Welcome and Announcements
Hello, I’m Pastor Tom Kinder of the United Church of Strafford, Vermont. Welcome to this online worship service for the Sixth Sunday of Lent and Palm and Passion Sunday, April 5, 2020.
Today we continue our informal and intimate format of worship. I hope you will let me know if you would be willing to read or sing in future On Line Services—you will see today how greatly it enriches our experience, so please don’t be shy! Also please share things that inspire or comfort you in this difficult time. You can find a link on the Welcome Page of our website to videos, poems and other forms of inspiration we are collecting.
You can respond with thoughts about the service or with anything you would like to say by using the comment feature at the end of the post or by emailing us. You can also bring others into this experience by sharing the link to this service by email or social media.
Today we have a series of videos including:
- an Annemieke McLane Prelude;
- several hymns and choral pieces;
- a Call to Worship that gives an orientation to the rest of the service;
- the Palm Sunday Bible story (don’t miss it!)
- a Children’s Message;
- the New Lord’s Prayer led by another church family;
- A series of Passion Story Scriptures;
- A Reflection;
- a Benediction
- And at the very end you will find the Palm Sunday Spiritual Exploration by Danette Harris for Children and Youth
Please note that we are gathering as a congregation by Zoom at 10:30 AM on Sunday mornings to say hello to one another and share our Joys and Concerns and Prayer requests and offer our compassion and support and company for this wilderness journey. Our Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle is also meeting by Zoom on Thursdays at 6:00 PM. This is for anyone who is interested in practicing mindfulness or meditation, or heartfulness and centering prayer, and it is a time for talking about those practices and also more generally about our spiritual life.
You can find links to instructions on how to be part of those Zoom gatherings on the Welcome Page of our website.
It is extremely important that we stay connected now, especially during Holy Week, when we could be struggling because of the season on top of everything else. Please reach out by phone or email to neighbors and other members of the congregation, especially those who live by themselves or are struggling or vulnerable. Our Deacons, Becky Bailey, Kim Welsh and Maggie Hooker, are coordinating our outreach to people in need of support, and Danette Harris, Chair of our Mission Committee, is leading our work with the Food Shelf. If you would like to help the Deacons or Mission Committee in these please email us or use the comment feature on this page.
Now let us become centered and open our hearts to receive whatever the Spirit would have us receive here today.
Here is our weekly haiku from Mel Goertz.
The snow has melted.
Green moss on the barnyard rocks.
The brooks are flowing.
I invite you to move to Annemieke’s beautiful prelude when you are ready. You can listen to the entire service in one sitting in a little over an hour or you may spread it out over the course of the day or week. Thank you!
Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonate in C, K 159, performed by pianist and United Church of Strafford Musician Annemieke McLane
Call to Worship
Today’s service involves many members of our congregation reading, singing and playing the organ or piano. I will share a Children’s Time and a sermon, but most of the work of this service is for you to do. The meaning of the Greek word Liturgy is “work of the people.” During Holy Week, that work is hard, but with the potential to be transformative.
There are two ways to look at what the church offers. One is that it helps us cope with challenges in our lives. As Bill Coffin wrote, “It is often said that the Church is a crutch. Of course it’s a crutch. What makes you think you don’t limp?”
Jesus had a huge, compassionate heart, and he spent much of his time comforting and healing to help people better cope, but that was not the ultimate goal of his ministry. He came not so we would attain successful or easy lives, but so we would lose our life to gain the true life, so we would be transformed by the expanding of our heart and mind to be as full of the Spirit as he was, so we would be as one with God.
We love the comfort of the church for good reason, but there is an even better reason to love the discomfort, because as Thomas Merton said, “Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and the heart has turned to stone.”
Or as Richard Rohr says, “You will remain largely unconscious as a human being until issues come into your life that you cannot fix or control and something challenges you at your present level of development, forcing you to expand and deepen. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding, that we break into higher levels of consciousness. I doubt whether there is any other way.”
So I hope you find the crutches you need in this service, but I hope you use them to walk through the pain toward the transformation, the metanoia, that can come by passing through this last stage of the Lenten wilderness open to the Spirit.
