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Monday, March 26, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings -- Marathon Begins Edition

Once again the Lenten road has brought us to Palm Sunday.  And for some of us that means that between now and the proclamation of He is Risen? He is Risen Indeed! lies a marathon--but a marathon done at sprint speed.  And so I think we need to begin with a prayer.  (This week the prayer comes from here)
Steadfast Love:
you hand us the palm branches,
so we can wave them in hope;
you steady us in the days
when pain is stuck
to the bottom of our lives,
when fear is our constant companion.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with joy.

Humble Healer:
When our mouths turn numb
and we cannot speak our dreams,
you tenderly caress our cheeks,
leaning over to hear our faltering words.
When our arms have grown weak
from the burdens we carry,
you take them from us,
and strengthen us with your mercy.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with grace.

Voice of Wisdom:
when death hovers so close
we can feel it's cold breath,
you come to us,
the warm breath of resurrection
pushing aside our fears.
When we hesitate to walk into
the unknown stretching before us,
you tightly clasp our hands
and teach us the first step.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with peace.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we open our hearts to you,
as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .

Palm Sunday Procession
Of course the first decision that needs to be made this week is what do we call it?  Is it Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday?  Or is it Palm/Passion Sunday?

Are you focusing on the parade into the city with these readings?

Or are you using these readings to tell the whole sordid story for the "benefit" of those who will choose not to attend worship again until the Easter proclamation?

Jesus Before Pilate
Or maybe you start with Palms and move to Passion?

Yesterday there was a discussion about using Borg & Crossan's book The Last Week in worship planning this year.  Anyone going there?

And of course this year Palm Sunday is also April Fool's Day (personally I can't wait until 2018 [I think] when Easter Sunday is April 1-- think of the possibilities that raises!).  Is the conjunction of dates influencing your thoughts this year?

Take time in the comments to share what is happening in the worship life of you and yours over these next couple of weeks...and if you have links to helpful sites to get through the marathon share those as well...


  1. Using the comments to think aloud for my own benefit...

    I'm leading the worship, not preaching, on Sunday. My usual instinct would be to go with the Passion side of things, but we have been asked by an NGO that we support to have a themed service about sharing and generosity - so the sermon will be around that theme.

    My current thinking is that we can only share what we have received, meaning that I need to orient the rest of the service around the concept of gratitude and thanksgiving - and I'm really struggling to link this into Palm Sunday at all. Of course in the triumphal entry we see Jesus as King, and sharing is one of the "rules" of life in the Kingdom, so I'm playing around with that as an idea. But I'm not the preacher so I need to keep a very light touch.

    Anyway, I'm toiling for now and will be interested to read what others are doing...

    1. Could there be a tie-in with the people offering whatever they had - their cloaks, the shirts off their back - to make way for their king? And then perhaps the need for ongoing commitment - for life-engagement, relationship building - not *just* giving of things/money. The emotional buildup of the Palm Sunday parade brought out the generosity in the crowds, but they lacked the life-engagement and relationships of ongoing commitment that they needed to remain loyal through the week that was to come.

      Just some rambling thoughts...

  2. Good morning, Gord! We're using dramatic readings to walk through both the Palm and Passion stories. We'll have Communion right where it falls in the storytelling. If you don't mind, I think I'll adapt your prayer for the Communion prayer. It's quite wonderful.
    What we have planned feels like a departure for this congregation, so I hope it will have the desired effect of putting us in the story and leaving people feeling it all week.

  3. A bit of a shakeup for us this Sunday. Not totally flipping the service back-to-front for April Fool's Day (although I do love the idea).

    We start with a Palm Sunday Call to Worship and our prayer time (Prayer of Awareness and Prayers of People)...and then the offertory etc.

    Using the gospel of Mark for Holy Week. Several readers will be reading the story from Palm Sunday up to Maundy Thursday interspersed with the Taize song "Jesus, Remember Me".

    Maundy Thursday will continue with Mark (and the new commandment from John)and will read Mark's passion on Good Friday...and preaching Mark on Easter.

  4. We are borrowing the two parades idea from Borg (again--I did something similar 4 years ago), but this time we'll be setting up the whole service as a dialogue between a participant in the Empire's parade and a participant in the Kingdom's parade. It will be completely weird and will probably freak people out, but hopefully that'll be okay. :-) We're using video clips from Alexander (the entrance into Babylon) and The Gospel According to St. Matthew by Pasolini (mostly silent, italian peasants, black and white entrance into jerusalem). I think we've also decided that Empire music will be big instrumental music, and kingdom music will be unaccompanied singing. Or something.
    I think we're going to be sort of flashing from one to the other, like a conversation or like a movie that moves from action in one place to action in another place, until ultimately the kingdom person (me) convinces the empire person (the Head of Staff) to join the kingdom parade instead...which will lead us to the table.
    If y'all have ideas about how to best explore this, I'd love to hear them!!

    For Holy Week we're doing some prayer stations that help us explore God's extravagant love and abundant life on Maundy Thursday, and the Good Friday service will be essentially just John's passion story intermingled with the Passion Chorales from Bach's St. Matthew Passion. I'm still looking for good MT prayer stations, so again--if you have ideas, I need them!!

  5. For those looking for visuals, YouTube seems to have quite a few clips from the BBC production "The Passion" from a few years back. I'm thinking of using the images of the entry into Jerusalem, with the sound off, while someone reads Mark's text at the same time.

