Worship: April 5, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Palm Sunday
Sunday of the Passion
April 5, 2020

Welcome to Zion and a special welcome to our visitors. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic we are unable to gather as a community of faith, so we invite you to use this revised bulletin to pause on a Sunday morning for reflection and as an expression of your abiding faith that our God is merciful and present with us in these difficult days. We hope you are keeping safe, doing minimal travel, and maintaining social distance in order to slow down the spread of the virus and protect yourself. But please continue to check on your friends and neighbors via social media or the telephone. We may learn a new meaning of community and caring by the time that things return to a more regular routine. God bless!!

Light a candle before beginning your personal worship, signifying the presence of God in this time.

READING OF THE GOSPEL
St. Matthew 21: 1-11, p. 21 (NT)
21When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying 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. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“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.” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The 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!”
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

*Hymn # 196 “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”

All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel, thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s name cometh, the King and blessed One.
All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

The people of the Hebrews with palms before thee went;
Our praise and prayers and anthems before thee we present.
All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

To thee, before thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise;
To thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise.
All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou didst accept their praises; accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest, thou good and gracious King!
All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

*CALL TO WORSHIP
Children of God, rejoice.
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Behold, your King is coming to you.
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Your king rides, not on a war horse, but on a donkey.
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.
He comes, not to bring conflict, but to bring peace.
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Yet his dominion will be from one end of the world to the other.
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.
His reign will be from everlasting to everlasting.
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!
Let us pray.
Merciful God, as we enter this Holy Week and gather at your House of Prayer,
turn our hearts again to Jerusalem; to the life, the death, and the resurrection
of our Savior Jesus Christ. We ask that we might be united with Christ and
with all the faithful so that one day we may enter in triumph the city not
made with human hands, the new Jerusalem, eternal in the heavens,
where with you and the Holy Spirit, Christ lives forever.

TIME OF CONFESSION
Will we wave our leafy branches today and hide them tomorrow?
Will our hosannas melt into another chorus of death?
Will we, like the builders of old, reject the stone that is meant to hold all things together?
Is Jesus Christ truly the cornerstone of our lives?
Come let us admit the truth about ourselves.
Humble God, we admit that we often have chosen to demand service
rather than to give service.
We often have chosen to expect mercy rather than to offer mercy.
We often have chosen to exalt ourselves rather than to exalt our brother, Jesus.
Help us to find our way back to humility,
back to an awareness of our life as servant people.
Give us the courage and light-heartedness to embrace that service
that frees us for true discipleship.

And now let us confess in silence those fears
that keep us from loving as Christ has loved us.

KYRIE ELEISON
(congregation sings response)
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
In the mystery of God, One came among us, fully human yet fully divine,
to lead us to the throne of grace.
Though in the form of God, Jesus emptied Himself,
taking a servant’s role in humble service to humanity.
This was for our sakes, that we might bend our knees before God in humility and trust.
We are saved by God’s steadfast love! Live in that hope and die in that hope!

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
And now, experiencing once again the forgiving power of our
loving God, let us say what we believe, using the Apostles’ Creed.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only begotten son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven, and
sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

HYMN # 198 “Ride On! Ride On in Majesty!”

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry;
Thy humble beast pursues the road with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! The hosts of angels in the sky
Look down with sad and wondering eyes to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain; then take, O God, thy power, and reign.

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
In response to God’s grace, let us give our tithes and offerings.
(At this time set aside your offering of the morning; you can either place it somewhere to put in the offering plate when we are able to meet as a community of faith or you can mail it to Zion United Church of Christ, PO Box 538, Arendtsville, Pennsylvania 17307. Your ongoing support of the church is deeply appreciated in these days.)

OFFERTORY

*OFFERTORY RESPONSE # 708 “We Give Thee But Thine Own” v.1
We give thee but thine own, whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from thee.

