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To Jerusalem with Christ Palm Sunday – April 5, 2020
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Welcome to Sunday morning worship. We, Shaughnessy Heights United Church, are together again in Spirit this Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week. This day is the threshold moment from which we anticipate what happens when worldviews and values collide. It is like we are standing at the edge of a tectonic plate and the plate is about to move. The movement is terrifying and results in a new reality, a beautiful new landscape. This day, when the ground under peoples’ feet was about to shake, they called out, blessed is the One who comes in the name of God! Today is the third Sunday that our church building has been closed and we have been practicing physical isolation and staying home. The ground underneath us has definitely moved and we don’t know yet when the shaking will end. We have reached Jerusalem with Christ which means that now we stand closer to the edge of the plate, to the edge of a new landscape. It means that we have not arrived at the Easter revelation because we must still hear the invitation of Maundy Thursday’s new covenant, experience Good Friday’s injustice, and Holy Saturday’s desolation. We stand on the edge of a new month of physical isolation, of staying home, of businesses and the places where people of faith meet staying closed. Our values, our sources of financial security have collided head-on with the global effects of a highly infectious virus.
The virus will not win in the long run if we will discipline our behaviours to match our gospel values. Easter will come again though not on our fixed calendar. This crisis will pass, and the Christ will rise again.
Do not be afraid. Do not despair. Do not fret because “We live in God’s world. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God!”
A New Creed, the United Church of Canada
We acknowledge that we live and work on the unceded, ancestral and traditional territories of indigenous peoples. We accept that Mother Earth and the peoples near us and around the world are all our relations. Thanks be to God. Let us worship God together.
PRAYER OF INVOCATION:
Merciful God, as we enter Holy Week, steady our feet as you lead us again into Jerusalem to experience that tectonic shift which is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Open our hearts and minds to the new landscape that has been revealed through Jesus the Christ, the divine Way. In this sacred silence now, we open ourselves to your Spirit while hanging on for dear life as the earth-shattering revelation of your truth is revealed.
A MOMENT OF SILENCE
We give you thanks for your presence with us and ask for your help that, while confronting the powers of death, we would walk the divine Way that leads to life. Help us to be fearless as we stand on your evermoving tectonic plate of grace. We pray in the name of Jesus of Nazareth who revealed the Way with courage. Blessed is the One who comes in the name of God. Hosanna in the highest! Amen.
HYMN: Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
25 Save us, we beseech you, O God! We beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of God.
27 The Lord is God and has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. 29 O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good, God’s steadfast love endures forever.
This is the story of our faith. Thanks be to God.
Choral Anthem: Machet die Tore Weit A Hammerschmidt
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Hosiana. (Psalm 24)
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-17
21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 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. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “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.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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!”
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this? This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”
The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there. This is the story of our faith.
Choral Anthem: Hosanna to the Son of David L. Jakobs
Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord. Peace be in heaven and glory. Hosanna in the highest heavens.
Reflection from Rev. Jay
There are 2 stories in today’s passage – one of celebration and demonstration, and one of unveiling and truth-telling. These together were like a tectonic shift that caused pretense to vanish and the realities of life and death to be even more immediate.
The disciples and Jesus approached the city by way of the Mt. of Olives – this was the place where for many when Jesus taught the earth moved. Professor Weatjan in his commentary on Matthew says, “…it is the mountain from which Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event that is apocalyptic in character, for according to Matthew’s redaction it causes a ‘city- quake’…” p.202 And the city was in turmoil. Two parades. Two demonstrations. The clash of these two would forever change the world.
It was soon Passover. Every year it was fraught with tension. Violent resistance was not uncommon, and everyone knew it. During this time, Jesus moved in and out of Jerusalem probably because he knew that he was on the radar of the authorities. There were many ways to silence someone especially at night so, he left the city at sundown. Jesus wasn’t looking to get killed but he knew his resisting the unjust powers of the day was risky at best. He went to Bethany at night in order to stay ahead of those who were lying in wait for him. You were safer at night if you were outside the city.
The Romans were all about keeping the peace. The Pax Romana, the Roman peace, sustained by occupying forces. These troops made a show of force at Passover. The Governor, with full military strength, entered the city from the west (from Rome). It was a military parade with chariots, horses, soldiers and swords. It was a show of military might for the benefit of those who might be considering resisting Roman rule. Disrupt the peace and you would be crushed. Roman authorities responded quickly and brutally to those who would disrupt the status quo especially if done through armed resistance. So, many of the Jewish spectators were probably both resentful and compliant not joyful or appreciative except for those amassing wealth as collaborators.
Jesus’ way was passive resistance on full public display. It turns out that the real threat to the rulers of the day was through passive resistance.
Everyone knew that the Governor and his military paraded purposefully from the West, the center of military power, swords at the ready, on the highest Holy Day of the year to demonstrate who was in charge. So, Jesus rides in from the East (the opposite direction) to demonstrate that God is sovereign.
In Matthew’s version of the story Jesus rides in astride 2 animals. The donkey is a symbol of a monarch and the colt, a pack animal, the symbol a servant. Everyone hearing Matthew’s story recognized the two demonstrations and they got it! The response to Jesus was initially one of celebration, because his passive resistance demonstrated his allegiance to the Love that will not let us go.
The first story demonstrates that the ways of God are different than those of the ones who would exploit others for their own gain. The second story is what happened after the parade. Jesus turned the tables over in the Temple and, as he did, he quoted from his sacred texts, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”
Jesus scholar, Dom Crossan, is clear that Jesus’ focus of condemnation was not that there was thieving in the Temple, but that God’s dwelling place had become a safe haven for thieves.
Crossan says it this way, “The den of thieves is not where you do your thieving. It’s a refuge for those who thieve elsewhere.”
When Jesus turned the tables over in the Temple, he effectively shut down the incomes of those who made their living by profiting from the ritual practices of sacrifice. With the tables overturned, the material tools for making amends with God were cut off. It’s not okay to exploit people during the week and then show up with an offering unless the one coming to God is willing to change his or her ways and stop ripping off those with less. Sanctuaries, named for God, are to be places where the ways of God are made real and the truth of the thieving endemic in societies is named and disrupted. The earth should shake each time this truth is revealed in the name of our Loving God.
Today we are called to ask ourselves to which demonstration do we belong? How do we tear down the walls of the havens for injustice so that there are only sanctuaries of hope and healing left? What truth do we seek today and what truth is being revealed? Though the earth shakes at the heart of these truths, the deep and unshakeable love and wisdom of God is there in it.
One of the most terrifying parts of this pandemic is the economic disruption. There are those who have lots of resources. There are those who have lost their incomes, and some have lost loved ones. There are those who are waiting to be laid off and there are those who are only worried for themselves. There are those who have no homes in which to self-isolate. My hope is that when we begin rebuilding this world, we will re-build with God’s ways in mind, God’s values as priorities. How today can we begin to prepare ourselves to demonstrative for the world what God envisions for the cosmos and not re-build a world in which the survival of the fittest and richest rules the decisions?
Act of Reconciliation: The purpose of confession is for healing and reconciliation – being restored in the goodness out of which and for which we were created. It is in God that we, individuals and communities alike, find healing and wholeness. Therefore, you are invited now to admit to yourselves and to the Holy One that which is getting in the way of your, and our, healing and restoration – to admit that to God in such a way that you will then be able to help the obstacle(s) fade away. Let us together in Spirit be present in our confession as the Holy One is present with us. As we pray our admissions in the privacy of our own hearts, we begin by saying, Christ have mercy.
Silence… (end the silence by saying, Christ have mercy.)
Assurance of Grace: Hear the good news! The Apostle Paul asked, if God is for us, who can be against us? Who can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? And he answered his own question saying, No one and nothing! Nothing can separate us from the love of God. So, receive God’s peace. God’s gracious forgiveness is yours! We are a forgiven people. Thanks be to God!
The Offering: God is generous and has provided for us in abundance. We are asked to return to God a portion of that abundance. There is no gift of heart, word or money that is too small.
So, bring your offerings of goodness to be used for God’s purposes. This is one more way we continue to become the people God would have us be.
Offertory Hymn: When They Heard that Jesus was Coming MV128
What is your offering for this Holy Week? (Name your offering.)
Prayer of Dedication: Holy One, receive from us these our offerings, tokens of the lives of faith we return to you. We pray that we may be used in the sustaining of your good works for the sake of others and for your glory. Amen.
A New Creed: Standing on the edge of the world now, on shaky ground, let us steady ourselves by affirming our faith together:
We are not alone; we live in God’s world. We believe in God who has created and is creating who has come in Jesus the Word made flesh to reconcile and make new who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God. We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in creation, to love and to serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our Judge and our Hope. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
HYMN: My Song is Love Unknown
THE GOING FORTH
We have come through five weeks of Lent like none we have experienced before. We are standing amid the clash of powers both global and personal. Do not be afraid.
Choral Anthem: Ride On, King Jesus: Spiritual arr. M. Hogan
Commissioning and Blessing: Be at peace this Holy Week. Stay steady. And remember that “weeping may linger or the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Ps. 30:5