peter: “Even though all become deserters, I will not!”

 

Jesus: “Truly I tell you… this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”

 

Peter: “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you…”

 

Disciple 1: (stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) Peter, what happened?

 

Peter: We all saw Judas kiss Jesus then… that mob seized Jesus. A sword appeared from nowhere. The High Priest’s slave’s ear is cut off. Then I knew trouble would avalanche. Amid the shouts and confusion I hide in the roots of an old olive tree. What happened to you lot?

 

Disciple 2: (Stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) We high-tailed out of there, scattered. Where did they take Jesus?

 

Peter: The mob drags Jesus from the Mount of Olives. I follow at a distance. We cross the Kidron Valley and enter Jerusalem’s east gate. The city streets are empty at that hour. I lag behind. I do not want to be seen or caught. Following their torchlights and noise is easy. They lead me to the High Priest’s house.

 

Disciple 3: (Stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) What? You went to the High Priest’s house?

 

Peter: Jesus must have been inside. I can not see him. A fire burns in the court yard. No one guards the gate. I enter. I sit with those warming themselves at the fire. You know how cold it is tonight. We all have our cloaks wrapped tight. Only when I sit close do I realize those at the fire with me are from that mob that grabbed Jesus, soldiers of the High Priest. My blood runs cold. Still, I stay to hear what is said.

 

Disciple 1: (stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) Who spoke? What did they say?

 

Peter: Who spoke? So-called witnesses. They cannot get their stories straight. False testimony, lies. The priests want, need, two witnesses to say the same thing, to make a case against Jesus. It does not happen. Finally, the High Priest himself, I recognize his voice, asks Jesus: “Are you the messiah?” Now, the priest is speaking Greek and my Greek is not too good. But Jesus says, “I am–” but you know in Greek when you say “I am” it can also mean, “Am I?” The High Priest hears it as “I am,” a confession from Jesus. The High Priest tears his robe and screams, “you have heard his blasphemy!” The High Priest calls for the guards, the men at the fire with me. He hands Jesus over to the guards. They begin to beat Jesus.

 

Disciple 2: (stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) Ah, Peter, it must have been torture for you listening to Jesus be abused and dangerous, too. Yet, you stayed, loyal to the end. And Jesus thought you would deny him. Good old, faithful Peter… Pause

 

Voice from the pulpit: Where does Mark get this account of Jesus at the High Priest’s house? We are not told of any other witness than Peter. What do we conclude? The conclusion: Peter tells his own story. Peter, for better or worse, perhaps wanting to duck and cover, Peter tells us what happened at the High Priest’s house.

 

Peter: No, mates, not so loyal, not so brave… pause. The guards are busy beating Jesus. With their departure from the fire there is room for others to warm themselves. The serving women gather at the blaze to see and hear what is going on. One of them looks at me and says, “Hey, you were with that man from Nazareth. You were with Jesus!” The night is chilly but I break into a sweat when she fingers me. I can hear what they are doing to Jesus. The High Priest has accused Jesus of blasphemy. When the guards are done with him, they will stone him to death.

In fear I say to the serving woman, “I do not know what you are talking about, woman! I do not know him.” The courtyard cock crows. To put some distance between me and that nosy woman, I move to the gate.

But people have heard her accusation. Others are looking at me. She follows me. She says to the surrounding people, “This man is one of them!” There is such venom in her voice, my denial comes quick, “I do not know that Galilean!”

Now, I stand outside the gate. I still want to know what will happen next to Jesus. Another bystander measures me up and says, “Certainly, you are one of them. I can tell by YOUR accent you are a Galilean.”

I curse my accuser and shout, “I swear on my mother’s head I do not know this man!” And with that, I hear the courtyard cock crow, again.

At the passover dinner tonight, I had sworn to Jesus, sworn to him, that even though everyone might desert him, I would not. Even if I had to die with Jesus, I would not desert him.

Remember what Jesus said to me? (yes, before the cock crows twice, I would deny him three times.) Fearing for my life I, I fight my way through the crowd and escaped Back in the Kidron Valley, where it is dark as death, I break down and weep, sisters and brothers. I weep bitterly. (Peter sits) Pause…

 

Voice from the pulpit:

Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday: we started our worship with the laughter and joy of waving palm fronds. We celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem AND his triumphal entrance into our hearts and lives.

But, Palm Sunday also marks the commencement of the week leading to the cross. Dark days loom ahead for Jesus. We end this worship on a somber note. We face the challenges of remembering the truth. We muster the courage to be honest. We stick up our hands in the midst of our friends and tell the stories of desertion, denial, and betrayal. We remember the pain and passion of Good Friday.

