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The King of Glory Comes: Resources for Palm/Passion Sunday

The events framed by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the resurrection are some of the most dramatic and theologically important of the entire scriptural narrative. These days featured not only the drama of the triumphal entry, trial, last supper, and crucifixion, but also poignant prayers and prophetic teaching from our Lord. Indeed, John’s gospel devotes eight of its twenty-one chapters to this week alone! The week begins with Passion/Palm Sunday and ends with the “three days” (also called the “Triduum,” from sunset on Thursday to sunset on Easter Day), the period during which we mark Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

The first Sunday of Holy Week is commonly called either “Palm Sunday” or “Passion Sunday.” Those who call it “Palm Sunday” tend to focus on the entry of Christ into Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Those who refer to the day as “Passion Sunday” tend to focus on Jesus’ suffering. This is especially appropriate in contexts where participation in midweek services on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday is difficult or minimal, and where, as a result, worshipers would sing “Hosanna” and “Christ arose” with little attention to Jesus’ suffering and death.

But even for congregations that celebrate the day as Palm Sunday, it is important to capture the irony of the day. For this is the day that Jesus entered the city in triumph, but as a part of his journey to the cross; this is the week in which the crowd’s cries of “Hosanna” would soon turn to “Crucify him.” One helpful approach to Palm Sunday worship is to begin worship by focusing on the processional into Jerusalem and then to concentrate on the suffering and passion of Jesus.

Worship on Palm/Passion Sunday, as well as other Holy Week services, often invites the congregation to think of themselves as participants in a kind of dramatic reenactment of scriptural events. Thus, children or perhaps the whole congregation may be invited to process while shouting “Hosanna!” Or, in the reading of the passion narrative, the entire congregation may be invited to speak the words “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (certainly one of the most unsettling actions of any worship service). The goal of this reenactment is to recount the narratives memorably and to help the congregation sense the significance of the narratives for what they teach us about Jesus’ ministry, about God’s being and character, and about the nature and scope of redemption in Christ.

—ERB

Preparation for Worship

God of all time,
as we prepare to worship you today and this week,
help us to call to mind these events in Jesus’ life
so that we can see their significance for our present lives
and for the future you are preparing for all creation.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.






—The Worship Sourcebook

Calls to Worship

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.

Hosanna in the highest!

—from Psalm 118:26, NRSV

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,



on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

—Zechariah 9:9, NRSV

When God appeared on earth in the person of Jesus,
most of the world did not recognize him
and therefore did not worship him.
Today we ask for faith that will open our eyes
to see Jesus for who he is,
that we might worship him in truth.
People of God, behold your God!







We open our eyes to see his glory.
We open our ears to hear his wisdom.
We open our hands to offer him gifts.
We open our mouths to sing his praise.
We open our hearts to offer him our love.
He is Lord!


—RW 27, p. 42

Prayers of Adoration and Invocation

We praise you, O God,
for your redemption of the world through Jesus Christ.
He entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph
and was proclaimed Messiah and king
by those who spread garments and branches along his way.
Just as we carry these branches,
may we follow Christ in the way of the cross that,
dying and rising with him, we may enter into your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.










—The Book of Common Prayer (1979) of the Episcopal Church, USA (p. 271, alt.)

O Lord Jesus Christ, who on this day received the worship of those who hailed you as their King:
Accept our praise and adoration, our worship and love;
grant that we, who now confess you with our lips,
may never fail to give you the service of our lives,
for the honor of your holy name,
who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.







—Prayers for Every Occasion (#203, p. 63, alt.), comp. and ed. by Frank Colquhoun.

© The Morehouse Group. Used by permission of The Morehouse Group.



Loving Father,
As we journey with your Son in this week of remembrance and hope, help us to understand you and your love for the world more clearly. Transform us by the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and prepare us for service in your kingdom. Through Christ, our Lord, Amen.


—The Worship Sourcebook



Merciful God,
as we enter Holy Week and gather at your house of prayer,
turn our hearts again to Jerusalem,
to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
that, united with Christ and all the faithful,
we may one day enter in triumph
the city not made by human hands,
the new Jerusalem, eternal in the heavens,
where, with you and the Holy Spirit,
Christ lives in glory forever. Amen.










—Book of Worship, United Church of Christ, © 1986 by United Church of Christ Office for Church Life and Leadership and reprinted © 2002 by United Church of Christ, Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, Cleveland, Ohio. All rights reserved.



God of all,
you gave your only-begotten Son to take the form of a servant
and to be obedient even to death on a cross.
Give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus
that, sharing in his humility,
we may come to be with him in his glory,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.