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Let our minds not regard the abundance we have been given as
our due, but let us empty out everything into your hands, O God.
May our obedience be our confession that Jesus is our Lord.

EPISTLE LESSON
Philippians 2: 5-11, p. 186 (NT)
2If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 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. 12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – See Pastor George’s sermon

CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER AND THE LORD’S PRAYER

Have mercy on us, God, when our courage fades in the face of questioning,
when our enthusiasm wilts into apathy,
when we begin well but end miserably,
when determination withers before challenge.
Forgive us, O Merciful One, and give us the courage
to live out our convictions and the fortitude to complete our commitments.
For we ask it in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom,
And the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

*CLOSING HYMN # 221 “O Sacred Head”

O sacred head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown;
O sacred head, what glory, what bliss till now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine.

What thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain!
Mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with thy favor, and grant to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend;
For this they dying sorrow, thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.

*COMMISSION AND BENEDICTION
In this week ahead we will be asked to walk the hard road of faith
and face the full cost of discipleship.
The sacrifice we are called to share
involves true commitment and devotion.
May our hearts and minds follow wherever the road of faith may lead.

*CHORAL BENEDICTION # 227 “Jesus, Remember Me” (sing twice)
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

HOLY WEEK SERVICES UPDATE: In these unprecedented times, in compliance with the Penn Central Conference recommendation, Governor Wolf’s “stay at home” order, and the federal government “stay at home” recommendation, the Consistory has decided that Palm Sunday and all Easter services are cancelled, and a letter will be sent to members April 2nd advising of this. Please continue to pray for our nation and our health care providers as we go through this challenge together. We look forward to the time when we can gather together in one place to worship and praise God.

LADIES BREAKFAST: Ladies we are not planning on going to breakfast on April 13th. I doubt if our lives will be back to normal by then. It would be wonderful to sit down with all of you and catch up. Hope to see you on May 11th at the Apple Bin. No decision has been made yet about our visit to The Old Farmhouse. Take care, stay healthy. Sally

SPRING CLEANUP DAY: The Property Committee has cancelled Spring Cleanup Day. However, if anyone has some time on his/her hands and would like to do a little outdoor work around the church and Zion House, please contact Bob V. so he can coordinate efforts. Thanks!

PICTORIAL DIRECTORY: Don’t forget to send new pictures and information to Cindy at zion_ucc_arendtsville@comcast.net to update Zion’s on-line membership directory!

