April 2, 2023 – Palm Sunday
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, April 2, at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. A video recording of the live stream will be available on our YouTube channel from 6:00 PM EST on Sunday, April 2.
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Call to Worship
L: Just as the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness,
P: the Spirit sends us into places of uncertainty where we confront our weakness and insecurities.
L: Sometimes the wilderness is the city.
P: In the city, life can be a struggle where the vulnerable are victimized by unfamiliar structures.
L: Jesus rode into Jerusalem to reclaim the city for God.
P: By entering on a donkey, Jesus showed that he would rule with humility and compassion.
L: As the Church, we too bring care to those whom the city too often forgets.
P: We remember that many are lost and alone: refugees, the unhoused, sex workers, those far from home.
L: We cannot put the burden on the destitute to find their way through the urban maze.
P: We come in humility to serve those whose resources are few and whose needs are many.
Lighting of the Christ Candle
This is the Christ Candle. We light the candle to help us remember that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is with us in every place and every time.
“Ride on, ride on in majesty” (Book of Praise 1997 Hymn 217). Words (1820) by English historian and priest Henry Hart Milman (1791–1868). Music (tune: “Winchester New”) first appeared in Musikalisches Handbuch der geistlichen Melodien, published in 1690. Arranged (1864) by English Anglican clergyman and composer William Henry Havergal (1793–1870). Words, music and arrangement public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
God of majesty and mercy, we worship today, as the Cross looms larger on the horizon. We praise you for Jesus, the Ruler who came in humility to free us from captivity. He came in mercy to free us from the sins we recognize in ourselves, and the sins we easily overlook. He came to show us the full extent of your mercy, love and justice. So we praise you for your kindness and the strength you show to lift our burdens and shoulder them for us in Christ Jesus. We come in humility, knowing you have given us your all, and we can never offer enough for such overwhelming love. Receive our worship in Christ’s name and for his sake.
God of mystery and mercy, your mercy and forgiveness are a mystery to us. We fail to show mercy to others when they fall short of our expectations. We keep silent rather than speak up when others are in trouble. We prefer what is easy to what is right, even though your Spirit draws our attention. We seek your forgiveness, O God, and ask that you make us more forgiving. Inspire us with the costly choices Jesus made as he moved toward the Cross, and give us the courage to follow him.
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.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.
Declaration of Pardon
Who is in a position to condemn us? Only Christ – and Christ died for us; Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us. Believe the good news of the gospel. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and set free by God’s generous grace.
Thanks be to God!
One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.
Guildwood Senior Choir presents
“Ride On, King Jesus”. Words and music, traditional African-American spiritual. For more information, see this article at The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Arrangement (2010) by American composer and educator Larry Shackley (1956–). Words and music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 2010 Lorenz Publishing Corporation; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Fun with the young at heart (children’s story)
A Mission Moment
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
“Unto the hills around” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 81). Words (1877, 1909) by English nobleman John Campbell, the 9th Duke of Argyll (1845–1914), better known as the Marquess of Lorne, the Governor-General of Canada from 1878 to 1883. The words are a paraphrasing of Psalm 121. Music (1860; tune: “Sandon”) by Scottish composer Charles Henry Purday (1799–1885). Words and music in the public domain.
Matthew 21: 1–11 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 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. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “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.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 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!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: These are the words of God for the people of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater thar sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”
I would like us to remember what Kahlil Gibran has written about joy and sorrow as we meditate on the meaning of Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday, we remember the way the people of Israel welcomed Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. We are invited to join their celebration of welcoming Jesus. As we try to participate in the joyful and uplifting celebration, we sense an inner struggle and turmoil, because we are fully aware of what happens next. Our hearts are heavy with the knowledge of the swift transformation of jubilation into rejection. Their welcoming party turns quickly into the crucifixion of Jesus. Our sadness comes from knowing how quickly their Hosanna becomes “Crucify him”.
I believe that the gospel of Matthew encourages us to accept both joys and sorrows in our hearts. The story of Palm Sunday perhaps tells us that welcoming God into our lives and hearts requires us to embrace both our love and anger for God, our excitement and disappointment with God, our hope and frustration with God….
