Worship at Home Guide

April 1, 2020 Sixth Sunday in Lent, Palm Sunday

In lieu of worshiping in person, you are invited to worship with us in spirit, online. As many are feeling overwhelmed during these unsettling times, feel free to share this page with others via email or social channels. 


                                       WHAT MAKES PALM SUNDAY ‘PALM SUNDAY’

                               AND HOW IS THIS TERM UNIQUE TO JOHN’S GOSPEL?

During our lifetime, a huge shift has begun within culture at large. This shift has, or will yet, affected most everything within our culture. From a cultural-religious standpoint, the era we have left behind is often referred to as Christendom. This era dates to roughly the 1500communitiess, or the time of the Reformation, the religious manifestation of the Enlightenment. The communication device that fueled the change of that time was the printing press. Bibles went from being something that only religious community (and wealthy persons) owned because all documents were copied by hand to being printed. It is not hard to imagine how the ability to set type and apply ink allowed for numerous pages to be printed, thus creating mass-produced publishing. 

In this new Enlightenment/Reformation, the new form is electronic communication, including the internet. While at this early stage it may be hard for us to imagine the scope of future regarding the internet and electronic communication, it’s not hard to realize how in our lifetimes (in just our adult lifetimes!) the dramatic change various internet-connected devices have made regarding communication.

One of the factors of Christendom was that participating in organized religion was understood to be an obligation. In today’s world it’s a choice rather than a mandate. One visual clue is the diminished numbers of persons who participate regularly in organized worship services and a numerically reduced definition of regular in what is understood to be regular (once a month or less rather than twice a month or more). 

Because of this, churches, which used to have members participating in all or most of Holy Week worship, now see folks more inclined to be present for Palm Sunday and then not again until Easter. In response, the lectionary (a three-year cycle of readings scheduled to cover most of the Bible) has added the option of Palm/ Passion Sunday to give churches the option of reading portions of the Passion (Good Friday) liturgy for worshipers to better understand the connection: opening worship with the Palm Sunday liturgy while including the Passion.

What of “’Palm’ Sunday”? John is the only Gospel to mention that the branches persons cut to wave and/or pave Jesus’ path were palm branches, the others simply refer to branches. The default title shows the large impact John has had on the church’s culture in terms of storytelling. Branches then (as now) had military and governmental overtones (think coins, military medals), and thus the roots of “Palm Sunday” reflect one of the hopes regarding a Messiah, that he would be a military might and/or governor in the lineage of David, one of Israel’s greatest heroes. In line with this thought, “Hosanna”, the word shouted by the parade viewers is not, in its root, a word of praise. It’s a petition: “Save me/us.”

Opening Sentences Psalm 118.26

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord

Hosanna in the highest!

Hymn  “Wash, O God, Your Sons and Daughters”

Wash, O God, your sons and daughters, newborn creatures of your womb.

Number them among your people, raised like Christ from death and tomb.

Weave them garments bright and sparkling; compass them with love and light.

Fill, anoint them; send your Spirit, holy dove and heart’s delight.

Call To Confession “Jesus, Remember Me”

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Unison Prayer of Confession

Grant us, O God, the fullness of your promises.

Where we have been weak, grant us your strength;

where we have been confused, grant us your guidance;

where we have been distraught, grant us your comfort;

where we have been dead, grant us your life.

Hear now our individual prayers of confession…

Apart from you, O Lord, we are nothing.

In and with you we can do all things.  Amen.

Scripture/Meditation John 12.12-19; John 12.1-11

Hymn  “Wash, O God, Your Sons and Daughters”

Every day we need your nurture; by your milk may we be fed.

Let us join your feast, partaking cup of blessing, living bread.

God, renew us; guide our footsteps, free from sin and all its snares,

One with Christ in living, dying, by your Spirit, children, heirs.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

Jesus, your kingdom come, your will be done.

For your church around the world, we ask renewed, transformed life.

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

For those who suffer with disease and illness…

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

For those who care for those with disease and illness, for perseverance…

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

God of compassion, we thank you for looking upon us with love and 

understanding and for how you desire for us all new life in Jesus Christ.

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

By your Spirit, strengthen our selves to be brave and bold in Christ’s service.

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Everlasting God, in your tender love for the human race, Jesus took on our nature, to live and love and to die for how he lived and loved in your name. In your mercy equip us to share in his obedience to your will in our life, death, and in the promised resurrection. We pray this in Jesus name, and continue with this prayer that Jesus taught us and prays along with us saying,

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Hymn  “Wash, O God, Your Sons and Daughters”

O how deep your holy wisdom! Unimagined, all your ways!

To your name be glory, honor! With our lives we worship, praise!

We your people stand before you, water-washed and Spirit-born.

By your grace, our lives we offer. Recreate us; God, transform!

Sharing of the Peace

The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! And also with you!

Resources from the Book of Common Worship and Glory to God Hymnal, PCUSA

John 12.12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,


Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.

Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It has also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”

Questions for Reflection and Discernment

  1. What questions do you have for John as the storyteller?
  2. Jesus as the Life of the story?
  3. This story is told in all four Gospels. For comparison you can read Mark 11.1-10, Matthew 21.1-9, Luke 19.28-38. 
  4. What is similar, what is different? What does John not include in his telling?
  5. The image/illustration of the donkey is from Zechariah 9.9. John wants to stress that Jesus is not a warrior king but a king of peace: riding a donkey, not a horse. What difference does this image make for you and your understanding of faith?
  6. How might the unrealized expectations of ‘the crowd’ have led to their disappearance from Jesus’ presence through the week? How has Jesus disappointed you in your lifetime? What characteristic/aspect of Jesus would you want to sit down and have a conversation with him about that frustrates you?

