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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Palm Sunday 2014 - The Whole Service!

Welcome to Grace!

An Open and Affirming Church
of the
United Church of Christ
Framingham Massachusetts
a Green Congregation!

April 6, 2014

Singing into Worship
My Lord, What a Morning                         Chalice 708
O God of Earth and Altar                          New Century 582
One:  … Let us say who is welcome here!
All:     No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome at Grace Congregational United Church of Christ!
One:  Please be seated.  How have we been in ministry?
Reading 1 - Genesis 6
The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry to have made humankind on the earth, and it grieved the Lord, deep loss in the heart of the Lord.
Comment 1
This is the premise of the story of Noah’s Ark.  It is the part of the story that we look away from because we are a people of the new creation.  We want to watch the brave ark forging through the storm and then the animals repopulating a new earth.
The movie Noah is just out.  This part of the story, the set-up if you will, is a big deal in the new movie.  The wickedness of humankind is convincing in the way movie evil is convincing.  This leads us to our morning’s consultation.  Take a moment to think about the evil you encounter in your life, that stings you in the news, that worries you when you let it worry you.
Hold Silence
Consultation 1
One:  Come, let us sit.  Let us consult with each other.
All:     We will speak to each other in the presence of our God.
One:  What do we fear? What do we dread? About what are we outraged?
Why?                                                       Sing! Prayer and Praise 47
Prayers of the People
One:   Holy God,                     One:     Holy God,
          in your loving mercy,                 with joyful hearts,
All:      Hear our prayer.            All:       We give you thanks!
Reading 2 - Genesis 6
So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’
Comment 2
So this epic story tells us how God responded to the problem of evil of the world, once upon a time.
These stories of great evil and injustice are your stories, your inheritance.
Think about the people, “when Israel was in Egypt’s land, oppressed so hard they could not stand.”  Evil in the world, oppression, captivity, slavery.  What was God’s response then?  Right.  Send a prophet-hero, send supernatural violence to meet the violence of that bondage.
Now, today we observe Palm Sunday.  We see that Jesus is riding into Jerusalem like a prophet-hero of old.  Did the people lining the street expect a response to the evil they experienced like the cosmic responses of old?  What were they rejoicing about?  What was arriving?
Think back to the things we said gave us pain, made us outraged, shocked us with evil in our own day.
Consultation 2
One:   What solutions do we seek? What will ally our fears?
One:  O Jesus,
All:     we confess.
One:  We tell the story of how you walked the roads of old Israel for a time.  On the day that you rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people greeted you by putting their coats on the ground in front of you.  They waved the green leaves from palm plants.  The Bible says they sang out loud, “Hosanna!” 
What did you know that day?  Were the loud voices sweet to your ears?  Were you glad to see those people who were so hungry to see you?
One:  O Jesus
All:     we confess.
One:  Like those people, we are cheering as you come into our lives!
One:  O Jesus
All:     we confess.
One:  We hope you are coming into the lives we are living.
Come and fit in with our television shows, our video games, our busy days, and all the things that we care about. Comfort us when we are sad!  Lead us in a big, loud parade.  Rescue the people in danger.  Feed the people who need food.  Save us and protect us from a scary world.
Our confession reveals our guilt. 
One:  O Jesus
All:     we confess.
One:  For we only welcome you if you come in the way that fits who we are and the life we live.  We expect your miracles to make sense.  We want your presence to be the kind of mystery that we will be able to explain with electrons some day.  We have defined what kind of savior, teacher, and friend you will be to us.  We have stopped believing that you can surprise us.  We have stopped listening to the ways in which you speak in the world.  This is our sin today.
Forgive us!  Forgive our small imagination.  Break the chains of our trite ideas about you like God broke the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt.  The liberation we need is from the trivial.  The liberation we need is liberation of our spirits. The liberation we need is from structures we have built ourselves. Break us open, so that we may let you in.
One:  O Jesus
All:     we confess.
One:  We only know you as best we can. In this humble way, we ask these things.  Amen.
Hold silence
Lord’s Prayer                                              (Traditional Grace Church)
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.
On Eagle’s Wings                                        Chalice 77
And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of my hand.
Passing the Peace
One:  Peace be with you!
All:     And also with you!
One:  Let’s share a sign of peace with each other!