How quickly our love for God can turn into anger…How our anger with God can turn into the seed of faith…. How our knowledge of God can turn into our disappointment with God and how our disappointment with God turn into our trust in God….
I believe the Apostle Paul would summarize the message of Palm Sunday this way:
Romans 5: 1–5, “1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
We cannot be afraid of facing our own disappointment, anger, fear, and doubts of God, because that is how our spiritual journey deepens, how our healing begins, and how our faith starts to grow.
As we get older, we become good at burying those things behind our mask. We are good at telling those who need to cry, “Don’t cry.” We are good at telling those who need to laugh, “Don’t laugh.” We are good at telling ourselves, “Don’t cry,” when our hearts are broken.
Jesus again and again reminds us to guard our hearts against that, Matthew 11: 16–19:
“16 But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 ’We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
Jesus invites us to embrace our joys and sorrows… When we fully embrace both our tears and laughter, our joys and sorrows, our excitements and disappointments with God, we may take a step beyond ourselves and meet the risen Christ who comes to us on a donkey, not on a horse. According to the Biblical scholar Bruce Malina, the horse was the usual war animal, a symbol of power and might. The donkey was a draft animal, used to carry persons and goods. It is a symbol of peace. The risen Christ does not come to us as a political or military king, but the prince of Peace, giving us the inner peace. Not to underestimate the importance of politics or wealth, but to remind us something more fundamental to our human hearts. To awake our human abilities to laugh and cry with one another, to love and wonder, to dream and to trust, to forgive and reconcile. God comes to us to love us more. There is no other reason.
Étude in D flat major “Un sospiro”, S. 144/3, (1845–49) by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811–1886). This arrangement (2023) by Rachelle Risling. Music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 2023 Rachelle Risling; used by permission.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of being present at 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.
Dedication of our Gifts
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 306) Based on the tune “Old 100th” with words (1989) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–). Words copyright © 1989 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God all creatures high and low;
praise God in Jesus fully known,
Creator Word and Spirit One.
Prayer of dedication
Gracious God, when we remember Jesus gave his life for us, our offering seems so small. Yet Jesus shows us five loaves and two fish can feed a multitude; a man dying on a cross becomes Living Bread for a hungry world. Bless these small gifts with your goodness so that the miracle of Jesus’ love continues to amaze the world. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of courage and compassion, as we follow Jesus toward the Cross this holy week, we give you thanks that he faced his enemies with courage, not violence. We are grateful he loved us enough to die for us, bearing every pain and sorrow others inflicted. In Christ we trust that your love has power in every situation, even the most troubling or tragic. So hear us as we bring to you the people and places facing trouble and tragedy this day:
We pray for all struggling with poverty, sickness, or grief, and any feeling overwhelmed by things beyond their control. Stay with them day by day and restore their hope and health;
We pray for people and places facing violence, war and corruption, and all who fear for what this day may bring. Grant them courage and protection, and restore their hope and peace;
We pray for those who challenge tyranny, brutality and injustice, and all who raise their voices for the vulnerable and victimized. Give them strength and restore their hope and freedom;
We pray for all who face persecution because of racism, belief or identity, and for each one who has been shamed or humiliated by someone more powerful. Assure them of their value as your children and restore their hope and dignity.
Hear us as we pray to you in silence for those situations close to our hearts this day. Bring your grace to restore hope and healing wherever they are needed.
God of courage and compassion, thank you for your love that never lets us go and hear our prayers. Amen.
“My song is love unknown” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 220). Words (1664) by English Anglican minister and hymnwriter Samuel Crossman (1623–1683). Music (1918; tune: “Love unknown”) by English composer and music teacher John Ireland (1879–1962). Words and music public domain.
Changing the Light
Now, it is time to change the light. The light that was in one place can now be in every place and every time going with you wherever you go.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (the risen Christ), the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you always. AMEN.
“The Lord bless you and keep you”. Words from the Aaronic Blessing. Music by English composer John Rutter (1945–). Words public domain. Music copyright © 1981, 2015 Oxford University Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Copyright © 2023 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated 2023-04-04 00:40– Added Sermon text; added Musical Reflection details.