John 12.1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purpose and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Questions for Reflection and Discernment

  1. What questions do you have for John as the storyteller?
  2. Jesus as the Life of the story?
  3. This story is told in one form or fashion in all four Gospels, for comparison see Mark 14.3-9, Matthew 26.6-13, Luke 7.36-50. What do John and Mark share in common? John and Matthew? John and Luke?
  4. The quotation of Jesus which includes “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” sounds cruel to man persons. What do you think John wants to communicate about Jesus using this quote? (Look up Deuteronomy 15.11)
  5. Assume you’re in a debate and you’ve been selected to take the side of Judas in this story. What does John tell us about Judas that gives credence to his complaint (the value of the perfume was equal to a year’s salary for a laborer). What else would you want to know about Judas in order to argue for him?

Meditation on John 12.12-19

Are you a parade person, are you a person who can take or leave them, or are you a person who is not inclined to view a parade? Have you ever been in a parade as a participant? Are there parades from your past that you remember fondly? A major street in Erie, PA, is named Parade Street. At one time it was ‘main street’ in that city and it was so named because of the number of parades that used to traverse its pavement walking downhill into the downtown from the south towards Lake Erie. The context of the John 12.12-19 in a parade. Many of us can recall previous Palm Sundays when we were encouraged, especially as children, to ‘parade’ with palms as a part of worship or church school.

In the middle of this story, John states: “His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.” Perhaps this statement, at least the first part of it, has insight for us at this point in time, at this time in our lives. The disciples are often pictured as clueless in the Gospel narratives, and when insight is offered to them, it seems to be forgotten by the time the next page of the Bible is turned. And yet, given our present wrestling with the virus known as Covid-19, can we admit that we “understand these things at first”? 

The reality is changing by the day—even by the hour—and what seems like something so far away is brought into our homes via one video device or another. It is said that the turn in the tide in the United States in terms of public support of the Viet Nam War in the 1960’s came when the evening news was broadcasting video of the horror of the war. In a way it seems like a quaint memory, and yet. The challenge is to not dwell in the blame game but to seek to be response-able, to be responsible.

Would we have been equally clueless? It’s easy to assume that we wouldn’t have, and yet John is clear that these persons who have spent the most time with Jesus were having trouble reconciling what was happening before them. Perhaps the word Hosanna has insights for us. As a child I was taught that Hosanna was a cry of joy. What I have learned is, even if this had become true, it originally and continues to be a cry for help, a word addressed to God for help in the time of crisis and challenge. Those who spoke this way in this story were appealing to God for relief from the oppression of the Romans, they were crying out for a militaristic Messiah. At least some of the disciples would have thought likewise. And yet here was this man entering in a humble way on a donkey. The very presence and presents of the Almighty that the people were shouting for was in their midst. Some understood, others did, and yet others saw implications for the future based on Jesus’ act. How is God’s salvation present to and for and with us now at this time? Amen

Meditation on John 12.1-11

This is a story of worship, of glorifying God, because in Jesus Mary and Martha and Lazarus had come to experience the breadth and depth of God’s love and the call to serve that worship of God equips believers to embody metaphorically and physically. Lazarus was called out of the tomb following his death and restored to life. There is a dinner party that is held in the home he shares with his sisters. The dinner is part of the worship, as the dinner is given for Jesus and his disciples. The story also reminds us of how the chief priests, just two miles away in Jerusalem are fearful because of Jesus’ acts.

Martha is found in service. It’s easy to dismiss this given that she is a woman. And yet, in a few days’ time John will record how Jesus served his disciples by washing their feet. It appears service is an act of faithfulness for Jesus, as well as for others. Martha is serving God by serving this meal. Pick a meal—any meal—one you had this week or one weeks ago. Who served you? What love was transmitted in the serving and the receiving? Who was present? How was Jesus present through the power and passion of the Holy Spirit? What meal, what moments, will you miss not being able to have given the challenges this Easter?

Mary is found in service anointing Jesus’ feet with ointment so costly it was the equivalent of a day labor’s earnings for an entire year. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, not his head, which is an interesting detail. Perhaps it is because as he is reclining at the table, his feet are readily available to her as she approaches him. After anointing Jesus’ feet with the ointment so pungent that “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume”, Mary wipes his feet with her hair, an image that speaks to both detail and devotion. What act of devotion to God you practice and have continued to practice during this time of Covid-19?

Judas has this question: “Why” wasn’t the ointment sold and the proceeds used to feed the poor?” While John gives us plenty of reasons to dismiss Judas, Jesus redirects him (and us) to the issue of service: “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” Jesus’ response is paraphrased from Deuteronomy 15.11: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’” Jesus is portrayed as looking forward with gravity to his own death and expressing gratitude for Mary’s act by declaring it an illustration of service to others in God’s name. Who is a neighbor God has helped you see during this season of Lent? How has God been equipping you/us as you/we have lived through this season to live our lives more fully as disciples of Jesus Christ? What act of devotion you/we called to?

God bless you in the days and week ahead. Amen.

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