This year we are following the Passion story in the gospel of Matthew. The word Passion comes from a Latin root meaning to suffer; com-passion means to suffer with. The Passion story describes Jesus’ suffering in his final days, and our task in this service is to suffer with him. Holy Week was a journey of ordeal for Jesus and his disciples. It should be an ordeal for us, too. The most important thing we can do in this service is to be completely present, as if we have never heard the story before. The journey begins with the jubilant celebration of Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Let us worship together with a fullness of joy, with laughter in our hearts…
The First Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:1-11
Anthem “All Glory, Laud and Honor”
A Palm Sunday reflection for children, youth and the young at heart, starting with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the liberation of Narnia from endless winter (and never Christmas) and connecting that story to what it felt like to see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and connecting that Palm Sunday feeling to the hope we have for the liberation we need today. And then there’s the role of prayer, of course!
The New Prayer
I invited children, parents and teachers to record themselves saying the prayer. My original idea was to splice together lines from each, which I still may do, but they are each so beautiful in entirety that I plan to share a different one each week. Like many of the videos we are doing, these include rough edges and bloopers which I hope will not offend you. God must love to laugh as much as we do. In fact, I consider laughter a form of prayer. It opens the heart and mind for love to pour in and out, just as weeping does, or silent contemplative prayer, or feeling moved by beautiful words or music. So it is still worship when this breaks into a little giddy laughter toward the end. Let us open wide our hearts and minds in love and prayer and laughter…
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,
Way, Truth and Life,
Force of Love and Light
flowing within and all around us,
may your realm of compassion,
justice and peace rule our world.
Thank you for nurturing and guiding us,
forgiving us and helping us forgive,
and leading us away from harmful desires.
Please save us from all forms of evil,
for you are our source, our home, our power,
all goodness and beauty forever. Amen.
Transition from Palm to Passion “Ride on, ride on in majesty!”
In the days following Palm Sunday the euphoria of the triumphant entrance quickly turned to tension. Jesus was not acting like the Messiah that the people had expected. He had not claimed the throne. He had no army of angels or men.
Yet Jesus had not let up on his radical preaching. He staged a nonviolent demonstration disrupting the business of the temple marketplace and shutting down temple worship. He challenged the authorities daily. It was clear this couldn’t last. Neither the powerful priests nor the Roman Empire would allow it.
Jesus kept going, boldly, bravely, riding on in a triumphant majesty that no human eyes could yet see toward a victory that even his friends would mistake for defeat. The story continues.
The Second Scripture Reading Matthew 23:37-39 and Matthew 26:14-25
The Third Scripture Reading Matthew 26:26-35
The Fourth Scripture Reading Matthew 26:36-46, and 26: 47-52, 56b
Hymn “What Wondrous Love Is This,” Verse One Only
The Fifth Scripture Reading Matthew 26:57-75
Hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” The Passion Chorale
The Sixth Scripture Reading Matthew 27:1-2, 11-26 and 27:27-32 and 27:33-44 and 27:45-56
Hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
The Seventh Scripture Reading Matthew 27:57-66 and Philippians 2:1-13
You can read the text of this sermon, “Kenosis, Metanoia, Agape, Koinonia,” on this website by clicking here.
A lone disciple at midnight on Good Friday kneels before candles on a cold hearth and tries to make sense of what has happened, seeking a way through darkness to light and hope. His voice is choked with sorrow and exhaustion. Please give him the comfort of adding your voice to his.
Christ Taught Us Love for All the Earth
tune: CONDITOR ALME L.M.
Christ taught us love for all the earth,
All people one, all equal worth.
Hear sorrow in his dying voice
To watch us fail to make love’s choice.
Earth can be saved if we change now.
Christ’s life and death have shown us how.
Let go of self, let power and wealth
Be ruled by love to serve earth’s health.
Christ is the way by any name.
All schools of wisdom say the same:
Compassion, love, heart open wide
To let the Spirit be our guide.
Choose emptiness, Christ on his cross.
We gain his heart and mind through loss.
Earth’s oneness rises through that choice,
The joy of new life in our voice.
copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder
Now as you enter these last hard days of Lent, the time of greatest trial in the long wilderness, may you surrender your life and your will to God’s care, as Jesus did, and so find the path that leads through death to greater life. May you let this week move you and happen to you, trusting and resting in God’s love. May the love of God, the light of Jesus Christ and the life of the Holy Spirit guide you, bless you and keep you in the days ahead. Amen.
Coral Benediction “When Jesus Wept” by William Billings
Finally, here is Danette Harris leading children and youth in a Palm Sunday Spiritual Exploration: