COCU24C.Lent6C.Palm Sunday

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29: A celebration of God’s goodness and faithful love, answering prayer, turning the rejected stone into the capstone, and inviting people into God’s presence.

Luke 19:28-40: Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the people offer praises. The Pharisees though are unimpressed, calling on Jesus to silence the crowd.
(Bible Readings summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise)


Palm Sunday – image from Guatemala


United Church of Christ Worship Ways
Ministry Matters
John van de Laar’s reflections on the texts.

Church of Scotland starters for worship – Palm Sunday.

A wonderful resource of music, art and readings at Gospel Feelings website.

Article: Palm Sunday and the gift of disillusionment

Excellent resource (2015) by the Disciples of Christ. 

Call to Worship: Palm Sunday
The story of Palm Sunday tells of how
people removed their cloaks and spread them out
in front of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem.

The cloak we wear every day to face the world
is both the persona we wish to present,
and our defence against the elements.

As we come to worship may we be willing
to lay down our defenses and disguises,
at the feet of the One who sees us we really are.

And then, set free for worship,
may we offer our praises
with open hearts and lives.
(c)Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality Centre.

Call to worship: Recognizing Jesus
When God appeared on earth in the person of Jesus,
most of the world did not recognize him
and therefore did not worship him.
Today we ask for faith that will open our eyes
to see Jesus for who he is,
that we might worship him in truth.
People of God, behold your God!
We open our eyes to see his glory.
We open our ears to hear his wisdom.
We open our hands to offer him gifts.
We open our mouths to sing his praise.
We open our hearts to offer him our love.
posted on Reformed Worship

Knowing (inspired by Luke 19:39-40)
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him,
“Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
But Jesus answered,
“I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

(Pile of stones in the middle)

Did the stones know?

Did the stones know
they would soon have to shout ‘Hosanna’
because those who had first shouted it
would soon be shouting ‘Crucify’?

Did Jesus know?

Did Jesus know
that those who followed in this fickle crowd
would soon turn their backs
on the only hope they had

Did Jesus tell the stones?

Did Jesus tell the stones
that they would be needed to shout
for they alone knew
the secret of tombstones

Do we know?
Do we know when to shout
and when to hold silence
as the saviour struggles for love
and love struggles with him
(c) Roddy Hamilton, and posted on Mucky Paws.

Like palm leaves 

Without the breeze

The stillness of the heart 

Without its beats 

Oh…Like the ocean 

Without its waves
Your absence 

Engenders a silence
The melancholy

Of the dawn

Without the dew 

That washes its face 

For the morning
(Source: Ibrahim Samdo)

“I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19.40)
Silently, they cry out.
The stone the builders rejected
has been made the cornerstone.
God gave Moses the tablets of stone.
God is able from these stones
to raise up children of Abraham.
Command this stone to become a loaf of bread.
You who are without sin cast the first stone.
No stone will be left on another.
I will remove your hearts of stone.
Your bother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.
The stone was rolled away.
Even the stones know they are dust
and to dust they shall return,
evolving always toward gentleness,
toward each other.
The stones cry out, all Creation sings
praise to God’s love made present,
wails in lament for our fearful cruelty
and the cry of the dispossessed,
those who are trampled, thrown,
treated like dirt, stoned,
used for our wars and imprisonments.
Even the stones shout
hope for the word to come.
Listen to the stones.
Let your heart join them.
(c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

The story begins with great expectations, which are easy to miss. Jesus has just been in Bethany, close to Jerusalem, where he resurrected his friend Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus’s eyes have barely adjusted to the sunlight, and his story has spread throughout the region. Hearing this story, the crowds begin to predict how God will act in their lives based on the way that God acted before: God will intervene again. God will work a miracle. God will expel the occupiers and resurrect God’s people in God’s city.
The palm branches signalled the crowd’s high expectations, a symbol largely lost on those of us who are separated from the culture and chronology of the story. Jewish history told of a man named Judas Maccabeus, a freedom fighter who entered Jerusalem 200 years prior to Jesus. As he approached, people waved palm branches and sang hymns. When Judas finally arrived, he defeated the Syrian king, recaptured the Temple, expelled the pagans, and reigned for a century before the Romans took back the city. 
God had saved God’s people from an occupier once before when an uncommon man trotted into town. The crowds began predicting another takeover. Their song declared, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9). This is a song that Jews sang at the beginning of Passover. It’s taken from Psalm 118, the most quoted psalm in the New Testament. It tells of an enemy swarming like bees, driving the psalmist to the brink of destruction. Then God sweeps in with a mighty hand and wipes out the enemy. The word Hosanna means “Lord, save now.” They are asking Jesus to drive out the enemy army and restore order.
Even the donkey plays a role in elevating expectations, as it harkens back to an image from Zechariah 9:9, a prophetic passage that many of these Jerusalemites would have heard before. “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey.”
(Source: (excerpt) Jonathan Merritt, Christianity Today)

