Palm/Passion Sunday

Procession with Palms

Luke 19:28-40

28After he had said this, [Jesus] went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ” 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, 
 “Blessed is the king
  who comes in the name of the Lord!
 Peace in heaven,
  and glory in the highest heaven!”
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Entry into Jerusalem – John August Swanson

Prayer of the Day

Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross. In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

4The 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.
5The Lord God has opened my ear,
  and I was not rebellious,
  I did not turn backward.
6I 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.

7The 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;
  8he who vindicates me is near.
 Who will contend with me?
  Let us stand up together.
 Who are my adversaries?
  Let them confront me.
9aIt is the Lord God who helps me;
  who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 31:9-16

9Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I | am in trouble;
  my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat | and my belly.
10For my life is wasted with grief, and my | years with sighing;
  my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones | are consumed.
11I am the scorn of all my enemies, a disgrace to my neighbors, a dismay to | my acquaintances;
  when they see me in the street | they avoid me.
12Like the dead I am forgotten, | out of mind;
  I am as useless as a | broken pot. R
13For 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.
14But as for me, I have trusted in | you, O Lord.
  I have said, “You | are my God.
15My times are | in your hand;
  rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who | persecute me.
16Let your face shine up- | on your servant;
  save me in your | steadfast love.” 

Philippians 2:5-11

5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6who, though he was in the form of God,
  did not regard equality with God
  as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself,
  taking the form of a slave,
  being born in human likeness.
 And being found in human form,
  8he humbled himself
  and became obedient to the point of death—
  even death on a cross.

9Therefore God also highly exalted him
  and gave him the name
  that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus
  every knee should bend,
  in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue should confess
  that Jesus Christ is Lord,
  to the glory of God the Father.

Luke 22:14–23:56

14When the hour came, [Jesus] took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

24A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
28“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

35He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” 36He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” 38They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

39He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43⟦Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.⟧ 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

47While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” 49When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 53When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

54Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” 57But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” 60But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62And he went out and wept bitterly.

63Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; 64they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65They kept heaping many other insults on him.

66When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. 67They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68and if I question you, you will not answer. 69But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” 71Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”23:

1Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”

6When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

13Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”
18Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19(This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

26As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34⟦Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”⟧ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

50Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. 
  On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Crucifixion

Tenancingo Cathedral
Tenancingo, Mexico

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

What are we to make of the event central to today and Good Friday’s gospel, Jesus’ death? We say Jesus died for our sins. What does that mean really? We are going to dive in quickly to a long interesting and important dialogue within the Christian family. The consensus among Christians for the first millennium was that the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross was being paid to the devil. This made the devil quite powerful and God weak, but it gave people something to blame for Jesus’ death. And it wasn’t God.

Then, in the eleventh century, a guy named Anselm thought he could solve the problem of sin inside of the medieval code of feudal honor and shame. Anselm basically said, “Yes, a price did need to be paid to restore God’s honor, and it needed to be paid to God the Father–by one equally divine.” This theory does not lend itself to any in-depth spiritual journey: Why would you love or trust or desire to be with such a God?

Still, this theory about Christ dying for our sins became dominant in recent centuries. It’s called the penal substitutionary atonement theory. Put another way, substitutionary atonement is the theory that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of us sinners, thus satisfying the” demands of justice” so that God forgive our sins. 

This theory has become central to the faith of many, so much so that Christ’s death and what it means has sometimes become more important than what he did in his life, as if we could ever separate his life from what his death means. If only his death mattered, then all we needed was the last three days or even three hours of Jesus’ life. Just pull out a Bible and rip out the first 21 chapters of Luke’s gospel. With the theory of substitutionary atonement, salvation, the healing of individuals and the world, became a one-time transactional affair between Jesus and his Father, instead of an ongoing transformational lesson for the human soul and community for all of history.

At its best, the theory of substitutionary atonement caused us to largely thank Jesus instead of imitating him, which is exactly what our reading from Philippians calls us to do–imitate the self-emptying Jesus. At its worst, substitutionary atonement led us to see God as a cold, brutal figure, who demands acts of violence before God can love God’s own creation.

