Tag: palm sunday

Palm Sunday Service Idea

Designing worship for Palm Sunday has always been a challenge for me. Either we focused on the joy of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with palms and singing and celebrating; or, we focused on the Passion of Christ — His crucifixion, death, and burial.

Last year, however, we combined both the joy of Palm Sunday, and the pathos of the Passion into one service. Below is a draft version of the bulletin we will use this Sunday.

As you can see, the service begins with joy. We have children distribute palm branches to the congregation during the prelude, the choir sings a rousing “Ride On, King Jesus,” and we read the triumphal entry story from Matthew 21:1-11. We top it off with the congregation singing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” a wonderful hymn of praise.

After the children’s message, we shift gears. The offertory hymn is “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” I have a brief reflection on the events from Palm Sunday through Good Friday. The change in tone continues as four readers read the Passion Story from the Gospel of Matthew. These are the revised common lectionary readings for this year. Between readings, the congregation sings an appropriate hymn for the passage just read.

Finally, we sing three verses of “Were You There?” and we conclude with the verse that asks, “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” After a closing prayer, we depart in silence, reflecting on the sacrificial death of Christ.

Many of our members will not attend a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service. By covering the last week of Jesus’ life in one service, we remind the congregation that between the joy of Palm Sunday and the glory of Easter, the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus are events to which we must pay solemn attention.

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Palm Sunday: A Service of Lessons and Prayers

PalmSundayFor this Palm Sunday, we took a different approach. We combined elements of the Liturgy of the Palms about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, with elements of the Liturgy of the Passion. This enabled us to move from the joyous crowds which greeted Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, to the vengeful crowd that cried, “Crucify him!”

We took this approach because many in our congregation will not attend a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service. If they attended a joyful Palm Sunday service, and then a celebratory Easter service, they might miss the events of Good Friday and the drama surrounding the crucifixion. To solve this problem, here’s what we did:

1. For our first reading early in the service, we read the Gospel story of the triumphal entry into Jersusalem, from Matthew 21:1-11.

2. We sang appropriate Palm Sunday hymns of celebration including All Glory, Laud and Honor, and Hosanna.

3. During our children’s time, the children heard the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Then, they distributed palm fronds to each person in our congregation. When everyone had a palm frond, the entire congregation waved their palm branches and said in unison, “Praise God for the Son of David! Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God to highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9 – NLT). It was a little chaotic, but then the first Palm Sunday probably was a little chaotic, too.

4. Our organist provided a musical transition from the Palm Sunday celebration to the events after Jesus’ Passover meal with the disciples.

5. During the time alloted for the sermon, I read the following scripture lessons from the Liturgy of the Passion. Because the entire narrative moves from scene to scene, I separated each scene with a corporate prayer of confession. After I read each passage, I then invited the congregation to pray with me the prayer of confession. Here’s the sequence:

Palm Sunday Liturgy of the Passion

Reading: Matthew 26:14-30 — The Last Supper

All: Lord, we confess that just like Judas we have come to your table with thoughts of betraying you in our hearts. Like Judas, we have taken the bread from you hand and the cup from your table while harboring doubts about you and your teaching. Forgive us, O Lord, for this spirit of betrayal that presumes we know more about your Kingdom than you. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 26:31-56 — The Garden of Gethsamene

All: Lord, we confess that when you struggled in agony, we slept in apathy. When they came to arrest you, we betrayed your teaching by fighting back, and then abandoned you in your hour of need. When they accused us of being your disciples we denied ever knowing you. And when the cock crowed, we wept over our own failure to be faithful. Forgive us, O Lord, for our apathy, our fear, and our faithlessness. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 27:1-26 — Jesus Before Pilate

All: Lord, we confess that like the crowd gathered before Pilate, we have chosen Barabbas instead of you. Like the crowd that day, when Pilate asked, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” — we have answered, “Crucify him!” Forgive us for our failure to choose you and the freedom you offer. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 27:27-66 — The Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus

All: Lord, we confess that we see ourselves in the faces of the Roman soldiers who nailed you to the cross; we hear ourselves taunting you as you hang silently before us; and, we feel the bitterness of one thief and the contrition of the other. May we be counted among those who, in great sorrow, lovingly laid you to rest in the garden tomb, hopefully waiting for God’s salvation. Amen.

I wrote the prayers of confession, so feel free to edit them for your use.

6. After the readings and prayers, our choir sang the anthem, The Hour Has Come, which was a solemn and powerful account of the last days in Jesus’ life.

7. When the anthem ended, the congregation left the sanctuary in silence, with a solemn organ postlude played during their exit. We included this note in the bulletin:

“In the tradition of the Liturgy of the Passion, there will be no benediction after the choral anthem. Please leave the sanctuary in silence as we contemplate the death and burial of Christ, and wait in hope for God’s salvation.”

