March 28, 2021 – Palm Sunday
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Message from the Rev. Helen Smith
Welcome to worship on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. It is difficult when we can’t be with each other in the church building for this sacred week. We miss our Palm Sunday Parade, with palm branches waving, our Lenten candles being extinguished, our communion on Maundy Thursday and communal vigil on Good Friday. I pray that all our efforts to stay safe will result in us being able to be together in person soon. And while we are physically apart, may the Spirit bring us together in spirit.
Rev. Helen Smith
Call to Worship: PWS&D Liturgy
You can listen to the audio recording with Rev. Helen Smith, joining in unison with her and Rev. Bob Smith, while consulting the text below, or just use the text.
Spoken by One (L) / Spoken by All (P)
L: Jerusalem, at last! We join the crowd streaming to the mountain. We watch Jesus approach on a lowly donkey.
We hear the crowds cry “Hosanna!”
P: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
L: There is a joyful song in the air: the people cheer and the palms wave. But the adulation of the crowd is shallow.
P: Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna to the blessed of God. Son of David, save us now.
L: The crowd grows— the people want to be part of something important.
P: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
L: Let us pray.
All: God of all times, we have followed Jesus into the crowded city. We too want to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Reveal to us what true glory, leadership and obedience look like under your reign. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
Book of Praise – 214 “All Glory, Laud and Honour”
- Video with on-screen words with some differences from those in the hymnbook.
- Original Latin words (820) by writer and bishop Theodulf of Orléans (750–821); English translation by English Anglican clergyman and hymnwriter John Mason Neale (1818–1866), in various versions from 1851 to 1861. Music (1615; tune “St. Theodulph”) by German composer Melchior Teschner (1584–1635). Words and music in the public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, Lord’s Prayer
Gracious God of persevering love, we praise you for the love that prompted Christ to set his face to go to Jerusalem. We praise you that even if the crowd is silenced, the rocks will cry out.
God of mercy, we confess that we refuse to hear your gospel of speaking truth to power, of speaking love to fear, because it means we have to change. Forgive us, when we desire wealth and prestige over serving you. Forgive us when we lay claim to privileged places in your kingdom and push away those we consider unworthy. Forgive us for wills that want to do things our way, for fickle allegiances seeking fame and running when the tide turns. Forgive us our failure to follow Jesus all the way to the cross. Forgive us our failure to love. Forgive us and change us, O God.
We pray in the name of Jesus and continue to pray as he taught his disciples:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
Laying aside judgment, God offers us redemption;
setting aside anger, God embraces us with love;
letting go of grief, God pours living water upon us.
This is the good news, my friends:
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Blessed is the One who brings us the reign of God!
Hosanna in the highest.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
- “How Can I Keep from Singing?”. Words and music by American singer Chris Tomlin (1972–), American producer Ed Cash (1971–) and English singer-songwriter Matt Redman (1974–). Choral setting by American composer Mary MacDonald (1956–). Words and music copyright © 2006 and this arrangement copyright © 2019 Thankyou Music, administered by Capitol CMG Publishing; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and the GCPC Senior Choir. Audio production by Rachelle Risling and Robert Quickert. Created as the anthem for the March 28, 2021 virtual worship service.
- Audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
The Song that never ends
Psalm 137, one of the laments of Israel, describes God’s people in exile. They are defeated, and broken. They have been taken by force far from their homeland, and are held captive by a people who neither know, nor worship, the God of Israel.
One day their captors ask the Hebrew slaves to entertain them. “Come on, sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
And their lament is, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” How can we praise God when we feel so far from God? How can we rejoice when all is lost, when there is no hope?
And some days, particularly during this past year, maybe their lament is ours. How can we sing God’s praises when we can’t get together for worship? How can we sing God’s praises when the third wave hits and we wonder if there is any end to this? How can we sing God’s praises when we can’t get together with friends or family? How can we sing God’s praises when once again we will not be together for Easter? How can we sing when we are unemployed or underemployed and we don’t know how we will pay the bills? And beyond Covid – How can we sing when refugee camps are overflowing, when minorities are oppressed, when the effects of our careless living threaten to destroy God’s good creation with water we cannot drink, air we cannot breathe, and the extinction of many species?
How can we sing the Lord’s song, when so many other voices conspire to drown it out?