Peter wept bitterly. He grieved for what he had done. He bore the shame of what he failed to do. He sorrowed over his fear and his feet of clay. But neither denials nor betrayals are the worst sin against Jesus or God. The worst sin is despair. Peter breaks down. Peter weeps. Peter rues his denial. Peter repents. Peter shares his story with others and Peter’s story continues. What happened to Judas?

Even as we enter this somber week, or any of our own grief laden and sorrowful weeks, we do not despair. Let us pray…

 

A related quote:

“Faith puts people on the road, hope keeps them there, and love indeed makes the world go around. Despair is not an option.” (p. 158,  Letters to a Young Doubter  by William Sloan Coffin)

Sunday Morning Live: A Palm Sunday drama

Adapted by Ana Gobledale, UK, with permission from author, Ron VandenBurg, Canada*

Matthew 21:1-11

Cast

  • Simon the scribe: a reporter for Jerusalem Broadcast News; serious, professional, holds a prop microphone
  • Phoebe: an informal acquaintance of Simon.
  • Marion:  companion of Phoebe
  • Tony:  a friend of Phoebe
  • Camera person — Simon’s assistant: holding camera
  • Jesus

Script

Simon:           [enters with energy, ready to tell the story unfolding in front of him.]

Camera person:  [Follows Simon in.]   Camera’s rolling.  We are live!

Simon:           [ Face the congregation, which is the crowd.]

This is Simon, scribe, for Jerusalem Broadcast News,

reporting live from the Mount of Olives,

where we have some late-breaking news. . . .

Phoebe:         [enters casually]  Hey, Simon.  What are you up to?

Simon:           [temporarily thrown off]   Hi Phoebe.

Phoebe:         These are my friends Marion and Tony.

Simon:           Hi.  Shhh.  We are broadcasting live.

Phoebe:         Sorry.  What’s the big news?

Simon           [with renewed energy, looking back into the camera]

There is great excitement here today.

A large crowd has gathered near the Mount of Olives. . . .

Marion:         Sounds exciting.  That’s where we have just come from.

Simon:           [does his best to ignore Phoebe ]

Here today near the Mount of Olives,

a large crowd has gathered in preparation

for the day all the Jews have been waiting for.

We have heard reports that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.

This follows the unconfirmed reports from Bethany

that Jesus raised someone from the dead.  It’s …

Tony:              That was Lazarus.

Simon:           Pardon me?

Marion:         Lazarus.  The person raised from the dead by Jesus.

His name is Lazarus.  We saw it.  We were there.

Simon:           . . . since the confirmed reports [Phoebe nods]

that Jesus has raised a recently deceased man, named Lazarus,

[looks to Phoebe and Marion and Tony, who nod]

from the dead.

This is a great day for Jerusalem indeed,

for it looks like Jesus of Nazareth will come forward this very day,

and proclaim his kingship over all of Judea.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen.

Today we will have a new king.

No more foreign rulers!  No more Romans. . . .

Phoebe:        [shakes head]   Nope. You have it wrong.

Simon:           . . . no more Pontius Pilate, no more Caesar.

Tony:             [shakes his head]   Nope.  Uh-huh.

Simon:           [losing it] What do you mean, Uh-uh?

Phoebe:         Jesus is not going to be that kind of king.

Simon:           That is ridiculous.  What other kinds of kings are there?

Once Jesus becomes king, he will unite all the people.

And we will create an army,

that will thrust the Roman dogs out of our land.

Marion:         Sorry.  But he is not that kind of king.

He is more like a servant, than a king.

Simon:           [to camera operator]  Stop rolling.

Camera person:   Okay [Lower camera]

Simon:           [to Phoebe etal]  What are you talking about?

Look at all the people!

How could a servant develop such interest, such a following?

They want Jesus to rule.

Phoebe:         More like a healer and a teacher.

Simon:           Yes, we all know Jesus has healed many.

And as a wise man he has taught us . . .

Tony: To turn the other cheek.

Simon:           What’s that?

Tony:  To turn the other cheek.

Phoebe:         Tony is right.

Jesus says, “If someone strikes you on one cheek,

turn to him, or her, the other cheek also.

If someone takes your cloak,

do not stop them from taking your tunic.”

Marion:         Don’t think that will work to overthrow the Romans.

We all know how cold and cruel those monstrous Romans are!

Can you imagine someone saying to a Roman,

[then, full of sarcasm]

‘Here, oppressor of my people, you want my cloak?

How about my tunic, too?!”

Simon:           Wait a minute.  Seriously.

The plan is for Jesus to be the ruler, like a real king,

and to change things for the better.

Like those crucifixions?!  Look over there. [points]

They are setting up more posts, more crosses,

ready for the next batch of crucifixions.

We need to stop that horrible practice.

Caesar and Pilate seem to revel in torturing others –

seeing anyone they do not like suffer.

Jesus, as our new ruling monarch, will stop crucifixions straight away.

That’s something to look forward to.  [Pause thoughtfully.]

I have to cover this story.  [Turn back to camera] 

Camera person:  Three.  Two.  One.  Rolling.

Simon:           We can see Jesus now.  Look at that!

People are laying down their cloaks on the road, for him to walk on!

[to Phoebe & Marion]   Now, that is an act of royal homage.

Tony:              Of what?

Simon:            Homage. You know—respect, honour.

Tony:              Got it.

Simon:           The whole crowd is waving palm branches as a preview

of the great military victories to come.

Marion:         Everybody, wave your palm fronds for the camera!

Tony & Phoebe:  [Wave palm in your hand]

Simon:           [with feeling] Just like for a King!

Tony :             What is Jesus riding on?

Marion:         It looks like a donkey’s colt.

Phoebe:         That fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah:

“Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion.

See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

Simon:           See! You said it yourself! “The king is coming.”

[face back to the camera]

The crowd is swelling.  Palm branches everywhere.

They are proclaiming the new king, the new royal ruler.

Some are shouting, “Hosanna.

Marion:         Everybody, that’s you!  Wave your palm fronds!

Tony & Phoebe:  [Wave palm in your hand]

Simon:           “Hosanna.  Blessed is the king who comes in the name of Love and Hope!”

Did you hear that?  “Blessed is the king of Israel!”

[getting more excited] Yes, indeed, this is the day of Love and Hope,

where all Judea will be victorious over its enemies,

just like in the time of old with King David.

Today we are witnessing the fulfilment of God’s covenant promise!

Phoebe:         That’s true, but . . .

Simon:           [to the camera]  Jesus seems to be quite overcome by the scene.

Marion:         Jesus seems to be weeping,

as if what he sees in Jerusalem makes him sad.

Simon:           [aside] That’s not very kingly.

[back to reporting] Jesus, pressed by the mob is looking around,

seems to be taking in all the grandeur of Jerusalem.

I think he is about to speak.

Jesus:             [Start walking onto scene.]

Camera person Simon, I need you to ID again, please.

Simon:           [to camera]  Simon, here, scribe with Jerusalem Broadcast News.

We are near the Mount of Olives,

listening in to what may be the coronation speech of our ruler, our next king,

Jesus of Nazareth.

Let’s listen in.

Everyone:   [Eyes get big as you listen to Jesus…look amazed!]

Jesus            ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day

the things that make for peace! …

But now they are hidden from your eyes….

Indeed, the days will come upon you, …

when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you,…

and hem you in on every side….

They will crush you to the ground,…

you and your children within you, …

and they will not leave within you one stone upon another;…

because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from the Eternal One.’

Simon:           Well, there you have it.  The words of our future king.

Yes, this is a great start to the Passover celebration.

The streets littered with clothing and palm branches.

As the feast continues, the crowd may play an important role

in the upcoming events of this week.

Join me throughout this Holy Week, here on JBC,

as we follow Jesus of Nazareth,

contender for King of the Jews and maybe of all Rome!

This is Simon, in Jerusalem, signing off.

[Turn away from crowd.]

Camera person:  [Lower camera]

That did not sound like much of a coronation speech, to me.

Simon          Yeah, a bit cryptic.

Did we miss something?

He does not sound like he is going to overthrow the Romans.

But all these people waving palm fronds,

they can’t be wrong.

He must be the Messiah.  He must be our new King!

Surely he will change people’s lives.

Phoebe        That is what we have been trying to tell you.

He will change people’s lives.  But not in the way you expect.

Tony:             Jesus is different.  He will not be your ordinary monarch.

Marion:         We are in for some surprises over the next few days.

Things are not what you think!

Everyone:     Freeze.  Count to 5.  Sit down in front pew. 

 

*Ron VandenBurg plans and develops projects specifically for the spiritual formation of children.  He has written numerous Christian-theme dramas which are posted on the Dramatix website . A member of Jubilee Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, Ron has been Senior Producer of Kids Corner since 2014. 

The original script can be read here.

Palm Sunday meditation/sermon

We have used this introduction, conclusion and closing prayer bookending the Sunday Morning Live drama as the ‘sermon’ on Palm Sunday. 

Possible sermon titles:  Not what we expected!  or  Two Kings: Take your choice!

 

Prayer:

Pray with me.  God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight.  You are our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

 

Introduction to drama:

Parades!  Processions!

 

Two columns enter Jerusalem.

One from the west [point in that direction], from Caesarea by the Sea.