Light Candles, Share Palms
Let There Be Peace on Earth                       Chalice 677
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our creator, brothers and sisters are we.
Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now.
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow:
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!
Reading 3 – Luke 19
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’
So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’
They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’
Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
   who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
   and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’
He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
All Glory Laud and Honor   v. 1&2         New Century 216
Comment 3
In Jesus’ time, the oppression was great.  And yet, the oppression was not so clearly economic or a matter of being enslaved as it was about being occupied and controlled.  You can read through the Gospels and find an amazingly small number of references and stories about the Roman government.  …and of the ones you find, they are as apt to be favorable as not.
In the time after Jesus lived and died, the early Jesus Movement struggled to clarify why their experience of Jesus was different from the other creative and active movements within first century Judaism.  Paul’s letters show us some of this struggle to clarify.  The gospel stories came together to assist this clarification.  So what you have with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem is not primarily something that looked to first century Jews like a march against the Romans.  They knew what that looked like because there had been rebellions, repeated and devastating.  By the time the gospels were available as gospels, which was about the end of that century, there had been one too many rebellions and the Romans had flattened the existing temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus entry into Jerusalem was not a call to arms.  It was a sign to the community that this man partook of some of the destiny of the great king David of Israel.  He could be trusted for this link to the accepted past history of the people.
Offerings of Ministry and Financial Gifts
One:   How shall we next act as caretakers of creation?
One:   How shall we next be in ministry?
Rejoice, You Pure In Heart                          New Century 55, verse 5
Praise God who rules all worlds;
The risen Christ adore.
Praise God, the Spirit, Holy Fire,
One God for evermore!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice, give thanks and sing.
Blessing and Offering of Commitment
One:     We shall not offer to God
All:       That which costs us nothing!
Comment 4
Jesus’ entry was not like the other actions of restoration, justice, liberation, and holiness in the stories of the Bible.
For one thing, even within the story, it didn’t accomplish anything, did it?  So, what can we do with the Palm Sunday story?
For us, it is an opportunity to do some spiritual work.  By this I mean the emotional and mental work to accept the call of God, the call of Jesus to refuse the violent solution, refuse the triumphal, in-your-face flash of victory through might and physical power. 
He said, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”
Do you see?  This time, God’s response to the violence and evil of the world was to send one who would never choose the satisfying, seemingly effective way of violence.
If we choose to follow Jesus, we must first put our weapons down.  Our actual guns and missiles and warships.  Put them down!  And also, lay down our barbed comments, our indifference to others’ pain, our acceptance of violence by others.  Put them down!
And pick up what?  As you hold your palms and keep them around your home in some way this week, you’ll have a thing that will dry out and wither, which is sad.  On the other hand, if you hold your palm and know it as a symbol, a token of coming near to all that is holy, it won’t matter if it dries out and withers. 
Here in this place, we tell the story and sing the songs of a day we can only imagine.  What Jesus says in the story is “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”
So imagine this. 
Imagine that the holiness at the core of you and all that exists is coming up the street.  Imagine that the source of living-water, of deep love, and of new creation is just there, beyond those people who, like you, are trying to catch a glimpse.  Imagine you are frantic to catch the attention of the one who comes to bear us up on eagle’s wings and you grab the only thing you can grab, your coat or – this palm leaf.  And now you raise your hand above those around you and wave that palm like it’s the only chance in the world you’ve got!
Reading 4 – Luke 19
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’
O Jesus Christ, May Grateful Hymns      New Century 212
One:     May the blessing of the source of life whom we name God, the blessing of Jesus our brother in service and love, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit which moves among us and around us, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.  Amen.
Grace Church Parting
One:     Go in peace, to love and serve your God!
All:       We go in the name of Christ!

Music After Worship