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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Palm Sunday Edition

Lectionary texts for the coming Sunday can be found here .

Palm Sunday. At my little church, it means processing into the sanctuary waving our little paper palm fronds -- with liturgy and entrance hymn conveniently printed thereon -- for a few minutes at the beginning of worship. We all know the drill; we all know (or think we know) the story.

How do we bring passion, and depth, to our worship this Sunday? How can the texts help us? As always, your thoughts are most appreciated.


  1. Palm / Passion Sunday is probably the most exciting Sunday of the year for me. It's certainly dramatic, especially the contrast between the triumph and joy of the opening of the service, followed by the passion gospel. I think one could easily argue that if one were to go to church on only one Sunday of the entire year, Palm Sunday would be the day to go.

    Anyway, my initial reflection is here, on how every one of us is part of the crucifixion... and how God still loves us.


  2. we do palm sunday here, and save the passion story for the rest of the week (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are very popular services so we don't worry quite as much about the small-percentage-on-Friday problem). I have been contemplating the fact that there are no children in Mark's story...yet we'll of course have the children parade around with palms (Eco Palms of course!). Would the adults even do it if I asked them to?

    And, as every year, I'm wondering how to engage people in using the palms for something throughout the service, rather than just waving them at the beginning and then forgetting about them. We switched to Eco-Palms last year, which are awesome, but also cost a teensy bit more, and I don't want them to go to waste!

    We might get a taste of the passion, perhaps with a verse or two of My Song Is Love Unknown (it does have the palm-passion verse...)...we'll see. It's communion this week too so I have to work that in as well.

  3. We're doing Palm/Passion. But with a twist. We begin the service with a reading of the Palm Sunday text, then a guy dressed as Jesus, surrounded by the children dressed in our Christmas shepherds' robes will come in with Palms. (folks in the congregation who want to process will come in then) then the choir will enter. While the procession is going on they will sing Shout Loud Hosannas. Then we'll do announcements, a call to worship. then we will intersperse readings from Mark's gospel during Holy Week with appropriate hymns. After the Last Supper reading, we'll celebrate communion. I'm looking forward to it. Music can be much more moving than words.

  4. Joan, that sounds like a great service!

    We are doing Palm/Passion as well. We do the palm reading, and the passion reading in their entirety. Then I shut up. My feeling is that the passion story preaches itself, and there really is no commentary I could bring to it that is more dramatic than the story as the gospels tell it.

  5. Paper palms? Ick.

    I'm with Cheesehead - I might do a very short introduction to the Passion, but other than that I'll let scripture speak for itself this week, especially since I'll be driving back from Chicago all Saturday night (campus ministry retreat).

    I'll be interested to continue hearing how you're using the palms. Thanks for sharing, everyone!

  6. We're trying something new this year--in addition to the palm story and procession, and the story of the Last Supper in the middle (which includes the readings, prayers, a brief reflection and Communion), we are doing the passion story as a dramatic reading at the end. (Previously I'd read the entire story, but was looking for something a little more interactive.) I agree with Cheese--preaching after hearing the passion story just seems...extraneous to me. We'll hear it, sing a hymn, and leave.

    I'm excited about the dramatic reading. It's brief but tells the whole intersperses call-and-response lines that go along with the story...I think it will be a good way to keep people involved and also save my voice.

    As for preaching, there will be a brief reflection on Scripture, but I think I'll just use that time to wrap up the Lenten theme and frame it in terms of the passion.

  7. We're doing palm/passion as well. We have regular palms, not eco-friendly, b/c they've always ordered them from the grocery store in town. We'll gather in the narthex, everyone, do the call to worship, and as they're singing "All Glory Laud and Honor" we'll wave the palms and place them on the communion table and around it, then do the readings in their entirety. I love the idea of not preaching this Sunday, and just might do it. I'm just hoping there's enough in the service to fill it up. Sad that that's how I think, is hte service full enough? or will we get out in 45 minutes without it?

  8. Semfem, your dramatic reading sounds wonderful! How are you doing that?

  9. J.Calvin, I love the sound of that. I am NOT liking not being able to lead Palm Sunday stuff this year, and I'm contemplating where to go to church. And hedwyg, I love your initial thoughts.

  10. What are Eco-Friendly Palms?

    We will go the entire gamut, from marching around the grounds in procession (led by verger, crucifer, torches and thurible), joyfully waving our palms and singing "Prepare the Way of the Lord." I always like to imagine what the drivers-by are thinking...

    Then the service goes through the Passion Gospel, with responsive readings. "Crucify Him!" We leave in silence and begin Holy Week.

    It's the highest high and the lowest low, all in one and a half hours. It's very painful. I'm sure it's supposed to be.

  11. We're having a service of dramatic readings to open the Palm and Passion readings a bit further. I wrote the portions based on Mark 14 and 15 six years ago, then added the readings based on Mark 11 three years ago. That set are all by children, as if they had witnessed the events. That's all the commentary I need to make.
    We'll have Communion in the midst of Peter's telling of the story, returning to his point of view on the arrest and his denials of Jesus after Communion.

  12. We begin with the Palms and procession and will do a very brief dedication of the organ since the project is done. (and organ is awesome) I'm going to stay with the palm sunday story and preach it as the controversial parade that mirrors (and mocks?) the entrance of Pilate on the other side of the city. the sermon begins the turn to the cross by considering the inevitability of Jesus' subversive acts.

    We're concluding w/a visual benediction where the large wooden cross (sits at back of sanctuary all year) is carried in by two "workmen" and laid on the floor of chancel. then another "workman" comes in and loudly drops large nails and lays a hammer on the cross and walks out. Worship leader and I will then lay our palm fronds on the cross and leave while organ softly plays "Old Rugged Cross" and everyone is invited to do the same as they leave.

    A one-page devotional is being included in the bulletin for people to read the passion story this week and hopefully return for Maundy Thursday's "Love Feast" and feet-washing/meal/communion service.

    I hope it is powerful w/o being too much. what do you think of being left at the foot of the cross?

  13. I am not preaching, but one thought.
    It is easy to follow the crowds. It is easy to follow a political leader who is popular, cheer for a team that is winning, do what eveyone else is doing.
    But, when it comes down to it, are we willing to follow a leader who does soemthign that is not popular, be part of "a seemng losing team", or do something when others are not?
    It is easy to be a part of a triumphal part of Palm Sunday, but are we willing to keep following up a lonely hillside, on a dark day, and be a part of group whose leader's passion becomes death.
    Are we willing to be that passionate to the point of death?

  14. Oh and the main part of the progam is the choirs prgram of music which goes from Palm to Passion.
    We later ahve our Thursday (church)and Friday(community) services

  15. I reworked Palm/Passion sunday after reading good stuff here... more of a movement now to worship... gradually moving us into the story. thanks for the ideas!

  16. I've reworked worship for this Sunday, thanks to all your great ideas! We're going to gather in the narthex, listen to Mark 11:1-11 and then we are ALL going to process in singing and waving our palms (hopefully the early-to-grab-my-favorite-seat folks will play nice). After we finish singing/go to our seats, will have the welcome, opening prayer, and a song. Then, my worship leader and I will do readings from Mark beg with chapter 14. When we get to the last supper section, we'll celebrate communion; when we get midway through the Gethsemane section, we'll have the pastoral prayer and offering. I'll tell the rest of the story in lieu of a sermon and we'll finish with "Were You There."

    So here's my question. I told the story last place of my sermon but without interspersing the readings/actions as I've planned this year. Is it ok to do the story/sermon again?

  17. I guess I'm in the minority here, though I certainly have been thinking about just going with the story...but I'm preaching. Simon of Cyrene has caught my attention this year, so I'm exploring that. Not getting very far, so far, but that's the plan.

  18. Since a good number in our congregation come to both our Maundy Thursday and our Good Friday services (I discovered last year in my first year) I don't feel quite the pressure to squeeze Palm and Passion into one service as I did in my previous congregation.

    As a new twist for me, I'm going to keep this one pretty palmy and not a lot passiony. I am, however, having a hard time figuring out how not to make communion another Maundy Thursday service.

    Teri's ponders about the adults and the palms might be the sort of direction I'm going with my sermon/theme. This will be the last sermon in my loose Lent series about spiritual practices and I'm going to talk about worship. When I talked about Sabbath keeping at the start of the series I talked a little about how ridiculous the idea of purposely doing nothing sounds to the rest of the world, but how important it was to God. I think I might frame worship in a similar light.

    Although I haven't read the book, Marva Dawn's title from a few years back comes to mind "A Royal Waste of Time."

    Anyway, would we join the parade? Why or why not? Why should we join the parade? What does it mean to worship Jesus, even Jesus who sits on something as lowly as a donkey?

    Not too sure, but that's the general idea I'm thinking about right now.

    The palms themselves will be used by kids in the opening hymn "All Glory, Laud, and Honor." Is it Palm Sunday without it? (Actually, I think it was last year.) The kid's handchime choir will be playing an introit to that while the rest of the kids play rhythm instruments along with them. They'll process around the sanctuary with the palms during the rest of the hymn, then return the palms to the back of the church. Later, right before communion, they'll go back to the back of the sanctuary to get their palms again, and process back in with the oldest kids at that back carrying communion elements instead of palms. The kids will set the table and place palms down in front of it before the liturgy begins.