A Justice call to worship
This happened.
Jesus entered Jerusalem this way.
But it isn’t just a one time thing.
Jesus still comes in the middle of our world
and our distress and we still cry out
Hosanna, Save Us
When the ordered world and it’s institutions fail us
Hosanna, Save Us
When our trust in power, violence, and military might turns on us
and becomes oppressive
Hosanna, Save Us
When we are trapped in behaviors that pull us away
from relationship with God and each other,
Hosanna, Save Us
When the harms done to us through racism, sexism, or victimization
become open wounds in our lives,
destroying our trust and making us hate ourselves
Hosanna, Save Us
When society itself becomes an enslaving trap
from which we are afraid we cannot escape
Hosanna, Save Us
From gun violence in our schools and on our streets
that kills our children and makes targets of people of color
and those who are marginalized by our society
Hosanna, Save Us
From leaders who lack courage,
or who have sold out for money and power
Hosanna, Save Us
From everything that is life destroying,
O God, and separates us from You
Hosanna, Save Us
No wonder they told Jesus to shut His people up.
This is language that changes the world.
And it changes the world because God hears our cry.
God gives God’s own Self in Jesus to do what we cannot…
and then invites us to be part of that redeeming work in the world.
But today, this Sunday, we point to the wounds, the sins,
the oppressions we see in ourselves and in the world around us and we cry out
Hosanna, Save Us.
(Steve Price, posted on Gifts in Open Hands website)

I will have only you
Luke 19: 39,41-42: They said, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”… As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
Let them have their warriors and demagogues.
I will have only you,
humble and riding on a donkey,
king not of might but of love.
Ride into the city of my heart,
its prideful palaces and their corruption,
the dark alleys of fear,
the crowded hovels of inadequacy.
Ride in and be my sovereign:
endure my shouts and curses,
rise above my judgments and certainties,
and reign over me in love and forgiveness.
Then let me be your loyal subject in this world,
this day ruled by other kings, other laws.
Show me how to reign, not dominate.
teach me the things that make for peace.
Keep me close to you in this fickle crowd,
steady amid the yelling and fighting,
gentle in the face of brutality,
mighty with the awesome power of love,
my lord, ruler of the universe,
little king with the holes in his hands.
(c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

Threat: A Responsive Litany for Palm Sunday
Jesus was beloved by the poor and the outcast
but he was a threat to people with power.
Jesus stood against the Temple,
so he was a threat to the Sadducees.
Jesus healed on the Sabbath and ate with sinners,
so he was a threat to the Pharisees.
Jesus took the titles of “Lord,” “Son of God,” and “King.”
those were the Caesar’s titles:
he was a threat to the government.
Jesus came without violence
yet he disturbed the peace.
Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God
and the kingdoms of this world were frightened.
Lord, help us to love your Kingdom
more than the kingdoms of this world.
For thine is the Kingdom,
the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
(c) Rev. Drew Ludwig, posted on LiturgyLink.

Hymn: We Long to Know Peace!
LYONS (“O Worship the King, All Glorious Above!”)
“We long to know peace!” Jerusalem said
As Caesar’s great troops filled people with dread.
As soldiers and armies marched in with great might,
No justice was found and no peace was in sight.

“Hosanna! God saves!” they cried to the Lord.
They called him a king and looked for his sword.
Would he fight their battles and turn things around?
Then Christ rode a creature of peace into town.

“He isn’t our king!” the crowd quickly turned,
Rejecting the gift for which they had yearned.
They mocked him and killed him, yet death did not win.
Christ rose from the dead and brought God’s peace again.

“We long to know peace!” O God, we still say,
Yet when Jesus calls we turn him away.
O God, may we see in this non-violent king
The peace that your offer, the life that you bring.

