READING: Readings From The Gospel According To Luke
SERMON : "From Palm Sunday to Good Friday"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
Please note that the Palm Sunday Litany is read from
the entrance to the Sanctuary - with the choir and
children prepared to process when the litany is
completed - with palm crosses and branches and much
noise and celebration.
WORDS OF INTRODUCTION
PALM SUNDAY LITANY
L Today we recall the events of the first Holy Week so many
P We remember how it started with Jesus entering the Holy
L As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called
the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to
them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it
you will find a colt tied there which no one has ever
ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you,
'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.'"
P Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as Jesus
had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners
asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They replied,
"The Lord needs it."
L They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and
put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their
cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the
road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of
disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for
all the miracles they had seen, saying:
P "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
L Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher,
rebuke your disciples!"
P "I tell you," Jesus replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones
will cry out."
* PROCESSIONAL HYMN: "All Glory Laud and Honour"
UNISON PRAYER OF INVOCATION:
Let us pray -- Lord Jesus, you are our good and
gracious king. We offer our hearts, our minds, and our
voices to you this day. We pray thee to bless us with
your presence and to help us hear the story of your
love and your mercy toward all people. Help us to
understand your way and to glorify your name by all
that we say and do. Amen.
ANTHEM: "He Came Riding On A Donkey"
CHILDREN'S TIME - Focus on Jesus as "King of Peace" (riding
on a donkey not a horse)
* HYMN: "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna"
A PASSION LITANY
L It is true that the people welcomed Jesus into their midst.
Their hosannas rang out, they called upon him as a saviour,
a mighty king.
P They hoped that the he would cast the oppressors out of
their land and bring them glory and honour as did King David
L But Jesus walked a different path to glory and worked in a
different way to bring God's salvation to the people.
P The people did not understand this way - and when Jesus was
betrayed into the hands of the authorities and did not
fight, they turned on him, seeing him as a failure.
L Even as he lay down his life for them, those closest to him
fled in fear.
P Even Peter, the rock upon which the church is founded
thought of his own needs first.
A READING FROM LUKE 22:54-62 (followed by this litany)
L After the trial of Jesus was over;
P After Jesus had been mocked and beaten;
L After the crowd who had welcomed him had demanded his death
- although Pilate could find no fault in him,
P After all these things, Jesus was led away to be crucified.
ANTHEM: "Rescue The Perishing"
A READING FROM LUKE 23:32-46
HYMN: "Ride On! Ride On in Majesty" - VU 127
HOMILY: "From Palm Sunday to Good Friday"
When you look at the events from Palm Sunday to Good Friday it's
almost like one of those "Good news and Bad news" jokes.
The good news is that Jesus Christ reached the peak of his
popularity this week, riding in a triumphal procession into the
holy city of Jerusalem.
There was a big parade with lots of pomp and circumstance,
everybody turned out,
the disciples were very impressed,
and the Pharisees and the Sadducees realized that
they had underestimated this simple Galilean
Riding this crest of public approval Jesus went to the temple,
the very centre of the Jewish faith, and began to teach and
From Sunday to Thursday Jesus was unstoppable.
His enemies tried to trick him several times -- but to no avail;
each time he turned the tables on them and exposed their
No one even seriously complained when he overturned the tables of
the moneychangers and let the sacrificial birds loose.
And of course, in this same period Jesus established the greatest
new commandment, the one that says:
"Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must
love one another"
and He began a new ceremony with bread and wine which would
later on, become the sacrament of Holy Communion.
So, what's the bad news?
On Thursday he was betrayed and arrested
and on Friday he was hung him on a cross and killed.
Today the palms - tomorrow the passion -- good news and bad news
- but not a joke at all.
The grim truth is that the same people who shouted "Hosanna" on
Sunday shouted "Crucify him," just five days later.
Everybody's hero became a bloody sacrifice,
an object of scorn and hatred.
Is there anything we can learn from this?
Of course there is -- and it has been customary in looking for
that lesson to focus on the experience of the people around Jesus
and from what they say and do come up with a message that goes
"Don't be like those who cheered one day and jeered
the next. Be faithful and see yourself as Jesus' loyal
follower every day, every moment, of your life."
That is a good message - and that message lies underneath our
prayers and our litanies today.
But, I would like to suggest, very briefly, that perhaps there is
something we may learn from putting ourselves in Jesus' place
rather than in the shoes of someone around him..
What was Christ's experience in the midst of all this up and
down? this swirling whirlpool of events that progresses from
Palm Sunday to Good Friday?
Perhaps it is easiest to get at this by asking the question:
"What if Jesus had stayed in Galilee
and retired an old rabbi full of wisdom and compassion?"