Do the people ask that question on this day, this first Palm Sunday, when Jesus is about to make his triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Do they appreciate the danger at all? Do they have any idea how hollow their praises will seem when they watch Jesus being crucified?
In Jerusalem, there will be a showdown between Jesus and the authorities; between the way of fulfilment to the law that Jesus brought, and those who could understand only the old way; between those who had faith to see the new thing that God was doing, and those who had looked for it for so long they could not believe it when it was right in front of them.
It was to Jerusalem that Jesus resolutely set his face. It was when he decided to go there, that Thomas, who understood maybe better than all the rest, said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Jesus stands on the slopes of the Mount of Olives and looks over that great city. How shall he make an entrance that the people will understand? They want so badly to have a triumphant Messiah who will conquer their enemies and restore the glory days of David. How can he pry them away from that, and make them see that he comes in the way of humility and peace, of sacrifice and suffering? A king, but a different sort of king.
So he sends two of the disciples into town to fetch him a colt, a lowly beast of burden. Maybe the crowd will remember the prophecy of Zechariah where he spoke of the humility of the king riding a donkey in peace. And he gets on the donkey, and begins his descent, into Jerusalem, into the hands of his enemies, all the way to the cross.
That’s when his disciples take up the song. “God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God.” They are right to recognize their master as the Messiah, the one who has come to redeem Israel. They sing his praises for the signs they have seen, and for the even greater displays of power they anticipate seeing, now that they are in the big city. He has told them that it is not his way, but they still expect him to pull off some kind of coup. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
As a sign of their devotion, they lay their garments down on the road. They may even be more right than they know, that the Messiah has truly come to redeem his people. He has come, but all along, they have not been able to get it into their heads what it would cost him. They praise him, but at this moment are not thinking that this king will conquer as a servant who must suffer and die.
And the song of praise rings out loud and clear all right but not everyone joins in. In fact, it is more than some of them can stand. The killjoy religious leaders who are watching are incensed. They know what the Messiah will look like, and this Jesus doesn’t fit the part. What he claims for himself is blasphemous, and what his supporters sing is offensive.
These leaders know they could never silence the exuberance of this crowd, so they figure they will get Jesus to do it. “Order your disciples to stop.” they demand. “Restrain them. Religion shouldn’t be so unseemly. And if things get too far out of control, the Romans will step in to bring order, and that won’t be any good for any of us.”
“Sorry,” says Jesus, “poise and decorum are not necessarily next to godliness. This is a time for exuberance and joy.” God’s Messiah is coming, to bring his peace to the world, so rejoicing is quite in order.
“And what’s more,” he says, “this is a song that never ends. Even if I were to get them to be silent, then the stones themselves would shout. You cannot quench the Spirit. This is a song that will be heard, and any effort on your part, or anyone else’s, to silence it will be futile. This is something that is bigger than you are, and you can’t stop it. You may silence a crowd, and the stones will take up the song. You may kill me, but the song will go on. Whatever you do to drown it out, God will provide a witness, and God’s song will be sung. There may be times when it is sung in a strange land, when there are few to join in, and the music falls on unsympathetic ears, even during a pandemic, but the song will never end.”
That day, the disciples are not thinking of the darker side of Jesus’ march into Jerusalem. This is a day of joy. Later, when they would watch in horror as their friend was tortured and killed, later when they saw the whole dream was evaporating before their eyes, were they chagrined at how naively they had sung on Palm Sunday? They probably thought, like the two on the road to Emmaus: “We had hoped, but hope is gone.” “We had a song, but now the song has gone silent.”
At first glance, the praises of Palm Sunday look misplaced, because soon after, the body of Jesus would hang from a cross. But if we look further, the song returns with the recognition on Easter that he was not dead, but had been raised. The praises would not be silenced, and the song would not die. The disciples were right to praise Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem, and Jesus was right that nothing could stop the song, not the hostility of those in power, not the frailty of the disciples’ faith, not apathy or indifference, not busy lives and information highways and congested roads, not a pandemic, not a crucifixion.
That Easter victory gives us courage to keep on singing. Sometimes it will be pure joy as the sun rises and the renewal of spring is in the air, as vaccines continue to go into arms, and loved ones recover. And sometimes it will sound like a lament as people suffer, as people are discriminated against and abused, as loved ones die. Sometimes it will not be easy to sing, as we sit isolated on our couches, missing the fellowship of worshipping together.
