Saturday, April 8, 2006

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

This is only my second Easter season in a liturgical church and I can't get over how beautiful and meaningful this annual cycle of presenting the Gospel is.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Church year (or liturgical calendar), the year begins at Advent which is a season that both looks forward to the second coming of Christ as well as remembers the first coming. Then comes the Christmas season, which runs from Christmas day to the 5th of January, during which we celebrate the incarnation of Christ and why that was necessary for our salvation. The Epiphany season begins on the 6th of January, the Day of Epiphany, and the purpose of that season is to see how the Lord revealed the Messiah to all the nations. The principle Scriptural events associated with this season are the visit of the Magi (Christ revealed to the Gentiles, he is to be the savior of all the nations, not just the Jews), the baptism of Jesus (Christ revealed to the Jews as the Messiah), and the wedding at Cana (the divinity of Christ revealed).

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, which is a time of quiet reflection on one's need for a savior and for continuing in repentance and faith in Christ. In our church, each Sunday morning begins with a recitation of the Ten Commandments (the people responding to each one, "Lord have mercy upon us and incline our hearts to keep this law"), and then confession of sin. The Scriptures that are read during Lent generally relate to our sin and need for a savior, and the suffering that the Lord will undergo for our sakes.

Tomorrow begins "Holy Week" - the week of the Lord's passion, his death, and resurrection. Mike brought me a copy of the bulletin for tomorrow's service and it's so beautiful I wanted to share it here. The first part of the service is called "The Liturgy of the Palms," but the second part proceeds as a normal Sunday service with communion, which we have every Sunday.

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The Liturgy of the Palms
(We will gather at the parish hall, each taking a palm branch, and will process to the church building, singing.)

Pastor (singing): Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.
People (singing): Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.

Processional Hymn: All Glory, Laud, and Honor

Now inside the church - the Gospel according to Mark 11:1-11a
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, `Why are you doing this?' just say this, `The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'" They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.

Hymn: "Hosanna" sung by the children's choir

Pastor: Let us pray.
Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
People: Amen.

First reading, Isaiah 45:21-25
Thus says the LORD,
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
There is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is no one besides me.
Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
"To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear."
Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
all who were incensed against him
shall come to him and be ashamed.
In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
shall triumph and glory.

Psalm 22:1-11 (sung)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *
by night as well, but I find no rest.

Yet you are the Holy One, *
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

Our forefathers put their trust in you; *
they trusted, and you delivered them.

They cried out to you and were delivered; *
they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

But as for me, I am a worm and no man, *
scorned by all and despised by the people.

All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,

"He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him; *
let him rescue him, if he delights in him."

Yet you are he who took me out of the womb, *
and kept me safe upon my mother's breast.

I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; *
you were my God when I was still in my mother's womb.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near, *
and there is none to help.

Second reading: Philippians 2:5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Gradual Hymn: Ah, Holy Jesus, verses one and two
(Note: Half of the gradual hymn is sung before the reading of the Gospel, while the pastor walks up to the middle of the center aisle, and the other half is sung after. The Gospel is always proclaimed from the midst of the congregation.)

Reading of the Passion: Mark 14:32-72; 15:1-47
(I'm not posting it here because the passage is so lengthy. This passage will be read in "parts" various people taking the part of the Evangelist (narrator), Jesus, Judas, Pilate, etc., with the congregation reading the part of the crowd. This is very moving because, you remember, we've just declared Jesus to be our King, and here we are calling out for his crucifixion. Oh, how fickle are our hearts!)

After that, we will sing the third verse of "Ah, Holy Jesus," and then the service will continue as usual. You can read the whole service here if you're interested.

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