Thursday, April 03, 2014

“Jesus Has Overcome the World” -- Alternative Lectionary Readings for Palm/Passion Sunday


One of the choices that one must make on the Sunday prior to Easter is whether to focus on the triumphal entry or the passion.  In this set of readings David Ackerman (Beyond the Lectionary) invites us to focus on the journey to the cross (the passion or suffering of Christ).  We have a text that helps us connect Holy Week to the Passover Observance.  We have a reading from 1 John, in which we receive a new commandment -- to love one another, which is the sign that we walk in the light.  Finally, in the Gospel, as Jesus offers post supper instructions to the disciples, we are offered a word of hope -- no matter what happens in the coming hours, Jesus will conquer the world.  In these texts we are invited to consider aain the story of the Cross, so that we might wrestle with all its implications.  I invite you to consider the texts and make use of the worship materials provided.


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Palm/Passion Sunday

“Jesus Has Overcome the World”

Call to Worship:  Psalm 103:15-18 NRSV

One:  As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Many:  But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to his children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

Gathering Prayer:  We gather on this sacred day, Holy One, having confessed that we have wronged others by the ways that we have misinterpreted your scriptures.  Be with us now, as we seek in this time to turn to you with our whole lives.

Confession:  We have arrived in Jerusalem, God, in this hour of trial.  We have deserted and betrayed you and have run for our lives in cowardice and fear.  We have not shown the kind of love you have commanded us to have, and we have spurned the love you have shown us.  Forgive us, God.  Change us, so that we might not join in the cries of the mob.  Help us instead to look to you in faithfulness and trust at this time and always.

Assurance:  God has forgiven us and shown us grace beyond our deserving.  Even in this moment when we have acknowledged our waywardness, God still turns to us and showers us with mercy and love in endless abundance.  Let us praise God for this amazing gift!

Scriptures:      Deuteronomy 16:1-3 – “The Passover Feast”
1 John 2:7-11, 15-17 – “Do Not Love the World”
John16:16-33 – “I Have Conquered the World”

Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think it is important to the author of Deuteronomy 16 that the people of Israel observe the Passover?  How is the Passover to be observed?  How does the Passover feast connect with what Christians observe on what is often referred to as “Passion Sunday”?
  • How is this day a reminder, in the words of Psalm 103, that our days “are like grass” (v 15)?
  • In 1 John 2:8, what do you think is the “new commandment”?  What does the author mean by saying, “Do not love the world or the things of the world?”  How do these themes and others in this reading tie in with the whole message of Jesus’ Passion?
  • John 16:16-33 contains some of the most eloquent sayings of Jesus of what is about to happen to him.  How might this reading (where Jesus speaks about sorrow turning to joy, having love for his friends, and overcoming the world) be even more fitting for this day than the Passion story itself? 
  •  What are some of the problems with the Passion story in terms of its emphasis on violence?  Is anti-Semitism generated as a result of sharing the Passion story?  How should Christians deal with these issues?
  • Have you ever had to say a painful goodbye to someone?  What was that like?  How can Jesus’ parting words to his friends give us comfort and strength in moments of brokenness and despair?
  • Imagine you are in the position of one of Jesus’ disciples as he says goodbye to you in this world.  What are you feeling?  How will you grieve?  What will you do as a result of what he has said?  How is Jesus’ suffering and death more than an individual event for Christians, but a communal one and even a cosmic one? 

Prayer of Thanksgiving:  God, you have come to us and are with us even in this hour of suffering and pain.  What can we say but thanks for all that you have done for us?

Benediction:  God sends us out in this Holy Week to be people who show holiness through self-giving love, grace, and mercy.  Let us go, then, and walk these final steps with Jesus, knowing that God will not abandon us but will be with us both this week and always.  Amen.


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