Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am April 02, 2023
Onsite & Online (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev. Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia Vocalist: Lynn Vaughan
Elder: Darlene Eerkes
We gather to worship God
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.
Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship
Call to Worship
L: Just as the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness,
P: the Spirit sends us into places of uncertainty where we confront our weakness and insecurities.
L: Sometimes the wilderness is the city.
P: In the city, life can be a struggle where the vulnerable are victimized by unfamiliar structures.
L: Jesus rode into Jerusalem to reclaim the city for God.
P: By entering on a donkey, Jesus showed that he would rule with humility and compassion.
L: As the Church, we too bring care to those whom the city too often forgets.
P: We remember that many are lost and alone: refugees, the unhoused, sex workers, those far from home.
L: We cannot put the burden on the destitute to find their way through the urban maze.
P: We come in humility to serve those whose resources are few and whose needs are many.
Opening praise: Forever God is faithful
Prayers of approach and lament
Almighty God, like your children of ages past, we gather to wave our branches and lay down our coats before Jesus. As the Messiah rides into Jerusalem, we sing praises, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” “Save us! Save us”. However, the praises from our lips do not last. We prefer to have our saviour’s ride into town on white horses and conquer our enemies. One day we sing, “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” On the next we wash our hands with Pilate, trying to cleanse ourselves from our part in the passion of Jesus. We say, “We are innocent of this man’s blood.” When things don’t go our way. When our God does not respond as we wish we find ourselves aligned with the shouting crowd – one day shouting “Save us” and the next “Crucify him!” We travel from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify!” in the blink of an eye.
Lord we lament the world as it is and seek a world that is better.
We praise you on Sunday and ignore you on Monday. Forgive us again and again, our God, for turning away from your call to lay down our own lives for the sake of the Gospel. May we follow you with faithfulness all the days of our lives and may you remember these words upon our lips. “Hosanna” “Save us.” Amen.
Response: We come to ask Your forgiveness, O God
Assurance of God’s grace
Hear, then, the good news: those who are in Christ are a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. The call Hosanna has been answered by Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour. Amen!
We listen for the voice of God
Gradual: Jesus loves me (373)
Some time ago the Toronto Sun newspaper printed a few samples from actual accident reports made to insurance companies and printed them in the paper.
Here are some examples:
“A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”
“In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
“I had been driving my car for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel.”
“I was shopping for plants all day and was on my way home when a hedge all of a sudden appeared and started blocking my view. It made me hit another car.”
“The person had no idea where they were walking, and I hit him.”
“The telephone pole was approaching quickly. As I attempted to swerve it struck the front end of my car.”
“An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle before vanishing.”
“The true cause of the incident was some little guy in a small car with a big mouth.”
Most of the time in life, when we mess up, our excuses are equally lame.
In the Bible in 1 John 1:9 it says God forgives every sin. In fact it’s often said that the only sin God doesn’t forgive is the sin that’s unconfessed.
When we mess up. It doesn’t do any good to make up silly excuses. It’s best to just be honest, admit the mistake and be forgiven.
Thank you, our God! We come to you in a world that is not perfect.
C’s teacher, A, is hurting. We all know people who are not doing well.
Our God. We pray for them. Be with them.
Especially, today, we pray for A.
Surgery can be difficult, and we ask that you guide the hands of the doctors and the nurses, and be with everyone in the building, including the people that wipe up the floors.
Lord, thank you for your many blessings,
The Lord’s Prayer (535)
Song: Hosanna (216)
Scripture readings: Psalm 118, 1-2, 19-29 and Matthew 21: 1-11
Response: Jesus, remember me
Message: “No King but Christ”
John Adams once wrote, “We have no Sovereign but God and no King but Christ.”
The imperial procession was Pilate’s military demonstration of Roman power and theology. Matthew’s Jewish audience knows it well. In 33 AD around 80,000 people live in Jerusalem but on this day the city would swell to 2.5 times that at nearly 205,000 people. Travelers would come from hundreds of miles, 3 times a year to the Temple for celebrations (the largest numbers showing up for Passover).
And so throngs of pilgrims would flood into the city in order to celebrate at the Temple together. How ironic then it would be that as thousands upon thousands of people piled into the city to celebrate Israel’s freedom from Egyptian oppression, they would do so in a city presently occupied once more (this time by Rome and her loyal subjects).
Because of past insurgencies (as zealous Jews sometimes used this occasion to rise up against Rome in protests and revolts) it became standard practice (for all Roman concurred cities) to at least triple their military presence at times of non-Roman festivals (like the Passover in Jerusalem). Reinforcements for the Roman garrison permanently stationed in Fortress Antonia would be marched into the city in anticipation of Jewish protests. Attendance for all Roman governors would be compulsory in order to parade a massive military presence before the people just in case of any trouble.
Pilate of course didn’t live in Jerusalem. The city was far too dull and far too filled with peasants for that. It would not be terribly safe or as flashy as he would prefer. Instead, Pilate lived in a large estate house in Caesarea Maritima (overlooking the sea).
For the Passover (as was custom) all Roman governors were required to have a physical presence in the cities they were responsible for controlling. And so, Pilate and his army would march into the city in pomp and circumstance. And I can almost picture it. Cavalry on horses, foot soldiers by the hundreds, shining metal armour clanking, helmets and weapons flashing in the sun. The procession would be preceded by banners of Rome, large golden Roman eagles atop marching poles; gold everywhere.
The loud sound of marching would fill the air (dust whirling all around them). Pilate who represented Emperor Tiberius carried the titles “son of god” and “savoir” with him written out for all to see.
Pilate would march into Jerusalem with parade like fashion and military precision; escorted by masses of Roman imperial power. Pilate and his men would enter the city at the Eastern gate (near his vacation palace) overlooking the Temple and court. It would be an impressive show like few had ever seen as Pilate (the very symbol of Roman authority) would ride his white stallion and golden chariot into the city in the name of peace brought by the sword.
But just as Pilate entered… so too would Jesus.
So, there they were – just at the end of the dry season when the flax seeds and barley were harvested. Jesus and his disciples had just left Jericho (the world’s oldest city). They were on their way South West to Jerusalem with thousands of other pilgrims to celebrate the Passover. Though his journey was over 100 miles long from Nazareth, from here it would only be another 15 mile hike down the Kidron Valley and back up to the walls of the city in order to enter at the west Golden Gate closest to the Temple on the other side of the city Pilate came from.
On their way the pilgrims would pass the tiny Bethpage (the House of Unripe Figs) on the edge of the Mount of Olives. They would pass near the village of Bethany (which means the House of the poor) and then all of the sudden they stop. Here Jesus sends two of his followers into the village. He says, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
What an odd thing to say! Most theologians of course suggest that in this case Jesus has actually prearranged for the use of the donkey. He too would have a parade. But the normal picture we have in our heads of Jesus calmly riding into the city may not be terribly accurate. Two things are wrong with the picture of Palm Sunday as we usually think of it.
And the first one should be quite clear already. While we normally picture Jesus quietly riding a donkey into the city the reality is that Jesus doesn’t send the disciples out for one donkey… he sends them out… for two (a donkey and its baby). Matthew is very clear about this. And then in his usual fashion Matthew interrupts Jesus’ actions right away for his Jewish audience. He writes, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal [baby] of a donkey.’”
And so in verse 6 we read that this prophesy is fulfilled when “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.”
And so that’s the first problem with the picture we normally have of this day. Jesus didn’t ride into town on a donkey. The verse says, they put their coats on them (plural) for Jesus to sit on.
Now this could mean one of two things. This could mean that they put the animals side by side (though one is much bigger than the other) and that Jesus rides both the mother and the baby at the same time. Or it could mean more likely, that Jesus rides the mother for a while and then baby for a while. But no matter exactly how this took place, there is some political satire involved.
For the original audience the message would be clear. Jesus isn’t a political ruler quite like Pilate. And more to the point… he doesn’t want to be. Matthew’s story shows just how truly un-king-like this event is, as Jesus rides not one annoying little donkey… but two. And on top of that he makes sure to tell you that he comes (not on a white horse with a golden chariot) but “gently” or as some translators put it “humbly.”
And then again just in case you still don’t get how silly this looks. Mark beats us all over the head with it one more time making sure to point out that the baby donkey “had never been ridden before.” Now that should change the picture in your head of the nice calm Jesus parade.
I don’t know if you have ever seen a donkey up close but they are not exactly the most endearing of God’s creatures. There is another name for a donkey and these things live up to that name with ease. They stink and they snort and they generally do just the opposite of what you want them to do. And that’s what they’re like after they’ve been trained. And an untrained donkey is Crazy!
But Jesus isn’t riding one of these good natured, well behaved, well trained donkeys. He’s either sitting on two of them at once or he’s switching off and on from the mother to a completely instinctive animal; surrounded by literally thousands of shouting people. Now… how smooth a ride do you think this is?
As a side note, some believe that Matthew mentions 2 donkeys because he misunderstands the verse he is quoting. I doubt it. I suspect his Hebrew was better than ours is. More likely Matthew saw not just fulfillment of the prophesy but More than the fulfillment. Not just one but two.
The next problem with how we normally view this story is that we call this Palm Sunday. The problem is (and you may have noticed) Matthew never says a word about palms but just “branches from trees.” Mark says “leaves from the field” and so does Luke. Only John tells us specifically that palm branches were used.
And so… while palms were certainly present at this procession – they were clearly in the minority. So what did most people lay on the ground. Verse 8 says “the very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road.”
Now let’s think about that for a second. The people take off their expensive outer clocks and lay them on the ground.
So, let’s get this straight – the people are just wearing their inner tunics? In other words, they are wearing… … … underwear.
So here’s the real picture of what happened. Jesus is riding an untrained baby donkey down a hill while thousands of people surround him, wearing only their underwear. This is the story that Matthew tells.
As Luke presents this story in his gospel it is a depressing scene.
For John who is interested only in the spiritual identity of Jesus, it is a celebration.
But for Mark and for Matthew this so-called Triumphal entry is really a joke; a comical piece of biting political satire.
For Matthew especially, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is like a political demonstration; a mockery of the Roman procession Pilate has just done. And with every step Jesus takes, it gets funnier and funnier. In short, for Matthew… when Jesus enters Jerusalem it’s like burning an effigy of worldly authority.
Matthew’s point is that unlike Pilate and his Roman Processional, God does not bring peace by the sword. God’s ways are not our ways and his kingship very much unlike ours.
God will not be found with the sword. He will be led to the cross.
John Adams once wrote, “We have no Sovereign but God and no King but Christ.”
May we always remember those words. We have no Sovereign but God and no King but Christ. –Amen.
Song: My song is love unknown (220)
We respond to serve God
Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the ways described below. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission.
Prayer of gratitude and prayer for others and ourselves
God of God, Light of Light, we seek refuge in you as we offer you our prayers. Incline your ear to us and answer our calls to you according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the coming week, we, as the Body of Christ, pray that we will not turn away from the suffering and pain of Jesus but will be faithful witnesses to the love Christ emptied out on the cross. You know, God, that this world is full of suffering and pain.
But you are our God and our King. We turn to you. We cry out to you, praying that you will lift the pain and suffering from each of your children. So many families – too many – are hungry for healthy food and clean water. Feed them, we pray. Countless children have neither schools nor teachers to guide them. Teach them, we pray. We see the eyes of your children who only know the pain of disease. Heal them, we pray. Nations war against nations and the destruction seems to know no bounds. Bring peace, we pray. Rulers come and go, continually failing us. Lead us, we pray.
By the power of your grace, may we be inspired to bring your light into the darkness of the world. Remind us always that we are your Body are called to do each thing we ask of You. We are to feed the hungry. We are meant to provide clean water. We are meant to provide education. We are to bring hands of healing. And we, when we have no king but the ruler of the universe will do all things in Your name. Amen.
Song: Give me oil in my lamp (655)
Sending out with God’s blessing
Go now, to serve Christ and follow him.
Let your old life fall like a grain of wheat into the earth so that you may bear much fruit as you allow God to reshape your heart and live in obedience to the law ritten within you.
And may God centre you in truth and steady your spirit.
May Christ renew your joy and strengthen your will.
And may the Spirit teach you God’s hidden wisdom and fill you with songs of rejoicing.
Response: The Blessing
Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).
The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.