Thursday, 25 March 2021

MRUC Worship Service Palm Sunday 28 March 2021


Marsden Road Uniting Church




Welcome His Folly into Our Lives Sunday 28th March 2021.

Palm Sunday year of Mark 9.30am 

Gathering God’s People 

        Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples

of this Land.

Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)

        Exaltation and joy... Passover sacrifice and betrayal ... death and life: such is the terrain of Holy Week. Such are waters that sweep us through the holy mystery of our faith. Now is the time to count the cost of discipleship. Now is the time to follow Jesus.

When they came to Bethpage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task, saying to them,

“Go into the village. As soon as you enter it you will find tied up a colt that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘Its master needs it.’”

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes upon it, and Jesus sat on it. Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields.

Bind the festival procession with palm branches. Open the gates of righteousness for us so we can come in and give thanks to the Lord!

This is the Lord’s gate; those who are righteous enter through it.

Enter the gates of righteousness with shouts of thanksgiving. Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

The stone the builders rejected is now the foundation stone.

This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our sight!

The Lord is God, and God has given us light as a lamp to our feet.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This is the day that the Lord has made.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it! 

Hymn TIS 333: All glory, praise and honour

                        (tune – St Theodulph) 

     Opening Prayer

     Eternal One, as we enter Holy Week and celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, may we laugh with the children and shout our hosannas with the crowd. But never let us forget where this week ends. For the one who emptied himself for our sake, took the form of a servant and was betrayed and denied by his disciples and closest friends. May we sing in our hearts this day, but may our song be mixed with sorrow and regret, for such is the life of followers in every age. Amen. 

Prayer of Confession

Source of our hope and strength, when our bones are dried up, and we are tested beyond our endurance, we turn away.

Forgive our wayward feet and our fickle hearts: when we are consumed with doubt, when we succumb to our weakness, when we give in to the impulse of betrayal, when we turn away in denial, when we confuse expedience with virtue.

Teach us anew your ways of life and death, that we may not stumble and fall during the time of trial.

In your holy name, we pray. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

God has opened the gates of righteousness and Christ has beckoned us to walk through. Sing with the children; throw your clothes upon the road, for the one who comes in the name of the Lord offers us salvation in his name.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. Give thanks to Christ, whose name is honoured above all names. Give praise to the Spirit, who makes us one. Share this thankfulness and praise with one another as we exchange signs of peace. Let us share the peace of Christ, the peace that passes all understanding.

Peace be with you!

And also with you!

(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.) 

A Word with the Children/Young People

Theme: Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem

Object: Flags, confetti, noise makers, etc.

When I was young, I loved a parade! There was something about a parade that really got my heart to pumping. We often had parades to celebrate special events such as a circus coming to town or the opening of a fair. Sometimes we had a parade to honour an important person who has come to our town which before Christmas Santa Claus.

People would have some flags and noise makers. This morning I want us to imagine that we are watching a parade. Our city is honouring the very first astronaut from our city to ever walk on the moon. Can you imagine what is happening when the astronaut passes by. Everyone waves their flags and blow their noise makers. I didn’t bring noise makers, but we can imagine.

If you have ben to a parade such as Anzac Day, you can hear the band. Bands usually lead the parade and behind the band there are often floats carrying important people...or people from various groups like the Scouts etc., or a MP or Mayor. As they pass by, we smile and wave. Finally, here comes our hero! The crowd cheers waves their flags and blows their noise makers! Then as the parade moves on down the street, the sound of the band fades away in the distance. It is over. The celebration is over.

That is a little bit like something that took place in the city of Jerusalem about 2000 years ago. A king was visiting their city. People lined the streets of the city hoping to get to see the King. The King came riding on a small donkey, and as he rode through the streets of the city, the people waved palm branches and shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

I'm sure that you know who that King was—it was Jesus. Today is Palm Sunday. Today we remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the people cheering and waving palm branches. It was a day that marked the beginning of a week that would see Jesus cheered, then arrested, tried, beaten, and put to death on a cross. But as that week came to an end, another week began just as the previous week had begun, with a celebration. I can hardly wait until next Sunday! 

