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Crown of Thorns, Crown of Glory

A Lenten Series

Our worship planning team sat around the table, discouraged by the personal suffering and global disasters surrounding us. As we thought about ministering to these needs, we were reminded that God uses suffering to refine our character. What better time than Lent to reflect upon our own hardships in light of Christ’s work on the cross?

We thought back to the Garden of Eden and God’s beautiful and perfect creation. We thought of humanity’s disobedience, which brought down God’s wrath: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field” (Gen. 3:17-18). In the fullness of time, those thorns, symbolizing our sinfulness and the hardships of our lives, would be woven into a crown worn by God’s Son so that we might receive the crown of glory.

In this series, we were challenged to bring our own troubles to the cross as we followed Jesus on his journey from the Mount of Transfiguration to Calvary Hill. We saw that Jesus’ suffering was not limited to the cross. He endured the pain of following his Father’s will, of friends who betrayed him, of losing loved ones, of rejection, of being misunderstood. How comforting that Jesus understands our suffering!

We also came to understand that God uses the process of suffering to refine us, to build character, and to give us the hope of the resurrection. The overall theme verse was Romans 5:3-5: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

 

Sunday Before Ash Wednesday

“Preparing for the Crown of Thorns”

Scripture: Luke 9:28-36, 51-56

Object for children’s message: running shoes

Theme

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah ministered to Jesus so that he could set his face to go to Jerusalem. The Son of Man was equipped for the thorns that awaited him. Am I ready to face thorns on the road of faith?

Prelude

Welcome

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Call to Worship

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let us turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on us,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
(Isa. 55:6-7)

Song: “We Come, O Christ, to You” PsH 238, TH 181, WR 110

Prayer of Confession, concludes with . . .

From Bethlehem to Nazareth,
from Jordan to Jericho ,
from the Mount of Transfiguration to Jerusalem ,
from then to now,
come, Lord Jesus.
Have mercy on us.
To bear the thorns,
to carry the cross,
to shoulder our sin and the sin of the world
and take it away,
come, Lord Jesus.
Have mercy on us.
Today, to this place, to us,
come, Lord Jesus.
Have mercy on us. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon/God’s Greeting

The Father who created you,
the Son who redeemed you,
and the Spirit who lives in you says:
“I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and the rivers will not sweep over you.
When you walk through fire, you will not be burned,
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel , your Savior.” (Isa. 43:1-3)

Song of Assurance: “When I Survey the Wonderous Cross” CH 324, PH 100, 101, PsH 384, SFL 166, TH 252, WR 261

Children’s Message

Prayers of the People

On Which the Prince of Glory Died

Scripture: Luke 9:28-36; 51-56

Sermon: “Preparing for a Crown of Thorns”

Prayer of Application

My Richest Gain I Count but Loss

Hymn of Response: “O Jesus, We Adore You” PsH 472, TH 255

Communion

And Pour Contempt on All My Pride

Offering

God’s Blessing

Song: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” CH 16, 43, PH 142, 143, PsH 471, TH 296, 297, WR 100, 106

Postlude

“Thorns in Following Jesus”

Scripture: Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-35

Object for children’s message: money

Theme

Jesus said there would be a high cost to following him. Christians can expect to make sacrifices. Jesus surrendered his all on the way to Jerusalem. Am I ready to follow him?

Call to Confession

Our Lord cries out “Follow me!”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:37-40)

Yet, in spite of our Lord’s call,
we fail to surrender our lives.
We close our hearts to God and disobey his law.
People of God, let us acknowledge
what we have failed to surrender
and ask our loving God to forgive us.

Prayer of Confession

Our Father in heaven,
your own Son bore the thorn of following you,
even to death on the cross.
You have called us to follow you,
to surrender our lives to you,
to love you above all else,
to love our neighbors more than ourselves;
We have sinned.
Forgive us, we pray.
By your Spirit continue to mold us
so that in everything we do,
we may surrender our all to you.
In our Savior’s merciful name we pray, Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

While it is true that we have sinned,
It is a greater truth that we are forgiven:
Jesus Christ has borne our thorns.
To all who humbly seek the mercy of God
I say, “In Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven.”
Surrender your all and sin no more. Amen.