In the midst of the ancient stones of the buildings around them, my friends in Palestine talk about themselves as “the living stones”. We too are the living stones, called to sing the song, praising God for God’s grace and care, even when those around us would prefer that we keep quiet and not disturb their complacency, or when many have long ago hung up their harps and assumed God has forgotten them and are without hope. Now, as much as at any time, the song must be sung: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
Herbert O’Driscoll, an internationally recognized preacher and hymn writer, former Dean of New Westminster Cathedral, writes in one of his books: “However dark the current days of the church appear, it has come through a lot in the past, and will survive long into the future.” “In 10,000 years,” he claims, “maybe in domed cities on other planets, people will sit around a table and pass around bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus who came to Jerusalem to give his life for us all.”
And today we add to his image, they will sing that song that will never end. The living stones of the church will not be silent. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven.” Amen.
- “How Can I Keep from Singing?”, by American composer Robert Lowry (1826–1899). Music in the public domain. This arrangement copyright © 2021 by Rachelle Risling; used by permission.
- Performed on the keyboard and mixed by Rachelle Risling, GCPC Music Director.
- Audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
Great, giving God, keep us faithful in worshipping the one who has come in your name, faithful through our worship, faithful in giving our skills, our time and in our offerings. Bless, we pray, all these gifts, given to your glory and for the good of the world.
God, we are grateful to you for the gift of life itself. We thank you for the little things we often take for granted but which make life full and meaningful: for good books, for music and harmony, for nutritious food and delicious desserts, work to do and time to relax. We thank you for this good earth, the change of seasons, flowers and budding trees, warm sunshine, the singing of the birds, heralding the coming of spring. We thank you for parents and grandparents, for children and grandchildren, for friends. We thank you for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives, for the forgiveness and peace, the love and joy we find in him.
In the silence, O Lord, we give you thanks for those particular blessings, for which we are especially grateful:
(silent prayers of thanksgiving)
For all your blessings, for the grace to count our blessings, and the ability to share our blessings, with others, we thank you.
We pray for your church, that all those who trust in Jesus will be made able by your Spirit to follow his humility, to see and imitate his servant life, to welcome and not to condemn. Help your church to be like Jesus.
We pray for world leaders to understand their role to serve the peoples of the world, that posturing will be replaced by practical action to make a difference, and jockeying for position be replaced by genuine efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for those who are sick.
In days when food banks are required in our city to feed families who struggle to provide the basics for life, we ask that you will re-arrange our priorities and help us to live more like Jesus. We thank you that we are able to help through our major mission project.
In these covid times, we pray for those who suffer loss, those who have lost their health, their livelihood, a loved one, a relationship. In the shock, confusion, pain and sorrow especially of unexpected loss, we pray for hearts to be open to the comfort of your Spirit shown through friendship and community. We thank you Lord for you are no stranger to suffering and are an ever-present help in our times of trouble. Hear us now as we name those people and places in special need of your grace.
(silent prayers of intercession)
God of grace, help us to follow Jesus and sing songs of praises in all that we say and do. We pray in his name. Amen.
Book of Praise – 217 “Ride on, ride on in majesty”
- Video with on-screen words; verse 4 is omitted and there are a number of differences from those in the hymnbook in the remaining verses.
- Words (1820) by English historian and ecclesiastic Henry Hart Milman (1791–1868). Music (tune: Winchester New) first appeared in Musikalisches Handbuch der geistlichen Melodien, published in 1690 in Hamburg, Germany, by Georg Wittwe. It was rearranged in 1864 by English Anglican clergyman and composer William Henry Havergal (1793–1870) to create the present tune. Words, music and arrangement in the public domain.
- Recorded at St Mary-le-Tower, Ipswich, England, for the March 20, 2016 episode of the BBC programme Songs of Praise.
Let us sing the song, and follow in Christ’s footsteps. May God lead us into Holy Week.
Let us walk towards the city and wait in the garden. May God lead us onto holy ground
Let us journey towards death and hope for resurrection. May God lead us into holy joy.
And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- “Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and the GCPC Senior Choir. Audio and video production by Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-03-28 at 10:49 – Corrected text of Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope.