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Sermon (3) and Liturgy for The Sixth Sunday in Lent - Year A
Palm - Passion Sunday
Matthew 21:1-10; Matthew 27:1-2,11-50; Isaiah 53:4-12
"From The Beginning of Time"


READING:  Matthew 21:1-10; Matthew 27:1-2,11-50; Isaiah 53:4-12
SERMON :  "From The Beginning of Time"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-le06su 974000
                   
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

                       
                   GATHERING FOR BLESSING OF THE PALMS
          
   10:30 am. - There will be a Musical Prelude and gathering in the
   Sanctuary for a Hymn Sing while the Palm Liturgy is being celebrated
   at the Park with the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran
   Churches.  Following the blessing of the Palms each congregation
   returns to their Sanctuary to continue with the Passion Liturgy.  
   See our Blessing of the Palms service for the liturgy of the Palms.   
   

                    GATHERING FOR THE PASSION LITURGY
         
   10:50 am. - Procession from the Park will enter with palm crosses
   and branches.  The service begins with all processing around the
   Sanctuary singing the Processional Hymn following which the children
   will go to activities in the Church Hall.


* PROCESSIONAL HYMN:  "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna"                         - 122


* WELCOME AND PRAYER OF APPROACH 
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  We call to you, O Lord, and we acclaim you.
P  Hosanna to the Son of David.
L  We praise you and we welcome you this day.
P  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.  
   Hosanna in the highest heaven.
L  We remember, O Lord, how your people welcomed you to the city of
   Jerusalem on this Sunday so long ago and like them our hearts are
   filled with hope.
P  Hosanna in the highest heaven.
L  We remember too, O Lord, how your people turned from you before the
   week was over and called  for you to be put to death.  The shout
   "Crucify him, crucify him" echoed through the streets.
P  You, O Lord, know who we are - you know our weakness and our strength. 
   We bow our heads before you and ask that you be gracious to us.


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Let us Pray...  Lord Jesus - Loving God - ever present Spirit - forgive, we
pray, all the times we have named you our Lord and our King and then turned
away from you.  Help us as we hear the story of your Passion to consider
just how great your love is for us and at what price your mercy is poured
out upon us.  Lord, by your Spirit make us ever more constant in our faith
and ever more diligent in doing the works of righteousness that you call us
to do.  May your light illumine us in our hours of darkness, your power
enliven us in our times of weakness, and your truth guide us through each
and every day.  We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus - who died that we
may live, and who lives so that we may never die.  Amen.


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Welcome and Announcements    
- Sharing Joys and Concerns
- Children's Activities Commence


TIME OF PREPARATION (music and silent prayer or meditation)


PALM - PASSION LITANY
L  From the beginning of time 
   our names have been written on the heart of God.
P  Our lives have been etched in the palms of his hands.
L  Jesus knew as he was entered Jerusalem to the shouts of his people
   that he would be rejected and killed within the week.
P  From the beginning of time 
   his death was written upon the heart of God.
L  Jesus knew as his people called out to him for salvation 
   that they would also call out for his death.
P  From the beginning of time 
   his death was written upon the heart of God.
L  From the beginning of time 
   our names have been written on the heart of God.
P  Our lives have been etched in the palms of his hands.


* HYMN:  "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty"                             - VU 127


A READING FROM MATTHEW 27:1-2,11-50
   (NIV)  Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of
   the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death.   They bound
   him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. 

   Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you
   the king of the Jews?" 

   "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.  

   When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no
   answer.  Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they
   are bringing against you?"  But Jesus made no reply, not even to a
   single charge--to the great amazement of the governor. 

   Now it was the governor's custom at the Feast to release a prisoner
   chosen by the crowd.  At that time they had a notorious prisoner,
   called Barabbas.  So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them,
   "Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who
   is called Christ?"  For he knew it was out of envy that they had
   handed Jesus over to him. 

   While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this
   message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I
   have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."  But
   the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for
   Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 

   "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the
   governor. 

   "Barabbas," they answered.

   "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate
   asked. 

   They all answered, "Crucify him!" 

   "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted
   all the louder, "Crucify him!" 

   When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an
   uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of
   the crowd.  "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is
   your responsibility!"  

   All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our
   children!"  Then he released Barabbas to them.  But he had Jesus
   flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. 

   Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and
   gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him
   and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of
   thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand
   and knelt in front of him and mocked him.  "Hail, king of the Jews!"
   they said.  They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on
   the head again and again.  After they had mocked him, they took off
   the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to
   crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene,
   named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.  

   They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the
   Skull).  There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall;
   but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.  When they had
   crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.  And
   sitting down, they kept watch over him there.  Above his head they
   placed the written charge against him:  THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF
   THE JEWS. 

   Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his
   left.  Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their
   heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build
   it in three days, save yourself!  Come down from the cross, if you
   are the Son of God!" 

   In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the
   elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save
   himself! He's the King of Israel!  Let him come down now from the
   cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God. Let God rescue
   him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'"  

   In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped
   insults on him. 

   From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the
   land.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi,
   Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you
   forsaken me?" 

   When some of those standing there heard this, they said, "He's
   calling Elijah."  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He
   filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to
   Jesus to drink.  The rest said, "Now leave him alone. Let's see if
   Elijah comes to save him." 

   And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his
   spirit. 

L  This is the gospel of our Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN: "O Come and Mourn With Me Awhile"                          - VU 136


SERMON:  "From The Beginning of Time"

   O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in 
   the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. 
   Amen.

This week I couldn't get out of my mind the Palm-Passion Litany that we
used before Barbara read the Passion Story from the Gospel According to
Matthew to us.

Indeed, as some of you will have already noticed,  
I used the first words of that Litany for my sermon title,
and so I arranged our Order of Service so that the litany will be repeated
in just a few minutes.

From the beginning of time our names have been written on the heart of God.
Our lives have been etched in the palms of his hands.

There is what appears to be a  great contradiction in what we, like
countless thousands, indeed millions of Christian churches, are doing
today.

We are celebrating how Jesus came riding into Jerusalem and was acclaimed
by the common people  as the Messiah - and we are ourselves acclaiming him
as our Messiah and our Lord in the same manner.
   And then we are telling the story of how the common people - the same
   crowd that welcomed  in the streets of the Holy City, called for his
   death just a few days later  - for a death plotted by the rulers of the
   temple and by the  religious leaders of the nation into which he was
   born.

It's just a little crazy to see the signs of welcome,
   the signs of approval - the signs of the prayer - "Lord, save us now"
   "Hosanna in the Highest"
scattered all around us,
   and to be confronted in how some of these signs of welcome have been
   woven together by the sign of rejection, the sign of disgrace, the sign
   of torture, the sign of death.

There are many things that happen to us - and that happen in the lives of
others that seem contradictory - that seem just a little bit - and maybe
even a large bit - crazy.

The graduating student who rejoices one night - and is dead before the next
   morning, the victim of a drunk driver.
The newly joined couple torn apart on the first night of their marriage 
   by a suicide bomber.
Close to 25% of the children in one of the wealthiest countries in the
   world, living in poverty.
More than enough food produced each year to feed the entire world's
   population and millions dying of starvation while millions die from
   over-eating.

All these are signs of great contradiction, great craziness.

Jesus knew as he was entered Jerusalem to the welcoming shouts and prayers
of his people that he would be rejected and killed within the week.

He knew it because from the beginning of time his death was written upon
the heart of God,
   - it was written upon God's heart from even before Eve reach for the
   fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..
   - it was written before Isaiah spoke of the one who would be despised
   and rejected by men,
   - it was written before Mary conceived and the word was made flesh by
   the power of God's Spirit,
   - indeed, it was written before our lives were etched on the palms of
   his hands as they stretched out  upon the cross.

Jesus knew as his people called out to him for salvation on Palm Sunday
   that they would also call out for his death within the week
       and that despised and rejected he would suffer death upon the cross,
he knew - he knew from the very beginning - and he gave himself over to
   that death anyway;
he knew - he knew from the very beginning - and he gave himself over to
   that death because he knew.

The contradictions and the craziness in our world 
   those contradictions and that craziness that we experience in our
   workplaces and in our homes, 
       and which we encounter in our neighbours and in see in our kith and
       kin, and indeed within our own selves
are the result of the sin of humankind,
   the result of self-seeking pride and self-serving acts
       the result of desiring privilege without responsibility, honour
       without humility, profit without work, power without accountability
   and pleasure without having to love or to share.

Jesus knew this truth from his mother's knee
   and from the teachings of the law and the prophets 
       and from the heart of God disclosed to him as he prayed 
          the heart of God shown him by the Spirit.
Jesus knew that sin was the enemy 
   and that because of sin the people God had made would sing songs to him
one day and call for his death the next.

The craziness - the contradictions - the sin that darkens and destroys all
that it encounters is ours.

And God the all knowing - knew it would be so from the beginning.

And God knew what the remedy - the only remedy could be - if he was to make
us at all, if he was to make us - to be like himself, if he was to make us
- free - and powerful, creative, and loving.

From the beginning of time the death of Christ Jesus was written upon the
heart of God 
   - because from the beginning of time our names have been written on the
   heart of God,
   -and because from the beginning of time God has wanted us to live
   rather than to die, God has wanted us to be - rather than to not be.

The apostle John tells us the meaning of the Passion Story when he says:

   God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
   whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The glory of Jesus - the glory of God - is found in how God has entered
into our contradictions and our  craziness - and taken upon himself the
death that should be ours.   The glory of God, the glory of Jesus, is how
he is raised on a cross before he is raised from the dead.

That can be a hard one for us to grasp.   A hard one for us to accept.

We don't like to think about death - especially our own 
   and insofar as Jesus died upon the cross for us we like to remember the
   briefness of his suffering 
       and to focus our attention on how the stone was rolled away from the
       tomb three days later, 
   rather than upon how his hands were pierced by the nails 
   and his side pierced by a spear 
and how he called out in agony as he breathed his last.

The story of the Passion of Jesus has never been intended to be a pretty
story - one to amuse us as it were,
   rather it has been told through the centuries to focus our attention on
   what his death was all about, on what it was for and on who it was for.

It was for the folk like you and I, folk who are more than able to acclaim
Jesus their Lord and King one day and call for his death the next.   

And that is pretty amazing.   
   And that should call us to the deepest and most profound kind of
   celebrating 
       and to humility 
          and to godliness.

Blessed be God day by day.  Amen


Let us once again join together in the Palm-Passion Litany that is found in
the bulletin.


PALM - PASSION SUNDAY LITANY
L  From the beginning of time our names 
   have been written on the heart of God.
P  Our lives have been etched in the palms of his hands.
L  Jesus knew as he was entered Jerusalem to the shouts of his people
   that he would be rejected and killed within the week.
P  From the beginning of time 
   his death was written upon the heart of God.
L  Jesus knew as his people called out to him for salvation 
   that they would also call out for his death.
P  From the beginning of time 
   his death was written upon the heart of God.
L  From the beginning of time 
   our names have been written on the heart of God.
P  Our lives have been etched in the palms of his hands.


A READING FROM THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH 53:4-12:
   (NIV)  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
   yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and
   afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was
   crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was
   upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have
   gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has
   laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the
   slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did
   not open his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away. 
   And who can speak of his descendants?  For he was cut off from the
   land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was
   stricken.  He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the
   rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any
   deceit in his mouth. 

   Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and
   though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his
   offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will
   prosper in his hand.  After the suffering of his soul, he will see
   the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous
   servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 
   Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will
   divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life
   unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.  For he bore
   the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks Be To God


* HYMN: "Were You There"                                           - VU 144


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE:  
God of grace - from the beginning of time you have been with us - the
shepherd of our souls - the one who though rejected by humankind resolved
to not reject us - but rather to open the way to eternal life for all who
trust in you and seek to follow in the path of Christ Jesus.  We thank you
Father,  for how Jesus did not count equality with you a thing to be held
onto - but instead emptied himself and came unto us as a servant to
reconcile us to you.  Help us, we pray,  to be reconciled - help us to
accept your mercy and your grace and, in his name, to go forth each day in
your power and show that mercy and that grace to one another...  Lord hear
our prayer...

God of mercy - we remember how the disciples slept while Jesus was in
agony.  Give to us not only spirits willing to help others - but the
strength of mind and body as well.  As Jesus prayed for his disciples and
for himself and asked that your will be done instead of his own - so help
us to turn to you in holy obedience  and to pray for ourselves and for all
of your people...  Lord hear our prayer....

God of truth - we remember how Pilate allowed the passions of the crowd to
rule him.  We pray to you Lord - be with the leaders of our nation and our
world - that they may rule according to that which is just  and true and
right - that they might govern by your light - rather than by the darkness
of human sin.... Lord hear our prayer....

God of compassion - we remembered how Jesus suffered on the cross.  We 
pray to you today for all who suffering this day.  May they have release
from their captivity....  Lord hear our prayer...

God of love - we remember how Jesus died on the cross with his mother
looking on.   We pray to you today for all who mourn - all who have
suffered grievous loss.    Lord, hear our prayer...

Father, in the name of Jesus we ask you to hear all our prayers this day.  
We especially ask you to hear those prayers we make to you now - both aloud
and in the silence of our hearts...  BIDDING PRAYER...  Lord, hear our
prayer...

We ask all that we ask - and we give thanks for all that we thank you for 
in the name of Christ Jesus - who taught us to pray to you as one family,
saying: "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 trespasses, as we forgive those who
trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from
evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and
ever.  Amen."


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

   O God, in Christ Jesus you have given us everything.   Accept our
   offering this day as a sign of our trust in you - and us both it -
   and our very selves - to further his healing work in our world - and
   to bring to you a glory and honour and praise that lasts.   We ask
   it in his name.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross"                 - VU 142


* COMMISSIONING:  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go forth into the
   world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of Christ.


* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, remembering all that Jesus endured for your sake,
- and may God bless you and keep you safe in his knowledge and his love  
both now and forevermore.  Amen
   

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                              - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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