One from the east [point in that direction], from the Mount of Olives.

 

In one procession, the leader is surrounded by Centurions, soldiers hefting spears.

Columns of defeated enemies chained together trudge behind.

In the other, the central figure is surrounded by an unruly assembly of shouting people, paving the dusty route with their cloaks and tree branches.

Columns of children dance, or so the story goes.

 

In one procession trumpets blare, and flags fly.

In the other shouts of “Hosanna!”,  “Save us!” rise from the crowd.

 

The man entering Jerusalem from the west[signify], from Ceasaria,

is met with fearful, downcast eyes.  He proudly rides a great steed, a war horse.

This is the feared Roman governor of the place called Judea.

Remember who the Roman governor is?  Pontius…[wait for congregation to respond] Pilate.

 

The man entering Jerusalem from the east, from the Mount of Olives, is met with waving palm branches, singing and dancing.  He rides a donkey, or a colt.

— Hang on a moment!  Anybody here ever ridden a donkey?

Did you feel high and mighty when riding that donkey?

I know when I have ridden a donkey I feel [when I have seen someone riding a donkey they look ] a little foolish, a little vulnerable.  But here comes a so-called King, humbly riding a…[wait for congregation to respond] donkey.

This is the King of the Jews from a place called Nazareth.  This is…[wait for congregation to respond]Jesus, son of …[wait for congregation to respond]Joseph.

 

Two men.  Two leaders.  But, oh so different, one from the other.

Pontius Pilate —  Proud, dangerous, frightful—

entering Jerusalem from the west[signify].

And Jesus – Humble, hopeful, joyful  —  entering from the east.

 

Let us join that eastern procession and our roving reporter with his camera crew.

 

Drama:   Sunday Morning Life

 

Conclusion — following drama:

Ride on! Ride on in majesty!

In lowly pomp ride on to die.

O Christ, thy triumphs now begin,

o’er captive death and conquered sin.

 

Jesus — humble, hopeful, joyful,  —  entering Jerusalem from the east.

Jesus will change people’s lives.

Indeed, he will change our world, he IS changing our world,

but not in ways or with means that we expect.

 

Jesus beckons to his followers, then and now, to serve the Eternal One with gladness,

to bring good news to the poor, to bring sight to the blind,

to bring liberty to the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the God’s favour.

 

Jesus, Servant King / Monarch / Ruler, riding humbly on a donkey.

May he enter our cities and our lives today.

 

Closing prayer:

Pray with me.

God of Promise,

we are taken by surprise at each Palm Sunday parade.

We so want Jesus to be powerful, a ruler who will smite the world of all evil,

and make all things good and easy for us.

Rather, he comes in humility to serve,

and calls us to have the strength to be humble servants.

Hosanna, save us from ourselves, that we might be the best we can be.

In the words of St Francis,

“Make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.
[Eternal One],

grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

Show us the Way this Holy Week, O Eternal One. Amen.

Inspired by Matthew 21:1-11  ( Year A, Palm Sunday)
Tune:   Winchester  

Ride on; ride on in majesty

Yet seeking no hostility;

To ride a colt is to proclaim

That peace, compassion is your aim.

.

Ride on; ride on compass’nately

For victims of cruel tyranny;

The poor and outcasts need a voice;

Give hope in which they can rejoice.

.

Ride on; ride on courageously;

Your message of equality

Will anger priests and Roman lords;

They’ll silence you; may use their swords!

.

Can we ride with him here today?

Can we ride with him all the way?

For peace, compassion still remain

The ways we can advance God’s reign.

For printable lyrics and music click here.

Thanks to George’s generosity, all of the lyrics published on his website are free of any copyright restrictions and limitations and thus are all available for your use.  Read more about George and his prolific writing on our author page.

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.’

— Matthew 21:10-11

God of the palms, God of the passion,

we arrive at this Palm Sunday remembering and celebrating the story.

We, too, need to ask ‘Who is this?’

for we can forget who we follow.

We can get lost in the fanfare, wanting Jesus to be a powerful king.

We can get lost in the personal comfort of Jesus as our personal saviour.

Like the citizens of Jerusalem, we need reminders of just who Jesus of Nazareth was and is.

Remind us that his passion for an unpopular cause,

his selfless devotion to truth and justice, did not waver.

Remind us that his persistence to establish a more equitable world

stood firm in the face of abuse and criticism.

Remind us that he entered Jerusalem in defiance of the status quo

and in solidarity with the weak, the poor, the outcast.

God of the palms, God of the passion,

remind us just who this Jesus is, this Jesus we claim to follow.

This Palm Sunday eve,

restore in us the passion of Jesus

and his commitment to transform our world.

Amen.