Palm Sunday

[LITURGY OF THE PALMS]

APRIL 5, 2020

NRSV via Oremus Bible Browser: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Matthew 21:1-11

OR

The Message via Bible Gateway: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Matthew 21:1-11 

Demographics, settings, platforms and tech capabilities are extremely diverse. No one creation or string of modifications will meet everyone’s needs. Please use what is helpful and/or adapt as necessary to make a worship experience appropriate to your community’s journey. I am very happy to confer and consult on modifications – or completely different ideas – to support you in preparing for Holy Week.

My theme throughout is seize this unique opportunity to do, be and share the Good News in ways we’ve never considered, before. We have a chance to share and proclaim and LIVE Holy Week right in the midst of our communities: on the streets and sidewalks and alleys, parking lots and parks; with our neighbors from all walks of life.

I will do my best to cite ideas or suggestions from others in these outlines. If I inadvertently have stolen an idea, please let me know and I will gladly update with proper credit.

Thanks to those who have offered suggestions and/or brought in needs. I hope these offerings address several of them, if not all.

One major factor impossible to gauge except at the congregational level is the physical and mental well-being of parishioners. The following suggestions assume a commitment to CDC-sanctioned best practices, adherence to the State of MN shelter-at-home mandate, and the general safety and well-being of your community. If your setting has been hit by an outbreak, or if there is widespread concern about particular members fighting the disease – or dying from it – these should obviously be addressed in worship and modifications to what follows will almost certainly need to be made. Again, I am happy to consult on that work.

Please note: a driving force in worship preparation for me is the use of expansive imagery for God. I particularly attempt to avoid male-dominant, hierarchical language out of a desire to allow for as egalitarian an expression of the Divine as possible. Bible and hymn texts will likely be adapted for imagery and language.

Blessings as you lead your people through this Holy Week in the Wilderness.

GATHERING

WELCOME

Offer customary words of welcome or words that seem most appropriate for your circumstances.

This could be a time to share any news or announcements beneficial to the community.

GATHERING LITANIES1 – based on Psalm 118

If your platform is interactive this can be shared between groups.

If your platform is static (i.e., taped or live-feed broadcast), the Leader can share the whole thing, or offer prompts and assume/leave space for responses.

PSALM 118:1-2, 19-29

A SHELTER-IN-PLACE ITERATION; A SONG OF HOPE FOR VICTORY

LEADER: 1Give thanks to our God, for God is good.

ALL: God’s love outlasts everything.

LEADER: 2Let’s say that again, together:

ALL: God’s love outlasts everything.

LEADER: 19Open the doors of our homes, God,

ALL: send us outside, to dance in creation’s renewal.

LEADER: 20Open the doors of our hearts and minds, God:

ALL: fill us with wisdom, patience and grace.

LEADER: 21Thank you for answering our needs:

ALL: for leading us toward healthy bodies and relationships.

LEADER: 22We confess that while building our individuated world,

ALL: we rejected the Rock of our well-being.

LEADER: We remember, now, that you are our Source and our Grounding:

ALL: essential to the integrity of individuals, households, and community.

LEADER: 23We see you at work in the world

ALL: and it is terrible and beautiful to behold.

LEADER: 24This is the day that God has made;

ALL: this is our time to step up, as God’s people.

LEADER: This is the day that God has made;

ALL: we will create and notice reasons for joy and gladly share them.

LEADER: 25Salve us, we pray, O God: in body, mind and spirit!

ALL: teach us how to be healthy and whole!

LEADER: 26Bless everyone working on prevention, healing and vaccines, O God!

 ALL: Let them know that from our homes, we bless them!

LEADER: 27God is; and gives us hope.

ALL: Let’s celebrate with a parade of whatever we can find!

LEADER: 28You are our God and we give you thanks;

ALL: You are our God and we sing our thanks.

LEADER: 29Give thanks to our God, for God is good.

ALL: God’s love outlasts everything.

LEADER: 2Let’s say that again, together:

ALL: God’s love outlasts everything.

OR

A more generalized rendition:

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God is good at all times.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God’s love outlasts everything.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God restores our relationships.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God answers our needs.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God heals us with the salve of comfort and hope.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God opens our eyes to what is truly important.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God has given us today.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God brings us the promises of spring.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God is good at all times.

LEADER: We give thanks to our God…

ALL: …because God’s love outlasts everything.

OR

Strictly a Gathering Litany:

LEADER: Give thanks to God!

ALL: God is good!

LEADER: Give thanks to God!

ALL: God’s love goes on forever!

LEADER: Give thanks to God!

ALL: God’s love goes on forever!!

SONG This Is the Day2

CALL: This is the day…

RESPONSE: This is the day…

CALL: That our God has made.

RESPONSE: That our God has made.

CALL: We will rejoice…

RESPONSE: We will rejoice…

CALL: And be glad in it!

RESPONSE: And be glad in it!

ALL: This is the day that our God has made.

We will rejoice and be glad in it!

CALL: This is the day…

RESPONSE: This is the day…

ALL: That our God… has… made!

GOSPEL READING Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem Matthew 21:1-11

If using a static platform, simply read this through.

Straight Gospel Reading:

READER: The Gospel according to Matthew, the 21st Chapter:

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying 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. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The [Rabbi] needs them.” And [they] will send them immediately.’ 4This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 

5 ‘Tell the daughter of Zion,

Look, your [sovereign] is coming to you,

   humble, and mounted on a donkey,

     and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ 

6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and [Jesus] sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of [Jesus] and that followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna to the [Heir] of David!

   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of [our God]!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ 

10When [Jesus] entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ 11The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

OR

Reader’s Theater option:

If using an interactive platform, you might create a Reader’s Theater: invite a Youth, an Elder, a Child (or Children), and any combination of Young Adults and Families (total of two readings). You or another strong reader can read the Narrator part.

NARRATOR: A reading from the Gospel of Matthew, the 21st chapter:

When Jesus and the disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them,

YOUTH/YOUNG ADULT: ‘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. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The [Rabbi] needs them.” And [they] will send them immediately.’

NARRATOR: 4This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

ELDER: 5 ‘Tell the daughter of Zion,

Look, your [sovereign] is coming to you,

   humble, and mounted on a donkey,

     and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’

NARRATOR: 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and [Jesus] sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of [Jesus] and that followed were shouting,

CHILD/CHILDREN: ‘Hosanna to the [Heir] of David!

   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of [our God]!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

NARRATOR: 10When [Jesus] entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking,

YOUNG ADULT OR FAMILY A: ‘Who is this?’

NARRATOR: 11The crowds were saying,

YOUNG ADULTS OR FAMILY B: ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

SERMON

If your platform or practice suggests a standard form of sermon, now’s the time.

You can certainly include a sermon AND an activity, of course!

If you would like an active expression of the Gospel, suggestions include:

A) A PARADE:

  1. BY CAR

*ELCA Rev. Deb Stehlin suggested a full parade of cars leaving from the church parking lot and wending their way through the church-building neighborhood. She advised checking with the local police department to clarify a route and confirm conformation to safety protocols.

*OR families could create routes through their own neighborhoods.


2. BY FOOT

*Similar suggestions to above with regard to congregating in the church parking lot;

*Or, organizing within neighborhoods, or even individual families setting out daringly!

3. EITHER WAY

*Deb Stehlin’s “nugget” of this text is ‘HOPE’: Wave something that suggests “hope”;

*This could include waving the ‘palms’ of hands in greeting to neighbors, the palms you’ve got sitting in your church (if you can sanitize/distribute them safely); or as Kevin Brown of the MN Conf. UCC suggests, found objects (i.e., pine boughs that haven’t made it out of the front window boxes; branches blown down by the wind; individual leaves; or, as Presbyterian Rev. Shannon Meacham suggests on revgalblogpals ”like the original procession in Jerusalem… use what you’ve got!” Her solution: kale leaves.

Other ideas: winter coats, scarves, mittens and hats: a sign of hope (that your neighbors may recognize from their windows!) that the cold weather is done, for now!

Or, if you’d like a tie-in with a suggested Easter activity: whole sheets of colorful tissue paper (stay tuned!).

Whatever props work for you and yours!

*Need/want something to sing while you process?

*Pick up, This Is the Day, again

*Choose a familiar Hosanna or hope-themed hymn or refrain to repeat

*Boost music from a speaker in the parking lot, if you’re gathered there

*OR, if you broadcast via radio, share your channel info with neighboring congregations, play a great tune that lots of folks will know, and have everyone in cars (or on foot with a boombox??) turn it up and sing along: share the hope far and wide!

*Or, just shout: HOSANNA! And be prepared to share what that means with neighbors 

(see below for a succinct definition).

B) SING & SHARE ‘HOSANNA’

*Hosanna is not just a random shout of thanks and praise: it is specific to gratitude or hope for being “delivered”: i.e., healed, redeemed, saved from a particular threat. This has some bearing on current realities!!! (There’s a little sermon, for you!)

*Share this hope with neighbors by inviting everyone to join you outside and – a la Italy – share music from your front porches.

*Hope for one set of decent speakers in each neighborhood, or at least loud singers. Both are optimal, but not necessary: anything will do. This is a great opportunity to folks to remember how to sing at the top of their lungs: this is a gift of hope to/for your neighbors!!

*If this is not preceded by any liturgy or online worship, coordinate times across neighborhoods/households, so the witness/activity can be somewhat unified.

*Invite people of all faiths and none in your neighborhood(s) to join in the singing: we’re in this together! Again: set a time for a stronger sense of unity, even among those who live far apart.

*Don’t be embarrassed to sing really loudly: this is good for us and our neighbors!

*Suggested songs to share from the safety of a porch:

When You Believe/There Can Be Miracles

  • (Stephen Schwartz; The Prince of Egypt, 1998)
  • (particularly poignant as it is Israel’s song of thanks and hope for deliverance from Egypt, in the movie)

Imagine (John Lennon & Yoko Ono; Imagine, 1971)

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Paul Simon; Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970)

What a Wonderful World (Bob Thiele & George David Weiss; Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World, 1968)

(From Lyndy Zabel, Director of Community Development, MN Annual Conference UMC)

*Make a homemade “HOSANNA” banner (a potential tie-in to an Easter project, coming up!). Hang the banner from your front railings, balcony, or out on a tree in the front yard to share with neighbors.

C) If your crew isn’t ready or able to parade or sing outside, see Family Evening Devotions’ ‘Creation-Care Contemplative Rock Concert’ based on Luke’s version of this story (Luke 19:35-45). That’ll post in the next day or two; I’ll share the link as soon as I can.

D) Whatever you do, invite teens or other tech-savvy types to videotape the goings-on and share via facebook, youtube or whatever platform is most familiar and accessible to your congregation. Be sure video participants have given your congregation permission for their faces to be shared online.

E) Watch for tie-ins throughout Holy Week: we’ll build on Palm Sunday through the week.

F) If your focus has been Passion Sunday: email me (ministrylab@unitedseminary.edu). I’m happy to consult with you on creative ways to do so.

G) Worship can either conclude organically: whenever folks are done singing or feel like they’ve reached their neighbors with hope, they can head back inside/home.

If you would like an “official” way to close out your time of worship, especially if you are gathering back in a parking lot at the conclusion of a parade, a simple blessing might provide both a sense of completion and invite further/continued engagement. Words like this may be suitable (again, it can be shared as a litany/call & response, or the Leader can read the whole thing):

LEADER: This is the day God has made.

ALL: It’s our time, as God’s people, to step up.

LEADER: God is good.

ALL: God’s love outlasts everything.

LEADER: Let’s say that again, together:

ALL: God’s love outlasts everything.

LEADER: May our Ground and Source bless us with peace overflowing.

May our Savior heal us and bring wholeness to our homes and neighborhoods.

May our Rock build us up in hope and strengthen us for sharing joy.

LEADER: Shelter-in-place in peace!

God’s love outlasts everything!


  • 1All Gathering Litanies are © Emily Meyer, 2020, and can be reproduced online through April 30, 2020; for congregational worship purposes only.
  • 2I am unable to find copyright for this song. I remember it from my childhood, but don’t have a printed resource for it. If you know copyright for this version of the song, please share with me!
  • The Veggie Tale version introduces the tune for those unfamiliar with it and invites kids in, which is a significant intention.