BEFORE YOU BEGIN THE SERVICE:
The first Sunday of every month, it is our tradition to celebrate The Sacrament of Holy Communion. This is the first communion Sunday in a very long time, possibly ever, that you all will not be sharing the sacrament together in the sanctuary. But during this period when the loving thing for us to do is to remain sheltered in place when possible, included in this worship service is a liturgy created by a gifted pastor that will enable you to celebrate communion in your home. Even if you are alone, I hope that you will read the words and receive the elements.
Before the time of the service you will need to obtain some bread, and a cup or cups of juice — perhaps grape or cranberry. You may prepare the table with a cloth, perhaps light a candle, and make the gathering place special and holy in whatever way you wish.
WORSHIP ON THE FOURTH SUNDAY
THAT WE ARE NOT GATHERING IN OUR SANCTUARY
DUE TO THE THREAT OF THE SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS
THAT IS TRAVELING AROUND THE GLOBE
North Congregational Church
New Hartford, Connecticut
April 5, 2020
FOR YOUR MEDITATION
Like the generations who have gone before us, we may still long for the kind of messiah who rides in on a white horse to save us, [but to save us] from ourselves. …In Jesus we have a different kind of messiah; a Saviour who rides in on a humble donkey, and points us toward another way of being in the world; a Saviour who insists that we follow the wisdom of peace through justice, generosity over greed, selflessness over selfishness, mercy over vengeance, hope over fear, and above all love over hate.
-The Rev. Dawn Hutchings
THE PEACE OF CHRIST
It is normally our custom when we gather to extend the Peace of Christ to one another. Even though we are physically apart at this time, may you know that peace.
They brought a colt to Jesus, and put their cloaks on its back, and set Jesus upon it. The crowds went ahead of him, and as he approached the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude praised and welcomed him.
Like them, with expectation and hope, we say “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
OPENING HYMN All Glory, Laud and Honor
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
O Holy One, we are so like the people of long ago. We are hungry for a hero. We crave glimpses of greatness. But then Jesus comes, riding on a beast of burden, proclaiming humble virtue and challenging the rich and powerful to bring justice to those who have so little. Give us the courage to follow where the donkey might lead. Amen.
SCRIPTURE. Matthew 2: 1-11
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying 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. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.”
4 This 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.”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The 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!”
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
HYMN OF PREPARATION Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
MEDITATION Great Expectations The Rev. Marcia Lynn Cox
This time in the Christian year–the season of Lent that begins with Ash Wednesday and culminates in Holy Week–is probably the most serious period in the Christian calendar. We are asked to engage in some spiritual disciplines, examine our lives, contemplate our deaths and make sacrifices. For those of you who have been faithful to those tasks, you are to be commended. But the season is not quite over, despite the fact that Easter is only a week away.
Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday as it is also called, is a more complex day in the liturgical calendar than it might seem in light of the way in which we honor it. When we are able to gather as a worshiping community, we witness the choir and the children as they process and wave palms, as we recall Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Our music is traditionally celebratory. Many people–many Christians– love this service because it is so upbeat, and see it as preparation for Easter Sunday, which is even more celebratory. Palm Sunday raises our expectations, and affirms the hopefulness that is so characteristic of the Christian message.
But Palm Sunday is much more than a joyful parade. It tells the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but also the entry into the events of Holy Week, which precede Easter. And so our attitude about Palm Sunday, I think, is a good barometer of our expectations in this life and as Christians. This morning. I’d like to ask you these questions: What do you expect from Jesus? What do you expect from your faith? Are you seeking a faith that will give you everything that you want and need? Do you expect Christianity to save you from the challenges, troubles, disappointments, losses and griefs that life brings?
When Jesus entered Jerusalem in what we now celebrate as Palm Sunday, we know a little about what his followers…and the crowds…were expecting. According to the gospel writers they shouted “Hosanna,” which essentially means “Save Us.” It is a plea, a cry for help.
The gospel writers have the crowds saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
And they laid palm branches down before him as he traveled the streets on a donkey. Not only the donkey, but the palms, are highly symbolic. First of all, the Palm Tree is a symbol of Jewish independence. And so by waving palms, it seems fairly clear that the followers of Jesus–who, at that time were Jewish–expected that Jesus would release them from the bonds of Roman oppression. So, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the atmosphere was charged with political and religious overtones, and much was expected of him. Many hoped that he would be a Savior…a leader in the tradition of the Jewish king David.