Many people commented on how powerful and meaningful the service was for them. While it was hard for me to resist preaching on Palm Sunday, the narrative of the events of the last week in the life of Christ needs no explanation.

However you choose to celebrate and commemorate the events of Palm Sunday through Good Friday, give careful attention to including them all, including the betrayals, the trials, the mocking, and the crucifixion. The glory of the resurrection shines brightest when celebrated against the backdrop of evil, suffering, and death.

Palm Sunday Podcast: Sharing in the Suffering of Jesus

In Mark 15:1-39 we read the story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The descriptions of the suffering of Jesus remind us that we should not trivialize the sacrifice of Christ. The apostle Paul reminds Christians that we share in the suffering of Christ. This passage provides us the background for both understanding and living a life of sharing Christ’s suffering by sharing the suffering of others. Here’s the link — http://traffic.libsyn.com/chuckwarnock/02_Sharing_In_The_Suffering_of_Jesus.mp3

Palm Sunday Sermon: What Kind of King Did You Expect?

If Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was triumphal on Palm Sunday, what went wrong less than a week later?  Why did the crowds who adored Jesus on Sunday, turn on him by Friday of that week?  And what choice does Palm Sunday present to us today?  In this sermon, I’ll try to answer those questions and explore the reasons the Roman empire, the Jewish religious leaders, and the common people all turn on Jesus after that glorious Sunday. 

Continue reading “Palm Sunday Sermon: What Kind of King Did You Expect?”

Palm Sunday Sermon: On The Road To Calvary

On The Road To Calvary

This Palm Sunday Sermon reminds us that the road to Jerusalem’s celebration was also the road to Calvary.

Luke 19:28-40

28After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30″Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

32Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38″Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40″I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

The Illusion of Victory

We know this story that we celebrate today.  It’s the story of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Luke transports us back in time to the last week in the earthly ministry of Jesus.  And what a week it will be!

With his instructions to the disciples to go and find the colt in the village, Jesus seems to be doing exactly what his disciples expect him to do — take charge, make a bold statement, enter Jerusalem as the Messiah that he is.

And, so the colt is brought to Jesus.  The disciples create a makeshift saddle, layering their cloaks on the colt’s back.  And Jesus rides this colt into Jerusalem.

The crowds in Jerusalem have swelled to several hundred thousand, crowding the streets of Jerusalem as pilgrims and residents of the city prepare for The Feast of Passover, the most memorable feast in the history of the Jewish people.

Continue reading “Palm Sunday Sermon: On The Road To Calvary”

We’re Ranked #105 in the Top 130 Church Blogs

ChurchRelevance.com ranked Confessions of a Small Church Pastor as #105 in the annual Top 100 Church Blogs rankings.  Of course this year they threw in 30 more blogs, so we made the cut in the Top 130!  Am I wrong, or is this the only small church blog that made the list?

Give yourself a giant pat on the back because YOU made this happen.   Readers make blogs, and you’re the greatest bunch of blog readers any blogger could hope for. (This is where the violins start.) No joke, and thanks for reading.

Looking For Churches Doing Cool Outreach Stuff

Okay, enough of the shameless self-promotion.  Here’s your opportunity to have the spotlight for your very own 15-minutes of fame.  I’m always looking for churches doing cool outreach stuff, particularly churches that run 300 or less in attendance.  If your church is doing something interesting in outreach, or you know of a church that is, please let me know.  You just might get featured either here or in my Outreach magazine column, Small Church, Big Idea.  Thanks.

What Are You Doing for Palm Sunday and Easter?

Finally, I’m interested in what your church is doing for Palm Sunday and/or Easter Sunday to connect with your community.  I’m working on a column of ideas for that week, and would love to include yours.  Email me at chuckwarnock (at) gmail (dot) com with a paragraph or two about your plans.  Please include your church name and location, a link to your website, and any photos or artwork you can attach (without crashing google’s servers) and I’ll include that, too.

For those who do sermon outlines or manuscripts, I’ll link to your Easter sermon if you’ll provide the link, your name, your church, and the text you’re using.  These will go up on Friday before Easter if I get enough, so let me know.  Remember, I need a link, not the whole sermon, so you have to post it somewhere yourself.  Thanks.

Sermon for Palm Sunday: Sustaining The Weary

Here’s the sermon I’m preaching tomorrow, Palm Sunday, April 5, 2009.

Sustaining the Weary

Isaiah 50:4-9a

4 The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

Continue reading “Sermon for Palm Sunday: Sustaining The Weary”