Offering Prayer

Spirit of humble generosity: thank you for your never-failing mercy; thank you for Christ’s gift of selfless love; thank you for the witness of our forebears. For blessing us with many gifts, we thank you. For walking with us in our weakness, we praise you. Receive these gifts in token and thanks for the love you offer us, a love that makes us well and whole. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 231: At the name of Jesus

                       (tune – Camberwell) 

The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                            Philippians 2:5-11

The Gospel Reading:                                        Mark 11:1-11

After the final reading the reader will say            For the Word of the Lord

Please respond by saying                                    Thanks be to God. 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

Philippians 2:5-11

5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Mark 11:1-11

1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 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. 3 If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” 
4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ 11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Preaching of the Word - Welcome His Folly into Our Lives

The story of Holy week presents Jesus as mocked three times, by three different groups: first, the religious authorities; then the secular authorities; and finally, the ordinary people, the crowd.

So, I would like to explore the story following the day of the Palms. The coming steps of the journey to the cross if you like. These instances of mockery have unexpected results. The pretensions of each group are dismantled. The stage is cleared of rivals, and the true king is enthroned.

Jesus appears first before the religious authorities. What brings him there? He acts and speaks contrary to vested interests, against conventional claims. And so, he is taken captive at night. He is identified by a false kiss, surrounded by an armed posse and deserted by his followers.

Once Jesus arrives at the high priest’s house, he stands alone before the religious authorities. They eagerly seek a reason to put him to death. But even their false witnesses cannot produce sufficient evidence against him. Jesus then indicates he is the Messiah. The authorities regard this as blasphemy. They hit him, spit at him and mock him. They ridicule his role as a prophet.

How ironic this scene is! These religious authorities blindfold someone who sees and speaks God’s truth and attack him. By doing so, they expose themselves as void of religious awareness. It is not Jesus who blasphemes; they are the blasphemers, abusing God’s name by their words and deeds.

Next Jesus appears before the secular authorities. As the religious leaders fail to recognise him as a prophet, so the secular authorities fail to see he is a king. The high priest led Jesus to declare his messiahship; then Pilate leads him to declare his kingship, but once again, Jesus is rejected.

Pilate treats him as a fraud. He turns Jesus over to soldiers who clothe him and crown him in a mock ritual, even striking him with his own sceptre. And so, these secular authorities expose themselves as unworthy. They mock the king in front of them.

Jesus appears before the crowd, and they call for his crucifixion. He appears before them again once he is crucified. These are people who welcomed him as a hero when he entered Jerusalem in triumph only a few days before.

He stands before them next to Pilate. A short time later, he appears before them helpless, hanging from a cross, suspended between earth and heaven, his blood seeping from his wounds, taking him down to death. Not far from his cross are the mockers, cowardly and cruel, who hurl abuse at him. They include casual passers-by, priests, and scribes, and even those crucified with him. What they attack is his relationship with his Father. They call on him to rescue himself.

But Jesus refuses to abandon his trust in God. Those who mock him on the cross show that they are devoid of faith. They see the world solely in terms of brute power. They refuse to live as God’s children.

A triple mockery, and in each case, those who revile Jesus reveal their own bankruptcy. Thus, the pretensions of each group are dismantled, and the stage is cleared of rivals, in order that the true king can be enthroned.

In today’s story, Jesus is mocked three times. A series of ironies takes place as well, all of them pointing to a wisdom that stands in judgment on our folly.

When Jesus enters Jerusalem, the crowd welcomes him as king, yet days later, they call for his crucifixion. They are disloyal to him and to their own best interests. Often enough, we also show ourselves disloyal – to him and to ourselves. In their lives and in ours, how ironic this turns out to be!

For a king to be enthroned, there must be an anointing. That happens to Jesus shortly before he goes to the cross. A woman pours expensive oil on his head as he sits at supper in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper. This woman serving the high priest, this anointing at the dinner table, this king consecrated in a leper’s house – all of this is ironic, a monarch set apart not to rule, but to be buried.

It is the high priest in Jerusalem whose words reveal Jesus as the Messiah, and it is the Roman governor there who proclaims him to the crowd as king. Despite themselves, these two speak the truth. That they run from this truth, that they drive Jesus on to his death – this also is ironic.

Irony reaches a climax when Jesus arrives at Golgotha. There he is announced as King of the Jews by a mocking sign attached to his cross. Ironically, the sign declares more truth than its maker intended.

Most ironically of all, the cross, an instrument of shameful death, becomes the throne for this king, that place from which he reigns, the centre of his realm. The places of honour on right and left, once coveted by his disciples James and John, cannot be given away, for they are occupied already – by convicted criminals.

