The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introduction to the Readings for Palm Passion Sunday, March 20, 2016

Our readings this morning draw us into some of the key stories of Jesus’ last days -his arrival in Jerusalem, his arrest and trial, his crucifixion and death, and his burial. Listen with care for how Jesus’ words and his actions illustrate God’s compassion and forgiveness in the midst of these traumatic and chaotic scenes.

Luke 19: 28-40 Jesus arrives in Jerusalem

“After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 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 upon 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 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 would tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”    

Anthem: “Lift High the Palms” Words: Martin; Music: Page

The Juxtaposition of the Parade with the story of the Cross 

Prayer of Confession: How quickly and easily we are swayed by the crowd’s movement and mood. Where once we, like the disciples, promised to follow, dear God, we find ourselves holding back.   Where once, we, like the disciples, long to maintain our commitment; we find ourselves turning away.  

Denying our need for your courage, your truth, and your self emptying love, we ask your forgiveness, dear God.

For all the times when we would just as soon scurry off into the shadowy light of anonymity, we ask that you ground us in your abiding love.

Be with us in our frozen isolation, we pray.

Despite our hammering hearts, help us to hear that still small voice within to focus our attention on your precious word that we might hear once again the story of Jesus’ passion with fresh ears and new understanding. Amen

Sung Response: VU#946 Russian Orthodox Liturgy

Luke 23: 1-25 Jesus is arrested and tried

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying the he himself is the Messiah, a king.

Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.”

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”

But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned the he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate.

That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he has sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)

Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”

A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.”

But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts the he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

Sung Response: VU#946

Luke 23: 26-49 Jesus is crucified and dies

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him, carry it behind Jesus.

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.   But Jesus turned to them, and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for your selves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us; and to the hills, cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying , “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up an offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. He replied, “Truly, I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the suns light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.  

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.

Sung Response Luke 23: 49-56 The Burial of Jesus

But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.

This man went to Pilate asking for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.

It was the day of Preparation and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandments.

Response: The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God, amen.

Meditative Music: “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” A.L. Webber