What indeed? The question helps reminds us of something we find
easy to forget -
namely it reminds us that Jesus CHOSE his path,
that he CHOSE to leave the relative safety of Galilee and
his rural ministry,
and CHOSE to confront the powers of both politics and religion
in their very centre; in Jerusalem.
The reminder is that all the uphill - downhill, good news - bad
news, palms one day - passion the next, had nothing REALLY to do
with what Jesus was about.
Jesus saw the purpose of his life in terms of proclaiming a new
relationship with God, a relationship of intimate familial love,
and no issue of popularity or acceptance could truly intervene in
Jesus came to Jerusalem neither excited or deceived by the
applause of the crowds,
nor downcast by the treachery, the desertion,
the seemingly complete reversal of fortune he would endure.
As we have heard during the last few weeks of Lent - Jesus knew
what would happen to him
- he even knew, as we heard today in the story of Peter's
denial, that his closest disciple and friend
would claim to not know him when put to the test.
In both popular acclaim - and in denial and rejection
- Jesus made it plain to everyone that he was not ruled by the
feelings or events of the minute,
but rather was walking step by step along a path which would
lead him to the only source of true and lasting meaning for
him and ultimately for us,
that he was moving towards the fulfilment of God's
will, for him and through him for the world.
It didn't matter if the path seemed to reach a peak from which
there was no way to go but down. Jesus knew that his goal was
not the top of the mountain, not popularity or power or applause.
Equally it did not matter that the path seemed to lead into, and
end, in the valley of the shadow of death,
although he would have willed for himself some other course
if that course could still be true to the will of the Father,
the will that he accepted as perfect.
No, regardless of appearances,
regardless of the popularity that Jesus found,
and regardless of the suffering that he knew he would undergo,
Jesus chose to be true to his mission, he chose to be obedient;
knowing, hoping, praying that in that, regardless of what
might happen, he would be undergirded, surrounded, and
encompassed by the presence, the mercy, and the love of God.
It is a lesson for all of us to remember.
If we depend upon the events of life to give us reward and
satisfaction then we may never achieve them
or we may have them snatched away in the very moment of
We may be at the peak of our lives, with money, health, security,
friends, but - in those terms
- there is nowhere to go but downhill in the weeks, months, and
On the other hand, we - like Christ - have the opportunity to
walk our own unique path of obedience toward God.
It is a path which may see us surrounded by enjoyment,
possessions, and popularity,
or it may lead us into loneliness, misunderstanding, and poverty.
But none of these things will finally give life its meaning.
Up hill or down, it is the destination which counts
and no one's life can be more well spent than in seeking
to find and do God's will.
Because, after all, the journey from Palm Sunday to Good Friday
wasn't just a good news - bad news joke.
There was the final good news which redeemed it all and which
reminds us that God can take any situation - no matter how bad it
seems, and make it into good news for all of us.
Practically everyone has known the taste of Palm Sunday,
the sweetness of success and popularity,
and nearly all of us have tasted the bitterness of Good Friday,
of failure and rejection.
What saves us from an endless round of ups and downs,
what frees us from the tyranny of events over which we have
is our commitment to press forward in obedience to God -
it is trust in God's love to bring about Easter morning,
- knowing that the meaning of life is to be found in the
knowledge and love of God,
- and in sharing that knowledge and love with those who
accompany us on the way.
RESPONDING TO THE WORD
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
L Lord Jesus - your arrival in Jerusalem was welcomed with a
show of palms and a shout of praise. Yet soon you were
abandoned. Even your closest friends left your side.
P Jesus, we confess that we too make a joyful noise at your
coming, but that we often turn our backs on you when the
going gets rough.
L O Lord, we often serve you with our lips instead of with our
P We intend to follow you wherever you go, but we often do
not. Instead, like Peter, we deny you. We try to fit in
with the crowd. We avoid risking ourselves for your sake
and for the sake of the gospel.
L Forgive us God for our timid and faltering faith.
P Forgive us Lord for our part in nailing you to the cross to
suffer and die.
................ silent confession...............
L Lord have mercy.
P Christ have mercy.
L Lord have mercy.
ASSURANCE OF GOD'S LOVE AND MERCY
HYMN: "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"
SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS: Sharing Time; Prayer Time: and The
SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: The Offering and the Doxology and a
Unison Prayer of Dedication:
We thank you Father for thy son Jesus Christ, who for
our sake became poor that we might be rich. We thank
you for the fact that he gave himself up to death so
that we might rise to life. Accept our gifts of
thanksgiving now O Lord, and use them so that they
might bring blessings unto your name. Amen
* DEPARTING HYMN: "All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name"
* COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1998, 2001, revised 2004
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.