So, Jesus is enthroned upon the hard wood of the cross. Israel’s messiah, the Son of God, becomes a victim to end all victimisation. He drains the cup of our human experience to the last bitter drop. He even knows what it’s like to feel deserted by God.

Jesus dies, and only then does somebody get it right. This is the final irony of today’s story, and it appears in the last spoken sentence. For the one who gets it right is a most unlikely somebody. A Roman centurion is marking time until the death occurs. He is there to make sure that none of the crucified are rescued by their followers or friends. He is a gentile, an officer of the empire, one who looks like an outsider on the turbulent life of Jerusalem during Passover season. He is there simply to maintain order.

A criminal dying on a cross is something this centurion has often seen. He knows how contemptible it is, particularly for Romans. Yet death on a cross looks different on this day, with this prisoner. And so, the tough soldier blurts out about Jesus, to no one and everyone, “Truly, this man was God’s Son!” The centurion has for a moment glimpsed the supreme irony of enthronement on a cross of shame and death.

A couple of decades later, St. Paul makes a similar point when writing to the Christians in Corinth. He tells them that the message of the cross is sheer folly to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is God’s power at work.

To the extent that we do not come to an awareness like that of the centurion and Paul, then we inevitably mock Christ and his cross, and thus reveal our own fatal folly. To the extent we do come to this awareness, we honour Christ and his cross, and show that we welcome God’s own foolishness, which is the most sublime wisdom.

Do we accept God’s folly for ourselves, or do we not? To refuse this folly is a terrible thing, even when done politely. It places those who refuse together with the characters in today’s story who mock Christ, who reject him as prophet, king, and son of God. Yet we remain free to make this refusal.

Today and always, we can honour his cross and welcome his folly into our lives.

May we do this. 

Hymn TIS 348: Ride on, ride on in majesty.

                       (tune – Winchester New) 

Intercessory Prayers - Palm Sunday – Year B

      After the words:            Jesus, Son of David, let us follow in your way.

      please respond with      let us walk with you to Jerusalem. 

Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

Crowds cheered when you came to Jerusalem; you came to bring peace, but the civil authorities did not welcome you.

Jesus, we pray for your world: for peace that brings an end to violence, oppression, and war; for peace that enables all people to live with dignity and justice; for world leaders and for all who commit their lives to the work of peace.

Jesus, Son of David, let us follow in your way.

let us walk with you to Jerusalem.

Crowds cheered when you came to Jerusalem; you came to bring the freedom of the Spirit, but the chief priests plotted your death.

Jesus, we pray for your church: for a church freed from false dogma and legalism, discord, and division; for a pilgrim church, ready to travel where you lead; for all leaders of your church and for those who minister in your name.

Jesus, Son of David, let us follow in your way.

let us walk with you to Jerusalem.

Crowds cheered when you came to Jerusalem; you came to bring love, but you were betrayed and deserted by your friends.

Jesus, we pray for this community: for our families, our friends, for those with whom we work and learn; for the hungry, the homeless and those without hope for the future,

for all who live in fear or despair and all who know the pain of betrayal.

Jesus, Son of David, let us follow in your way.

let us walk with you to Jerusalem.

Crowds cheered when you came to Jerusalem; you came to bring healing to the sick and release to the captive, but you were beaten, imprisoned, and killed.

Jesus, we pray for all in need: for prisoners of conscience and those held without trial; for all whose beliefs lead them to frightening and lonely places; for the friendless, the unwanted and all from whom we turn away; for the sick and all who mourn.

Jesus, Son of David, let us follow in your way.

let us walk with you to Jerusalem.

Crowds cheered when you came to Jerusalem; you travelled towards the Cross, but Jerusalem was also the place of the empty tomb.

We give you thanks for faithful people throughout the ages who have followed you on this journey. Jesus, let us suffer and die with you, that we may rise to fullness of life with you.

Jesus, Son of David, let us follow in your way.

let us walk with you to Jerusalem. 

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen 

Hymn TIS 357: When his time was over the palms lay

                       where they fell

                       (tune – Wakefield Street)


        On the back of a donkey,

        Jesus came to bless us.

        With a love that did not count the cost,

        Jesus came to heal us.

        From hopelessness and despair,

        Jesus came to free us.

        With the power of the Holy Spirit,

        Jesus came to save us.

        May your life declare the lordship of Jesus Christ, to

        the glory of God! Amen! 

Hymn TIS 776: Aaronic Blessing,

                       (tune – Aaronic Blessing)

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