  19. We observe "Sunday of the Passion" which includes the the Procession with Palms and of course, "All Glory Laud and Honor"

    Our service is simply the entire Passion of Christ (from Mark this year) broken up with hymns that "Go to Dark Gethsemene" and "O Sacred Head" I have readers who read the parts of the characters, I read the narration and there are parts the congregation reads like "Crucify him, Crucify him"

    It's a very moving service for me.

  20. Only Palms for us, sort of. THat means that we will only read that part of the story but in the sermon Is THIS How a King Comes? we we foreshadow what is to come. I am thinking of using some pictures of Queen Elizabeth's coronation procession, coronation crown and throne in contrast to the entry into JErusalem, the crown of thorns and the cross. My opening thoughts are here

  21. I am two weeks into a new interim, so I will be viewing the Mark 11 text in the context of assumptions and expectations, that of the crowd concerning Jesus, and mine and the congregation's at the beginning of this transition.

    The children will be leading the procession of palms and also the call to worship.

    Thanks for all the reflections!

  22. This is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. We'll be doing Palm/Passion as well. We'll do the Palm reading and the procession with the palms - inside the sanctuary, 'cause it's supposed to snow on Sunday. Then we'll do the passion narrative. The Companion to the BCW has a suggestion for doing a lessons and hymns format, so the passion reading will be broken up into 4-5 parts, with a hymn in between. After the final reading, there will be a time of silence. Like others have mentioned, the Scripture will do the proclamation and I'll get out of the way.

  23. Oh and in preparation for a video call interview (using Skype) I need to prepare for this:
    What we would like you to do, is please prepare a 15 -20 minute sermon on Music, Worship, and Pastoral Care, these are the most important things to our congregation.

    Um yeah, that should be no problem...

  24. Gord, did they also want you to dance on water and turn a weak pot of coffee and a bag of cookies into the finest of coffee hours while you do that? Good luck!

    We do palms and passion. We're fortunate to live where we can trim our palms in people's yards! I'm preaching for a wide range of ages and have to keep it short, while working in the cross the Sunday school has been creating throughout Lent. I'm trusting inspiration will strike soon.

  25. In the Episcopal Church, Palm Sunday has its own liturgy and we read the Passion, this year according to Mark. Our altar book and lectern book of readings have the Passion narrative separated out in parts so we do it that way. I think there are 22 parts this year plus the narrator (yours truly) and the crowd.
    I've tried not preaching and find that I would rather preach. It's always short and I think it will be a reflection of the line "Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee: I crucified thee" from Ah Holy Jesus.
    I preach every day during Holy Week except Wednesday when we do the Tenebrae service. There's always something different I see/hear in the readings every year. I'm going to look at the epistle readings this year for the text. We also have a Taize service Palm Sunday evening which includes meditations but I borrow those from others rather than write my own.
    Sometimes it is frustrating to move so quickly from triumphal entry to crucifixion in the same service but it's what we have to do. I imagine that week seemed pretty short to the disciples and maybe that's what I'll talk about this year.

  26. What a lot of great ideas! I especially love letting everyone participate in the procession, and just doing palms and saving passion for Good Friday, though the latter isn't an option in Catholic/Episcopal practice (except for our radical Catholic layled community in our last city). I am not fond of the Holy Week style of pretending we don't know the end of the story and that Jesus isn't risen, which also affects my dislike of a dark and heavy passion focus on Maundy Thursday.

    Forcing people to shout "crucify him" is especially hurtful....Not to mention it fosters the anti-Semitic illusion that is constantly mentioned in preaching that day--the same people, i.e. Jews, who shouted hosanna were shouting crucify him within the week. It was most of the population of Jerusalem that shouted hosanna and a tiny group that did the latter, as is demonstrated by the fact that archaeologists have found Pilate's courtyard and at most a hundred people could fit in it. Even if the intended stress is "we were just as bad/would have done thing" it fosters Pilate's lie that the oppressed people he terrorized were responsible for his act of unjustice, which in turn led to centuries of deadly Christian anti-Semitism.

  27. Preaching stating that every one of us is part of the crucifixion can be spiritually abusive....Especially of people who have been subjected to severe abuse and injustice, who are probably steeped in self hatred and shame and need to hear of their goodness in God's eyes--and their likeness to Jesus rather than those who crucified him.

  28. It's too late for this year, but never to early to start planning for next year: here's some info on Eco-Palms.

    I am still contemplating how to involve adults/the whole congregation in the palm thing. I'm thinking of using a three-voice "story" from Before the Amen and somehow getting people to wave palms as they shout hosanna...? I also have a little Palm Sunday meditation I wish I was brave enough to use, but I'm not. It pretty much begs Jesus to come to our city, we'll roll out the red carpet and sing, etc, "but just in case you do, just one small word of advice--stick to religion, but be careful. Don't interfere with politics, or economics, or big business and all that, and be careful not to make unpopular changes in the way we worship."

    Yeah, I don't think I can quite get away with that, though I want to....

  29. I was just sifting through to look for some possible worship images (I ask for permission!), and saw a label on a picture that caught my eye - - the title/label, not really the picture. Anyway, it was called "Lay down your palms - Pick up the cup." There's no description of what this was like in worship, how it went or what the message was, but that picture title just jumped at me.

    If we are REALLY going to worship Jesus, and have it be MORE than just words we say and palms we wave and rejoicing at the happy seasons and celebrations, we have to be ready to put that stuff aside sometimes and worship him by taking up the cup he takes (Mark 10, which I read the Sunday we just passed).

    I was going to move straight from preaching to the table with the table setting song I mentioned earlier - - the kids re-processing with palms and communion elements. If I take this approach with my preaching or at the very least with my final transistion with the sermon, it will all fit together VERY nicely. It gives a nod toward the passion, but doesn't pick it up entirely which is what I intended this year. Hmmmm....I like!

  30. She Rev,
    I like it! Thanks for the sermon nudge.

  31. We always have a sermon on Palm Sunday (with which I have nothing to do, as you know!) I rather like the idea of no sermon, letting the Gospel speak for itself, as several of you are doing.

    I believe that the scope of different traditions surrounding this service, even within denominations, gives ample opportunity for people to find a practice that is meaningful and appropriate for them.

  32. We're palm and passion here.

    And we have lots of ferns growing in people's yards, so we're using those for the palms (that's about as eco- as it gets, cutting stuff that gets cut this time of year anyway...)

    We're palm/passion here and no sermon. And Communion. SheRev, I have a communion liturgy I put togehter if you are still thinking about that and want to take a look.

    Gord - my goodness. Are you preaching all that over SKYPE? That sounds impossible. I snorted milk out my nose at Betsy's comment - exactly!! Also, if you are in a congregation that DOES NOT say music is important, raise your hand. Maybe it's a chance to get them to think about what really could be important to them, as distinct from all their neighbors.

    Oh, and thinking about Easter, when I AM preaching. Came across this article link by which my obsessive reading of People magazine is finally justified as research. From an article a few weeks ago on the Miracle on the Hudson:
    Many passengers, not surprisingly, have found renewed faith. "The words 'Brace for impact' are repeated in my head over and over," says Amy Jolly, 29, a clothing-store buyer who lives in Gaffney, S.C. "I thought it meant brace for my last seconds on earth. I realize now it meant so much more. It meant brace for something that would change my life. Brace for an absolute miracle."

    Yeah, that'll preach.

  33. Nutella--sorry, I didn't see your question until just now!

    Our dramatic reading this year is not in parts or characters...I and the assisting minister will take turns each reading a short portion of the paraphrased story from Mark. Sort of like little episodes. Between each episode, there's a call and response, where the leader says something and the people respond, and these also follow the story.

    For example:
    "Word was spreading, people were talking,
    who would be the one to betray Jesus?" (at the Last Supper)

    "Word was spreading, people were shouting,
    angry voices calling names, and a howling mob!" (at the trial)

    "Word was spreading, people were weeping,
    the time had finally come." (when Jesus dies)

    It ends with an allusion to seeing him again on the third day, after the Sabbath was finished. Whether dead or alive, it doesn't specify.

  34. In the first place, nobody is forced to do anything in worship - you can participate as you choose.

    Actually I think when we say "crucify him" that makes it not possible to blame the Jews - and instead take responsibility for the ways we crucify Christ.

    Personally (and my tradition teaches this as well)I don't believe that anyone is free from sin. I don't think we do oppressed and hurt people a favor by giving them a "bye" from sin. If you don't claim the sin, then you don't claim forgiveness because what is there to be forgiven from?

    I have found that in the end, giving people excuses and exemptions from sin "well you are abused and oppressed so this doesn't apply to you" is not freeing at all. The words "Christ died for you and you are forgiven" are words far more freeing than excuses and explanations.

    I belong to a church that believes Jesus was crucified for us. And they find that putting themselves in the crowd (whether it was the leaders, or a small crowd stirred up by instigators) to be very moving. Others' mileage may vary but it works for us.

  35. Juniper - - Thanks for the "brace" quote. I've done more thinking about Easter than Palm Sunday, and the Mark version this year really strikes me with how TERRIFYING Easter must have been for the women who showed up at the tomb.

    Will find you for that communion liturgy today!


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