Dear People of God at St. Edward’s,
We begin Holy Week as always with Palm Sunday. Since we must all stay at home, our diocese has put together a wonderful online service for Palm Sunday. Here is the link:
It consists of three separate videos. The first video has the Liturgy of the Palms culminating in the Hymn “All glory, laud and honor”. The second video is an informal procession through the neighborhood of the pro-cathedral in Williamsport. It is not strictly part of the liturgy but is worth your time. The final video is the dramatic reading of the Passion from the Gospel according to Matthew. The online service ends with the Passion reading, so I am enclosing my sermon for Palm Sunday.
You will get the most out of it if you watch the online service first.
If you don’t live far from St. Edward’s and feel safe making a brief excursion to the church driveway (perhaps while running a necessary errand), we will have a container of blessed palms available for the taking. They will be in individual plastic sleeves on a table under the portico by our front doors after 4 PM. If you arrive and someone is at the table to pick their palms up, please wait in your car until they leave so we practice proper social distancing.
We are also planning a Palm Sunday morning online “Coffee Hour” via Zoom. Those details were provided in your Thursday Daily Message and are on the post of the same title on our web site.
The diocese is providing online services and home resources for the rest of Holy Week as well, continuing up through the Great Vigil of Easter on Easter Eve and then on to Easter Day itself.
We’ll be encouraging and reminding you of each of the online Holy Week services as they come up.
But we also know how many of you would like to experience an Easter service that is from St. Edward’s directly. So we are making plans to record a video of our own simple Easter service from the church building which will be available online for everyone.
Please stay safe, stay home, say your prayers and reach out to someone.
PALM SUNDAY: APRIL 5, 2020 READINGS
at The Liturgy of the Palms
The Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11
When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, `The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The Response: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
“His mercy endures for ever.”
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the LORD.
20 “This is the gate of the LORD; *
he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the LORD’s doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the LORD has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Hosannah, LORD, hosannah! *
LORD, send us now success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; *
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 God is the LORD; he has shined upon us; *
form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.
28 “You are my God, and I will thank you; *
you are my God, and I will exalt you.”
29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.
at The Liturgy of the Word
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Old Testament: Isaiah 50:4-9a
The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens–
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
The Response: Psalm 31:9-16
In te, Domine, speravi
9 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; *
my eye is consumed with sorrow,
and also my throat and my belly.
10 For my life is wasted with grief,
and my years with sighing; *
my strength fails me because of affliction,
and my bones are consumed.
11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance; *
when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; *
I am as useless as a broken pot.
13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
fear is all around; *
they put their heads together against me;
they plot to take my life.
14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. *
I have said, “You are my God.
15 My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
and in your loving-kindness save me.”
The Epistle: Philippians 2:5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death–
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The Gospel: Matthew 26:14- 27:66
One of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the
elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power
and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Optional parts of the readings are set off in square brackets.
The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
SERMON: The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday — April 5, 2020
The Rev. David Bateman, St. Edward’s Episcopal Church, Lancaster, PA
Before you read this sermon, I invite you to watch the online Palm Sunday service produced by our diocese. It includes a traditional blessing of the palms, a “procession” into the local neighborhood, and a reading of the Passion Gospel.
Here is the link: https://diocesecpa.org/holy-week-palm-sunday-2020/
If you don’t watch the video service, I invite you pause and recall a previous Palm Sunday experience from your memory.
Do you feel any differently now than you felt earlier? I know that I do. A little while ago was the holding of branches and proclaiming Jesus as a victorious king. The mood was special; it was triumphant; it was even fun. But the fun is gone now. The palm branches are still there, but we’re not waving them. Triumph has turned into gloom. Everything has shifted.
Out of all the different occasions of worship through the year, this is the only one that has such a dramatic reversal part-way through it. It’s even reflected in today’s name. I wonder how many of you know the primary formal name without looking at the bulletin or prayer book. It’s not what you would automatically think. Today is Palm Sunday, all right, but that is the secondary name of the occasion we are marking. The first and primary title for today is The Sunday of the Passion. And the fact that this day has two names highlights the double theme of the occasion.
We are most used to the name that talks about the part at the very beginning, the part that has the palms in it. If we were hearing this story for the first time, or if we were among the group of Jesus’ original followers, then his triumphal entry into Jerusalem would seem like the ultimate achievement, the perfect culmination of a difficult but fascinating career. Jesus, who has gotten such a mixed reception wherever he has gone, is finally getting the recognition he deserves. He gets it not only from the disciples and from the crowds; he gets it from us, too. By hearing the story and by brandishing branches, we have put ourselves into the scene. We are part of that great crowd of shouting worshipers, and it’s a good thing that we are. It’s a wonderful moment that we don’t want to miss; it’s Palm Sunday.
The palm part doesn’t last, though. The party turns into a nightmare as things go from sad to bad to hideous. Those who have been plotting Jesus’ undoing finally have their way. His one instant of glory has hardly passed before the downhill slide begins. And so as we hear the long tale in all its miserable and tragic fullness, it is as though there never were any palms, as though there never were any shouts of praise or adoring crowds. Palm Sunday is over almost as soon as it starts; today is the Sunday of the Passion.
In this context, the word “passion” means “suffering”. And though Episcopalians hate excesses of emotion in our worship, we nevertheless are not afraid to embrace this drama by telling it fully and in the form of speaking parts for the characters. Jesus’ passion now speaks to us in all its detail and power. As it does so, it reminds us of something we tend to forget during the rest of the year. It reminds us of how human he really is, how he has to struggle and how hard his trials are to bear. Matthew shows us a Jesus who says at the beginning “let this cup pass me by” and at the bitter end who desperately calls “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We see not a superhuman stoic or a play-actor quoting scripture, but a miserably alone person who is in psychic, spiritual, and physical agony.
That isn’t even the worst of it. As we know from other kinds of stories, heroes sometimes must suffer before the tide turns in their favor. But Jesus becomes the victim of the forces of darkness. There is no last-minute rescue while we are holding our breath, no voice of fairness that prevents a catastrophe. The bad guys get what they want. Jesus must endure the ultimate tragedy of dying and death, while his followers must endure the tragedy of losing him. There is no easy way out; in fact, there is no way out at all.
As I write this, the world is gripped by a virus pandemic. More than 50,000 people have died with tens of thousands more deaths expected in the coming weeks. Millions are losing their livelihoods and the world economy is threatened. We may be entering the worst period of global and collective human suffering in living memory.
Now more than ever, to be human is to know what it is like to be hurt and grieving; Jesus has not only seen that but felt it, too. We have had and continue to have our times of loneliness and alienation from others and from God; Jesus has, too. And that changes everything. Because a God who is always above us and separate and perfect can know everything by observation, and can save us by reaching from the outside in. But imagine a God who knows our needs through direct experience, a God who has taken into himself the very essence of what it means to be human. A God like that knows us in every way, and can save us not as an outsider but as an insider.
The experience of Jesus on the cross has been taken up into the center of God’s being; it is a part of God. That fact is more meaningful than all the history books ever written and more powerful than all the bombs ever created. It changes what it means to be a human being; it alters the whole world. We watch this day and this week while the earth is shaken to its very foundations, while human existence balances upon a razor’s edge of change. And we let the story stop for a while, stop with a limp and broken Jesus. Even though we know the rest of the story and what comes after this, we don’t jump ahead to that part yet; we just pause on the edge and let this part of God’s reality stand on its own and speak to us on its own terms. The time of palms is over. The time of passion is now. Amen.
From the Praise Band:
I will be missing my favorite hymn, “All Glory Laud and Honor,” on Palm Sunday this year. I spent some time looking online today at various versions to listen to. This is one of those hymns that is best heard sung by choir, accompanied by organ, with a joyful congregation joining in. I love it. Here’s a nice version that shows some of that, and I like the video showing the children processing with Palms:
It will be all the more sweet to sing it with all of you, my church family, next year.
THE APRIL SCEPTER WILL BE POSTED ON OUR WEB SITE BY SUNDAY, APRIL 5TH! PLEASE TAKE A LOOK. . LOTS OF NEWS, THOUGHTS, PRAYERS, AND GREAT ARTICLES!
LENTEN MEDITATION – FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2020
This is my story, this is my song, praising my savior, all the day long.
– ”Blessed Assurance”
Lift Every Voice and Sing II
I am a worrier by nature. I spend so much energy thinking of what could be or what may be that I often forget to just be. My children have the wonderful gift of not worrying too much about what’s next because they are caught up in what is now. The gift that children give us by living in the now is holy and transformative.
There are days when my children spend hours catching frogs and losing their shoes in mud pits. There are days when they forget food is even a part of life because they are experiencing such joy. This past summer a short hike turned into five hours at a swimming hole in the Blue Ridge Mountains. These moments of love and curiosity are worship. They are the ways my children find God. They are the experiences that make their story and mold them. I am often afraid that my story, my song, is one of fear and worry, but my children are teaching me that I could be writing a story and singing a song of joyful praise, experiencing God’s kingdom in all its glory.
- Emily Rutledge is the Children, Youth and Family Minister at Church of Our Saviour in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a mother of two