 

Second Sunday of Lent

“Forgiving the Thorn of Betrayal”

Scripture: Matthew 26:14-75

Object for children’s message: friendship bracelet

Theme

Judas tried to bear the thorn of his betrayal of Jesus by becoming his own judge, jury, and executioner. But Judas didn’t have to. Even the thorn of Judas’s betrayal isn’t too much for Jesus to bear; for Jesus was pierced for Judas’s thorns and our thorns. He bears our betrayal so that we won’t have to. Jesus hung on the cross, despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Call to Confession

The psalmist declares:
“I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me
I will call on him as long as I live.”
We gather as a community in need of a Savior.
We offer our honest confession
in faith and trust in our covenant God,
knowing that God hears our voice.

Prayer of Confession

Lord Jesus,
like Judas, we have betrayed you;
like Peter, we have denied you;
like the other disciples, we have forsaken you.
Yet you remain faithful to us,
bearing the thorns unto death, even death on a cross.
We plead for your forgiveness and mercy.
Strengthen us so that we do not turn aside
but follow you to the very end—
for the final victory belongs to you. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

We have seen and do testify
that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.
God abides in those who confess
that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God,
and God abides in them.
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Jesus bore the thorn of our betrayal
and loves us still.
In Christ we are forgiven,
and through him God abides with even us.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow! Amen.

(based on 1 John 4:14-16)

 

Third Sunday of Lent

“Thorns that Come with Loss”

Scripture: Matthew 14:1-12; John 11:17-37

Object for children’s message: sympathy card

Theme

Jesus experienced the loss of a friend. He wept at the hurt that Mary and Martha felt when Lazarus died. We too have the thorn of loss in our lives. Our Lord mourns with us but also enables us to show compassion to those who experience loss.

Call to Worship

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all our sins
and heals all our diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies our desires with good things
so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps 103:1-5)

Prayer of Confession

God of all comfort,
you are slow to anger and abounding in mercy,
welcoming sinners who return to you.
We confess that we have not sought your comfort.
Instead we have sought to find our comfort
in food, in movies, in drink, in relationships,
in music, in anger, in revenge.
God of all comfort,
slow to anger and abounding in mercy,
forgive us sinners who return to you with repentant hearts.
We ask this in the name of Jesus,
who bears our thorns. Amen.

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

“Thorns of Rejection”

Scripture: Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 13:31-35

Object for children’s message: compass

Theme

Perhaps one of Jesus’ most painful thorns is that of people rejecting him. Does not our heart ache when a loved one or a close friend rejects the way of salvation?

Call to Confession

The Lord said to Hosea, “Go and marry a prostitute,
so some of her children will be born to you from other men.
This will illustrate the way my people have been untrue to me,
openly rejecting the Lord by worshiping other gods.”
Hosea obeyed the Lord and married Gomer, the prostitute.
Again and again Gomer rejected Hosea;
again and again she was unfaithful to him,
just as God’s people reject and are unfaithful to God.
And yet God said to Hosea:
“Go and get your wife. Bring her back to you and love her,
even though she is unfaithful.
For the Lord still loves his people
even though the people have rejected him.”
God promises,
“I will fence her in with thorns.
I will block the road to make her lose her way.
When she runs after her lovers,
she won’t be able to catch up with them.
She will search for them but not find them.”
The Lord God will go to the extent of thorns—
even to bear the thorns—
to bring his people back to him.
Let us return to the Lord our God,
that he may have mercy on his beloved.

Prayer of Confession

Lord God,
forgive all our sins and graciously receive us,
so that we may offer you the sacrifice of praise.
Nothing else can save us:
not our strength, not our wealth, not our good deeds.
By your Spirit, may we never again reject you,
looking for our salvation anywhere else.
In you alone do orphans find mercy.
The ways of the Lord are right,
and the righteous walk in them.
But the rebellious stumble in them.
Hear our words, our hearts, our faith,
by the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

(based on Hosea 14:2-3, 9 NLT)

Assurance of Pardon

Hear the gracious promises of the Lord God:
“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will bear their thorns
and be like the dew to my people;
they will blossom like a rose.”
Know that you are forgiven,
and walk in the ways of the Lord. Amen.
(based on Hosea 14:4-5, NIV)

Fifth Sunday of Lent

“Thorns to Keep Me Focused”

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Object for children’s message: chain

Theme

Paul’s thorn kept him focused on his mission and his Lord. God is able to work through our thorns to accomplish his purpose. God’s grace is sufficient.