Pastor George’s Sermon
Palm  Sunday
Philippians 2: 5-11
St. Matthew 21: 1-11

The people were ready for this day. They needed a celebration. They had been waiting, from one generation to the next generation, for the day when God would restore Israel to its rightful place in the world. First it had been the Assyrians, and then the Babylonians, who overran their nation and took them into exile far away. Later the Persians allowed them to return home, but not to freedom but to rule by foreigners. And then the Greek Empire, defeating the Persians, wielded influence, and finally, the hated Romans who imposed their culture and their ugly rule over what had become known as the Roman province of Judea. Israel cried out for freedom, for God to act and the promise to be fulfilled. The people were waiting for the one person God would send who would lead them into a new time, a new life, in which they would be free from the powers of this world.
Jerusalem was normally a crowded city at this time of year. Everyone was preparing for Passover, the celebration of freedom – freedom from slavery to another foreign land, Egypt. A time to remember how the people of Israel had escaped from the Pharoah under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. A time to remember the glorious days of Israel under David and Solomon. Many in Jerusalem had heard about a new prophet, one who seemed to speak with authority, who touched the lives of everyone he met, one who seemed to share a new way of understanding God at work in people’s lives. Maybe this was the one whom they were waiting for all these years. And so the crowd gathered to greet him, for they heard he was about to enter the city gates. “Hail, Son of David.” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” “A great day for Israel.” “Finally, someone who will lead us against these Romans.” “Hosanna to the King.” The followers of Jesus were deeply impressed and those in authority were deeply disturbed.
Maybe He was not a great military leader, but the next couple of days Jesus seemed unstoppable. He went to the Temple and taught and preached there. The people didn’t complain when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and released the sacrificial animals. His enemies tried to trick him and catch him up in his words, but Jesus successfully turned the tables on them, so to speak. From Monday through Thursday of the week following his arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus acted with authority. He even shared a meal with his followers and gave them a new understanding of how they might serve God fully and completely: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
But then things changed. The same crowds who greeted Jesus enthusiastically just a few days before, now cried out for his crucifixion. He endured betrayal and arrest, humiliation and defeat, cruel beating and death. The hero became an object of scorn and rejection.
What can we learn from what happened? Of course, there is the lesson for us – don’t be like those in the crowd who one moment were cheering and the next day were cursing Jesus. Be loyal and faithful always. And this is an important lesson for us to take seriously in this day.
But we might look at another lesson, one from Jesus Himself, as we journey our way through life. We need to remember that Jesus chose this way Himself. He could have remained safely secluded somewhere in Galilee, continuing to preach and to teach and to heal, but rather chose to enter into the risks that surrounded him in Jerusalem.  Jesus saw the purpose of his life in terms of proclaiming a new relationship with God, a relationship of intimate familial love, and no issue of popularity or acceptance could truly intervene in it.
Jesus came to Jerusalem neither excited nor deceived by the applause of the crowds, nor downcast by the treachery, the desertion, the seemingly complete reversal of fortune he would endure. In both popular acclaim — and in denial and rejection — Jesus made it plain to everyone that he was not ruled by the feelings or events of the minute, but rather was walking step by step along a way which would lead him to the only source of true and lasting meaning for him and ultimately for us, that he was moving towards the fulfillment of God’s will, for him and through him for the world.
It didn’t matter if that way seemed to reach a peak from which there was no way to go but down. Jesus knew that his goal was not popularity or power or applause. Equally it did not matter that the way seemed to lead into, and end, in the valley of the shadow of death, although he would have willed for himself some other course if that course could still be true to the will of God, the will that Jesus accepted as perfect. No, regardless of appearances, regardless of the popularity that Jesus found, and regardless of the suffering that he knew he would undergo, Jesus chose to be true to his mission, he chose to be obedient; knowing, hoping, praying that, regardless of what might happen, he would be upheld, surrounded, and encompassed by the presence, the mercy, and the love of God.
It is a lesson for all of us to remember. If we depend upon the events of life to give us reward and satisfaction, then we may never achieve them; or we may have them snatched away in the very moment of seeming victory. We may be at the peak of our lives, with money, health, security, friends, but – in those terms – there is nowhere to go but downhill in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
On the other hand, we – like Christ – have the opportunity to walk our own unique path of obedience toward God. It is a way which may see us surrounded by enjoyment, possessions, and popularity, or it may lead us into loneliness, misunderstanding, and poverty. But none of these things will finally give life its meaning. Whatever the way, it is the destination which counts and no one’s life can be more well spent than in seeking to find and do God’s will. Because, after all, the journey from Palm Sunday to Good Friday wasn’t just a popularity and rejection story. There was the final good news which redeemed it all and which reminds us that God can take any situation – no matter how bad it seems — and make it into good news for all of us. Practically everyone has known the taste of Palm Sunday, the sweetness of success and popularity, and nearly all of us have tasted the bitterness of Good Friday, of failure and rejection. What saves us from an endless round of ups and downs, what frees us from the tyranny of events over which we have no control, is our commitment to press forward in obedience to God – it is trust in God’s love to bring about Easter morning, – knowing that the meaning of life is to be found in the knowledge and love of God, – and in sharing that knowledge and love with those who accompany us on the way.

Let me suggest that during this coming week you take the time to read the story of Holy Week, the Passion of our Lord. Begin at St. Matthew 21:1 and slowly work your way through to the end of chapter 27. Save chapter 28 for Easter morning.