This dominate theory is steeped in retributive justice: required punishment for wrongdoing. That is not in our God’s character, to begin with, not if we truly believe in a relational Triune God. Put another way, if the cross is payment, or punishment, then who is receiving the payment? Why would God need to pay Godself? If God is God, above all else, then there is no one else that God needs to pay.

Is there any other way to consider Jesus’ death on the cross? Yes, there is. Instead of payment or punishment, instead of any transaction, the cross is a dramatic demonstration of God’s outpouring love, meant to utterly shock the heart and turn it back toward trust and love of the Creator. God does not need to be paid in order to love and forgive God’s own creation for its failures. Love cannot be bought by some “necessary sacrifice.” If it could, love would not and could not work its transformative effects. This theory protects and preserves the absolute freedom and love of God. If forgiveness and love need to be bought or paid for, then it is not authentic forgiveness or love at all, which must be a free letting go. Instead of retributive justice, what God does on the cross is what is most in God’s character, restorative justice. 

With the lens of this restorative justice love theory, the cross does several things. First, the cross reveals that we’re “curved in on ourselves.”  Jesus Christ comes into a broken world. Through Him sinners are forgiven; the sick are healed; the cursed become blessed; the hungry are fed; suffering is relieved; and death is transformed to life.

But healing what is broken means recognizing that things are broken. Jesus revealed not just the brokenness of individuals, but the brokenness of whole systems. An emphasis on religious rules often labels and excludes the sick and suffering, rather than healing them. The Roman Empire claimed to be source of all goodness and benefits, yet vast portions of society had no share. The systems are sin-sick and serve their own needs.

The difficult thing is that we can’t remove ourselves from sinful and broken systems that surround us. The systems are too vast, too complex, too interconnected. Most of the time we just “go along to get along”. And the hope-filled message of the cross is that Jesus shows up even here, in our broken lives and broken systems. The light shines into the darkness. Remember, Jesus was present even for the Roman centurion who stood guard at the foot of the cross (Luke 23:47).

The cross also shows that we have God’s unfailing love. Yes, we are sinful and broken people, stuck in and participating in sinful and broken systems. And yet, at the same time, we are people saved by the grace, love, and the mercy of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the love of God coming into the world for the world (John 3:16-17). At the cross we see that God’s love in Jesus Christ will not stop.  That unfailing, unstoppable love for the whole creation lives in us and makes us one in Him (John 17:11).


There is more to the story, including the empty tomb, but the story unfolds best over the next seven days. Even if Christians are not of one mind when it comes to how the cross leads to salvation, we are all are all stewards of an amazing story that continues to transform lives. This most holy of weeks is one crucial part of the long remarkable story of God and God’s beloved creation. Come back for more of the story.

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

Drawn close to the heart of God, we offer these prayers for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

We pray for the church, called to follow Jesus in the way of the cross. Make us unflinching servants of the gospel. Deliver us from hardship as we confront the forces of injustice and practice radical compassion. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

For the earth and all its inhabitants, created in love: Train us to recognize your divine goodness in the world around us. Rouse in us a reverence for creation, that we take greater care of its resources. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

For those in positions of authority called to lead with integrity and compassion: Supply them with courage and vulnerability when challenged with new ideas. Deliver them from fear that limits imagination and impedes justice. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

For those who suffer, waiting expectantly for mercy and consolation: Accompany those who feel abandoned or betrayed, defend those who are wrongly accused, and embrace those who are incarcerated or detained. Heal those who are ill (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

For Christians around the world, preparing this week to journey with Jesus to the cross: Reveal to us once again the earthshaking power of humble service, unmerited forgiveness, and sacrificial love. Lead us all from death to life. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

We remember those who have died (especially Mikael Agricola and . . .), who were commended into your hands. Remember us when you come into your kingdom, and prepare a place for each of us with you in paradise. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Accept the prayers we bring, O God, on behalf of a world in need, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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