  6. Computer is fixed - yea! The new church does Palm Sunday, so I'm pondering what to do.... I'm thinking about using the Mark and Psalm for Palm Sunday, and Phillipians from passion to pull in a bit a passion. They don't do Maundy Thursday, but have a Tenebrae on Friday. Any suggestions?

  7. We're doing a Palm Sunday entrance and call to worship/confession, then a brief homily, then diving into Mark's passion, with communion about where it happens. I have to figure out how much of the normal communion liturgy I want to use. Then we finish with the rest of Mark's passion story. I have to really watch the time - I have a 20 minute drive between congregations, so it's not good if it goes much over an hour.

    Maundy Thursday from John with sermon. 10am Good Friday service with bidding prayers and solemn reproaches and no sermon. I'm doing it their way this year and we'll see how it goes. I may change things up for next year - I'll miss the tenabrea service!

    The hardest part of my week will get congregation members to participate. "Who cleanses the altar?" "The Pastor does." To which I replied, 'No, she doesn't." I'll be making calls to draft readers, since my request durning announcements didn't yield any volunteers.

    1. I want to affirm your "No, she doesn't" reply. When we used to meet in rented space and set up chairs every week, there were a couple of times we about had to sit on the floor--because the pastor didn't do chair set-up. Prayers for willing volunteers!

  8. MArtha, I didn't write teh prayer, but I am sure that THom (who writes much better prayers than I do) would be happy if you could make use of his words. THe link includes a communion prayer as well.

  9. Have just spent the afternoon sat in sunshine, under a parasol! (In Scotland- go figure!!) trying to pin down from Sunday to Sunday. I am lking the back to front/ upside down thoughts and along with my Crowds theme have something developing; I am putting the whole of Mark's Passion into the Palm/ Passion Evening Service; the children having been making decorated crosses to give out- which I now think I'll put at the entrance and basically ask "How did we get to the Cross?" Maundy Thursday communion and then a quiet candle lit vigil until 10 or so (depends how many folks decide to respond to Jesus' invitation to Watch & Pray)Good Friday is an ecumenical venture which we Host- and then Sunrise communion in the graveyard to celebrate Easter Morn- "Why Look for the Living Amongst the Dead?" followed by breakfast in church before the big Celebration Songs of Praise for Easter - then I may need a nap!!!
    Love your prayer/ reflection Gord and would love to incorporate it somewhere!

    1. I heard about your wonderful Scottish weather. My daughter did the same as you! Please retain some of it till I get to Scotland in June!

  10. It's times like this that I am especially grateful for our Episcopal liturgies :) We'll be starting with the Liturgy of the Palms and an outside procession, weather permitting. And then we'll shortly move to the reading of Mark's passion narrative, which we do in parts. So the homily will be very short, and I'm thinking I will draw on Borg and Crossan a bit. We'll do John's passion on Good Friday, but I really want the week to be set up on Sunday. We have services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday but I've learned to tamp down my expectations for attendance :(

    1. RDM - I too am grateful for the structure this week. I'm thinking my sermon on Sunday might be almost as short as a FB comment (RAK I think)"Wlecome to the King of Kings! We'll honor you forever! April Fool's!" It may at least be the closing line of the short homily.

  11. We are at the end (tbtg) of my sermon series on the 7 deadly sins - this one is Pride/Humility. So I'm going with the 2 parades thing. Although I haven't actually read the Borg/Crosson book, I hope I've read enough ABOUT it to make it work. (Thank you Bonnie and others!)

    It's now the time, btw, when I'm totally DONE with Lent. I'm always this way the week before Palm Sunday - wish I had just 10 days more stamina... How about you all?

    ALthough, last year I did I thing that I really like in re-reading, sent people an email every day during HOly Week saying what Jesus was doing that day. I'm sure I borrowed heavily from somewhere, but can't remember where. But if you want to see what I've got, let me know. I did receive good feedback on it, too, I'm remembering. rev dot brownell at gmail dot com

  12. We're having a brass band to play for our procession and we go all round the neighbourhood. My first time here, so it should be fun! I'm using the shortened form of Mark's passion because I'm using the full one on Good Friday for the 3 hour service. There I'm taking various episodes of the account and relating them through the eyes of someone who was there, and hoping to bring in some theological insights. Maundy Thursday with footwashing and stripping of the altar -- doing that traditionally, though I have picked up some very different ideas for next year. Right now, though, the congregation are still trying to come to terms with other changes I've been making, so don't want to stretch them too far! Sunday dawn service (a change from their usual midnight, which I think is hard on the baptism parents) and then an 8am one. Dawn here is at 6:30, so that dawn service is 5:30! Then I collapse. Never done this all on my own before. I've persuaded a lay minister to sing the Exultet and they certainly wouldn't appreciate my pathetically squeaking attempt to sing it!

  13. Palm Sunday I am trying something different, not sure how comfortable I am, but with Easter being the beginning of two weeks of school holidays, lots of people are away over Easter, and in Australia Good Friday and Monday are public holidays so many people have a four day weekend. So this Sunday we are doing Easter from Palm Sunday through to Easter morning and resurrection, as an all age service. I am glad I have been preaching on the Holy week passages for the past 4 weeks. And this Sunday is the daylight saving changeover weekend, and I think I lose an hours sleep.
    Easter Sunday sunrise, one of the lay preachers leads, we will be starting at 5.45 am. Easter morning I am going with the Mark reading. Working title is an empty tomb: Jesus lives?! - in the sense it could be an exclamation mark or a question mark.
    Good Friday I am wondering about death and regrets – but I have some standard services, so I’ll see what happens. Get this Sunday sorted first.


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