Biblical References: Luke 19:38-40; Luke 22:14-23:56
Tune: Joseph Martin Kraus, 1784; until recently attributed to Johann Michael Haydn (“O Worship the King, All Glorious Above!”)
Text: Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email:; New Hymns:

Year B (2015)
Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16

Christ, though godly, did not cling to divine status, but in complete self-emptying
accepted the life of a slave, a humble human, vulnerable and mortal, subservient even to death on a cross. Philippians 2.6-8
Gentle God, your Jesus faced profound evil
and confronted injustice and violence
not with great force, but with humility, powerlessness and love.
Give me the Spirit to live as Christ,
the heart to love, the courage to forgive,
the trust to surrender my light to this world,
asking nothing in return.
I abandon all entitlement.
I empty myself of all willfulness
and seek your willingness alone.
Make me a servant of your grace.
Give me the deep humility
to serve, not to get my way,
to bless, not to win,
to love, only to love.
I pray in the name
and the humble spirit
and the encouraging presence of Christ. Amen.
(c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes,

Readings: Readings Palm Sunday

Great article here by Ched Meyers.
“We need to undomesticate Palm Sunday in our churches. Jesus was staging a kind of counter-demonstration. While Pilate rode into the city on a military stallion, Jesus entered on a borrowed donkey, symbolized sovereignty—but also Zechariah’s promise that Yahweh would one day banish the war horse forever! Our churches have the habit of recreating that “demonstration” in our Palm Sunday liturgies. But to really represent this gospel story in our world, we need to re-contextualize its symbols into our political moment, and replace our witness back into public space”

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing and the aftermath that he was unarmed and shot, the cry of the innocent is ever more in our minds. God is on the side of the innocent. God defends the undefendable. God hears the cries and brings deliverance. However, God’s justice is about restoration, not punishment. Seeking revenge against Mr. Zimmerman or the police that did not arrest him does not bring restoration, it brings revenge. While nothing can bring back young Trayvon, we can work to end racial profiling and violence. We must work to speak out for the innocents, whether they are sitting in prison for crimes they didn’t commit or gunned down for looking suspicious. We must stop the violence first and foremost. And as we recall Jesus, we see Jesus in the life of Trayvon, who looked too suspicious as a rabble-rouser and reformer and didn’t behave at all the way they thought a Messiah should. Jesus is in Trayvon, and Jesus is in you and me. But we must remember, from the scriptures of old, that God hears the cries of the innocent, and will bring justice. Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell,

A communion liturgy for Palm Sunday John van de Laar.

A communion liturgy for Palm Sunday by Craig Mitchell (text is also on ‘Communion’ page) – a ‘question’ and response liturgy reminiscent of the Jewish passover meal with the questions through the meal

Bruce Prewer’s Palm Sunday liturgy

A contemporary reading: Cosmic procession by Bruce Sanguin (from If Darwin prayed, pp56-57)

God of galaxies and gerbils,
and this ‘gay great happening illimitably earth’
with great hope and celebration
we join the procession of life
en route to Jerusalem,
honouring the Christ,
in Jesus,
as alpha and omega.

The palm branches we throw down –
the royal carpet for His passing –
are our own lives,
offered as hallelujahs
that it has all come to this:

Fourteen billion years it has taken
to come to this One,
arriving as servant, though honoured as King;
as peasant, though Lord of Compassion;
no formal education, though born as Wisdom;
dormant in the stars, gestating in the pregnant Earth;
and through Mary, Mother of God.

What joy is ours as we take our place
in the great procession of life,
heralding and blessing
this One who comes in your name,
and all who are coming
with a song of holiness on their lips
and a yearning for wholeness in their hearts.
is this one who comes in your name!

After the parade
After the parade

he has left
it was just a short moment he was here
a glimpse only
of the messiah
a shadow of what we had expected
he has left
and the few palm branches
and discarded sandal
is all that’s left
of the messianic parade
he has left
and there is only disappointment to fill the space
for nothing happened
heaven didn’t open
angelic armies didn’t descend
the kingdom of God did not arrive
he has left
and all hope with him
the crowd thought their moment had come
but it hadn’t
they’ll turn on him
for he led them on
with nowhere to go
he has left
and for his own safety
and that of his disciples
that is no bad thing 

(Source: Roddy Hamilton, Mucky Paws)

Contemporary reading: Jesus takes on the city (adapted, St Oswald’s)
It was on the Sunday that he took on the city.
Religious freaks usually appear in the desert
Urging folk to come into the open air
And find God through getting back to nature.
God, they seemed to say, doesn’t live in the city.
God, they seemed to say, prefers the smell of a garden to that of a gutter.
God, they seemed to say, prefers the gurgling streams, not trickles of urine from the bladder of a homeless person.
They saw the city as a place for sin. God doesn’t go there.
It was on the Sunday
That he took on the city.
Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity,
In perfect harmony. The eternal one dwells in humanity,
Kneels in humility and washes our feet.
O what a mystery, meekness and majesty.