—Alternative Collects, ©1985, The Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation.
Used by permission.


Call to Confession

Like the people who greeted Jesus as he entered Jerusalem and later pronounced, “Crucify him,” we are fickle people who often deny Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Remembering the events of Jesus’ last week helps us see ourselves for what we are: sinners in need of a savior, a savior—praise God—we have in Christ.

In honesty and hope, we confess now our sins to God.

—The Worship Sourcebook

Prayers of Confession

O King of Glory,
we confess that our praise of your majesty has often been faint,
our performance as citizens of your kingdom treasonous.
For we have surrendered to the enemy by our secret and our known sins. For our treason you died, Lord Jesus.
For our restoration, you rose again.
Draw us closer to you in this Holy Week,
that our eyes may catch the vision of your tears,
and our hearts, the wonder of your grace.
By the Holy Spirit’s continuing discipline,
let us be loyal and loving servants of the King.
Praise be to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.











—Bulletin from Rochester Christian Reformed Church, Rochester, New York

Loving God,
you rode a donkey and came in peace,
humbled yourself and gave yourself for us.
We confess our lack of humility.
As you entered Jerusalem,
the crowds shouted, “Hosanna: Save us now!”
On Good Friday they shouted, “Crucify!”
We confess our praise is often empty.
We sing Hosanna but cry Crucify.
As the crowd laid their palms in front of you
you took the way of God: you took no glory for yourself.
We confess that we want to be accepted and take the easy way.
We do not stay true to your will.
Forgive us, Lord, and help us to follow in the way of obedience. Amen.














—Companion to the Revised Common Lectionary, Volume 3, All Age Worship Year B, pp. 48-49, alt. © Judy Jarvis and Donald Pickard, 1999. Used by permission.
O Lord, we confess that our hands are not clean, our hearts are not pure. Forgive our capricious discipleship and keep our faith constant, O Lord. Lead us always to a deeper experience of your love. Enliven us by the familiar but always new story of shame and triumph, suffering and hope that this week reveals. Mold us to the ways of the Servant whose life we honor this morning.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.



—Pray to the Lord: Prayers for Corporate Worship (alt.). © 1988, Reformed Church Press (4500 60th St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512; 1-800-968-7221).
Gracious God, we thankfully remember the life of our Lord Jesus Christ on this earth. Yet we also acknowledge our failure to respond earnestly and faithfully to his witness. We often mistake Jesus for a mere earthly king, friendly companion, or problem-solver, failing to see him as the ruler of all creation. We do not appreciate the depth of his passion and sacrifice on the cross, failing to acknowledge him as our way of salvation. Even in this Lenten season, we have not walked faithfully in the way of Jesus Christ. Forgive us, we pray, and bring us ever more fully into the joy of union with Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
—The Complete Library of Christian Worship, V, pp. 299-300, © 1994 Star Song Publishing Group. Used by permission of Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, MA). All rights reserved.




Assurance of Pardon

Hear the Word of the Lord from Psalm 118:
Let those who fear the Lord say,
His steadfast love endures for ever.
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
In Christ, God answers us and sets us free!
In Christ, we are forgiven! Thanks be to God.











—from Psalm 118:4-5, 14, 17, NRSV


Prayer for Illumination

Eternal God,
whose word silences the shouts of the mighty:
Quiet within us every voice but your own.
Speak to us through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ
that, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
we may receive grace to show Christ’s love
in lives given to your service. Amen.







—Book of Worship, United Church of Christ, © 1986 by United Church of Christ Office for Church Life and Leadership and reprinted © 2002 by United Church of Christ, Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, Cleveland, Ohio. All rights reserved.


Call to Discipleship

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

—Luke 9:23, NRSV


Closing Prayers

God of mercy,
you are full of tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in mercy,
always ready to forgive.
Grant us grace to renounce all evil and to cling to Christ,
that in every way we may prove
to be your loving children through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.









—Uniting in Worship (leader’s edition), p. 241, © 1988, The Uniting Church in Australia. Permission sought.



God of all times and places,
in Jesus Christ, lifted up on the cross,
you opened for us the path to eternal life.
Grant that we, being born again of water and the Spirit,
may joyfully serve you in newness of life
and faithfully walk in your holy ways
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.









—Uniting in Worship (leader’s edition), p. 170, © 1988, The Uniting Church in Australia. Permission sought.



Blessing/Benediction

May God, whose arms were spread on the cross to embrace the whole world, help us this week to take up the cross and follow him. Amen.
—Companion to the Revised Common Lectionary, Volume 3, All Age Worship Year B, p. 49, alt.
© Judy Jarvis and Donald Pickard, 1999. Used by permission.