Call to Confession

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God,
you will not despise. (Ps. 51:17)

Prayer of Confession

Your mercy flows upon us like a river;
your mercy stands unshakable and true.
In our weakness you are stronger
than the mightiest mountain.
Most Holy God, of all good things the giver,
we turn and lift our prayers to you.
By your grace, empty us of all pride;
fill us with your humility.
In the name of Jesus, the perfect Lamb, Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Be comforted,
for he has borne our infirmities
and carried our disease;
he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities,
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
Behold the Lamb, the precious Lamb of God,
bore all my sin, that I may live again:
the precious Lamb of God.

Out of his anguish he shall see light,
the righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
Worthy is the Lamb, the precious Lamb of God,
who was slaughtered, to receive power and wealth,
wisdom and might, honor and glory and blessing,
forever and ever. Amen.

(based on Isaiah 53 and Rev. 5)

 

Sixth Sunday of Lent: Palm Sunday

“Deliverance on a Donkey”

Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118

Object for children’s message: palm branches

Theme

On Palm Sunday, we are called to celebrate our only hope. For God is good; God’s love endures forever. Though thorns surround us on every side, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are cut off! We celebrate because Christ is our only hope.

Call to Worship

Come from the city streets.
Join the happy throng that gathers to honor Jesus!
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Come! From your busy homes and labor
put down your work in joyful celebration!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he.
Come! Lay down your sorrows and worries,
turn your eyes toward the Savior God has sent!
He is humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(adapted from Zech. 9:9)

Proclamation of the Entrance into Jerusalem

Leader 1: When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,

Leader 2: 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.

Leader 1: 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,

All: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
> (Matt. 21:1-9)

Call to Confession

Today we celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem.
We have walked beside him, crying out with the crowd:
Hosanna! Lord, save us!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
But we must also remember that Jesus’ triumphant entry
led our Savior to a crown of thorns.
As we follow Christ, we remember the thorns of suffering.
We confess that our sin put him on the road to Jerusalem.

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Prayer of Confession

Saving God, who silences the shouts of the mighty,
we have sinned.
We have shunned your face.
We have ignored your voice.
In your great mercy, forgive us.
Quiet within us every voice but your own.
Speak to us through the thorns of Jesus Christ
so that by your Holy Spirit,
we may live out our days in your service
and one day enter in triumph
the city not made by human hands—
the New Jerusalem. Hosanna! Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.
(Ps. 103:1-4)

 

Good Friday

“The Crown of Thorns for Me”

Scripture: Isaiah 53; Matthew 27

Object for children’s message: drape cross with black cloth; weave red rose through crown of thorns

Theme

All the thorns of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem come together at the cross. Jesus willingly took our thorns. He was abandoned by the Father that we might know the comfort of being in his presence.

Prayer of Confession

Lord Jesus, you set your face to Jerusalem.
You went to bear the crown of thorns, to take our place.
We confess to taking shortcuts in the Christian life.
We confess that we have a hard time surrendering our all.
We confess that we do not stand up for your name.
We confess that we are comfortable ignoring the lost;
we do not have your compassion for the needy.
We do not admit our weakness;
we falter as we try to live in our own strength.
We come in grief and shame to claim you as our own.

Assurance of Pardon

The Lord builds up his people;
the Lord gathers in the repentant.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
(based on Ps. 147:2-3, 5)

 

Easter Sunday

“The Glory of the Resurrected Thorn”

Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10; Romans 5:1-10

Object for children’s message: drape cross with white cloth; weave white rose through crown of thorns

Theme

Through faith in Christ our suffering leads to perseverance, which leads to character, which leads to hope: the hope of our resurrected Lord. Because of what our Savior did for us, we can grow through the thorns in our lives and rejoice in the glory of the resurrection. Praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who points us to the author and finisher of our faith!

 

Excerpt

Visual Elements

  • We developed PowerPoint slides and bulletin covers for each Sunday (available at www.hebroncrc.ca). The children’s message included objects symbolizing various forms of pain.
  • After each service a member of the prayer team led the way to the prayer room carrying a crown of thorns on a purple pillow.
  • On Good Friday our thorns formed a crown that was laid on the cross. The congregation was invited to lay a red rose petal at the foot of the cross. This symbolized us coming to the cross with our sins and acknowledging Christ’s blood shed for us.
  • On Easter Sunday, the red rose was replaced by a white rose, a symbol of the beauty and the glory of the resurrected life.

Authors

AUTHORThis series was created by the worship planning team at Hebron Christian Reformed Church, Whitby, Ontario: Pastor Bernie Bakker (pastorb@hebroncrc.ca), Pastor Lisa Vander Leek, Irene Bakker, Karl DeVries, Grace Herder, Charlie Reitsma, and Sadie Van Manen.