The Unking
We call you ‘King’, Jesus,
but you’re not like any king we’ve ever heard of;
You don’t flaunt your power,
waving your hand dismissively
to change the lives of your subjects;
You don’t hoard your wealth,
and tax your people just to grow more comfortable
in your isolated palace;
You don’t exploit the weak and unconnected,
or use the ambition of ladder-climbers
to further your control.
No, you are the King who lays down his crown,
to walk among us as one of us;
You are the King who lays down his life,
to bring abundant, eternal life to all who seek it;
You are the King who draws the weak, the rejected, the poor, the child
into the centre of the conversation
and into the heart of where real power lies.
You, Jesus, are the UnKing – the King whose Kingdom,
redefines everything we know
and will continue to do so for eternity. Amen (John van de Lear)
Other resources for Palm Sunday on John’s website here.

Call to Worship (Thom Shuman)
On this day of palms and celebration,
Jesus continues his journey with God.
We will go with him, for a while,
until he turns towards Calvary.
From the top of Olive Mountain,
Jesus prepares to travel
through the valley of heartache and loss.
We will follow Jesus, for a while,
cradling hope in our hearts.
In the streets of Jerusalem,
Jesus hears the cries of those who adore him.
We will shout Jesus’ name, for a while,
until we cry out, “Crucify him!”

Song: Not on a war horse
Not on a war horse, but a humble donkey,
the Son of Man came to Jerusalem;
great city full of faithful Hebrew pilgrims
received one more as she had often done.
And yet this time, Christ journeyed into danger;
to be betrayed, to suffer and to die.

They paved his way with scattered cloaks and branches
– a prelude to the coming victory.
Crowds of disciples shouting out their praises;
“Glory to God! Hosanna to the King!
Bless’d is the one, Jesus has come to save us.”
The very stones would cry out if they could.

His friends knew not the horrors that awaited,
imagining an end to Roman rule.
Instead God’s plan was moving to fruition;
his Son would gain a greater vict’ry still.
Not by the might of gathered rebel armies,
but strength of purpose and submissive will.

So let us pause, as we this day remember
our humble King who gathers up the lost;
how great his trial, how strong the love he shows us;
how weak a faith that does not count the cost.
We walk with him, come through into the city;
one final meal, a symbol for God’s grace.

Out into darkness, Jesus’ time is coming;
a kiss to greet, a sign – “this is the one”
The soldiers mock, yet still our Lord is silent;
the sentence passed and all our crimes his own.
Christ hoisted high, humanity is ransomed;
through Jesus’ death, we all are given life!
(Tune: “Finlandia”; words: David M. Miller)

Song: We do not hope to ease our minds
We do not hope to ease our minds 

By shifted answers, shifted blame, 

While Christ is homeless, hungry, poor, 

And we are rich who bear his name. 
As long as justice is a dream
And human dignity denied,
We stand with Christ; disturb us still 

Till every need is satisfied.

We cannot ask to live at peace
In comfort and security
While Christ is tried in Pilate’s hall 

And drags his cross to Calvary.
As long as hatred stifles truth 

And freedom is betrayed by fear, 

We stand with Christ; give us no peace

Till his peace reigns in triumph here.

We will not pray to be preserved 

From any depth of agony
While Christ’s despairing cry rings out: 

God, why have you abandoned me?
As long as we have hope to share
Of life renewed beyond the pain,
We stand with Christ through all the night 

Till Easter morning dawns again.
(Marnie Barrell Singing the Faith 717. Alleluia Aotearoa has two possible tunes)

Hymn: The Very Stones Would Sing
(Luke 19:29-40, Palm Sunday C)
Here, we wave our palms in honor, Here, we lay our garments down,
As you enter in your glory, And as we demand your crown.
We shout psalms of adoration, Crying “Blessed is the king!”
And you say that if we’re silent Then the very stones would sing!

We have waited for your coming. We have cried out for release.
You’re the King whom we have longed for; You’re the One, the Prince of Peace.
So we wonder at your summons To be the peace you bring.
In reluctance, we are silent, So the very stones must sing.

We are frightened, thus unfaithful, When we’re silenced by the world.
We betray you; we deny you Lest their anger be unfurled.
We are scared, Lord, to speak boldly; To security we cling.
In our panic, we are silent, So the very stones must sing.

Lord, how quickly our “Hosannas” Turn to cries of “Crucify!”
When the justice that you call for Requires of us our lives.
We don’t want a God of mercy; We demand a conquering king.
In our anger, we are silent, So the very stones must sing.

O God, help us to stand steadfast. Help us witness to your peace.
Help us to reclaim our voices That our praise may never cease.
Lead us forward on the journey; Bells of justice let us ring.
Underfoot, may stones be silent; Let us be the ones who sing!
Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Frey

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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