The donkey, too, serves as a secondary symbol of Palm Sunday, and it may be just as important as the palms in the drama of the passion. In my reading this week, I learned that kings rode horses only in battle. In times of peace, they rode on donkeys. We tend to think of the donkey as a beast of burden and a means of transportation only for the poor and the lowly. And while Jesus was lowly in certain regards, riding on a donkey in this situation was not necessarily a symbol of his lowliness, but of his desire as a leader to bring in a reign of peace. The message that he conveyed to the crowd and the disciples by asking for a colt was that he was not a conquering hero ready to do battle with a sword, but was instead, an advocate of peace.
For me, the Palm Sunday event is a story that prompts us to ask certain questions of ourselves about expectation. By the time Jesus arrives in Bethany or in Jerusalem, it seems fairly clear that the followers of Jesus expected him to deliver them from their earthly trials–especially from the oppression of Roman rule.
In our own time, what do we expect from Jesus and from our faith? Do we just ask for things and expect Jesus—or God–to deliver us from our troubles and deliver the world from its challenges and injustices without doing anything ourselves, or making any sacrifices?
As we approach Holy Week, here are some questions we might ask of ourselves: What do we do when things don’t go the way we would like them to? Do we, like the disciples, abandon the call of Jesus on our lives when the going gets tough? Do we betray him? or even crucify him? Or do we walk the path of obedience to the will of God, despite the the trials and even dangers that come our way? In the midst of the serious health crisis we are facing, we are coming to appreciate the sacrifices and courage displayed by our medical professionals, public servants and all those people out in the world making our lives easier as we remain in the safety of our homes. Have we ever left…and will we again when we are no longer required to stay sequestered leave… the safety of our own private lives and venture out to take some risks for good?
Even though there are signs of spring all around us, and we would so love to move directly from Palm Sunday to Easter, we are asked at this time in the Christian calendar to remember the events of Holy Week, and to walk with Jesus through his trials and sufferings and acts of courage. Sequestered in our homes this coming week we are given a unique opportunity to contemplate them.
So on this day and during this week, may we as his disciples, ask ourselves in what ways, and to what extent, we are willing to follow him, therefore what we might expect of ourselves. As we shout “Hosanna!” (“Save Us”), let us consider the ways in which we might participate in the saving of the world. For only then can we fully comprehend the joy and the promise of Easter. Amen.
Although we are not gathering in the sanctuary for worship on Sundays for the time being, the church continues to have expenses. So it would be most appreciated if pledges and offerings could be mailed to the church at P.O. Box 307, New Hartford, CT 06057. Thank you for your generosity.
Gracious and loving God, although we are physically separated, we come to you now as one body, members of the community of faith in New Hartford we love so much. Even though we are in the midst of an international health pandemic, we give you thanks, especially for all of the medical professionals, public servants and all of those have jobs that make our lives easier, and even endanger their lives during this time.
We, who are so fortunate in so many ways, ask that you give us hearts of compassion.
“May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home. As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. (-Fr. Michael Graham, S.J.)
In our own lives, we bring to you now our joys and concerns….
All these things we offer, using the words of the prayer that Jesus taught us,
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
COMMUNION HYMN One Bread, One Body
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
Leader: On the first day of Holy week long ago, people throughout Judea arrived at the dusty gates of Jerusalem, shouting“Hosanna” as Jesus rode by on a donkey.
On the Thursday that followed, Jesus was given John Mark’s mother’s Upper Room to celebrate the Passover with the disciples.
On the afternoon of the resurrection, Jesus was invited into a house in Emmaus and used the bread of that hospitality to break and bless.
This day, we/I lend Christ this table, this bread, this cup and my/our heart(s), for, as the disciples told the person who loaned the donkey, “The Lord has need of it.”
Prayer of Consecration
Leader: We are one bread, one body, one cup of blessing. Though we are many throughout the earth and this church community is scattered, we are one in Christ. In our many kitchens, and living rooms, we rest our hands lightly upon these elements which we set aside today to be a sacrament. Let us ask God’s blessing upon them.
Unison: Gentle Redeemer, there is no lockdown on your blessing and no quarantine on grace. Send your Spirit of life and love, power and blessing upon every table where your children shelter in place, that this Bread may be broken and gathered in love and this Cup poured out to give hope to all. Risen Christ, live in us, that we may live in you. Breathe in us, that we may breathe in you.
Words of Remembering
Leader: We remember that Paul the apostle wrote letters to congregations throughout places we now call Greece, Turkey and Macedonia, and they were the first “remote” worship resources. Our online service has a long heritage. The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth were these: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Sharing of the Elements
Leader: Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
Unison: We are one in Christ in the bread we share.
Leader: Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
Unison: We are one in Christ in the cup we share.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Leader: Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace, rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship, we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love is not limited by buildings made with human hands, nor contained in human ceremonies, but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.
Unison: Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives. May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world, and may the drinking of this cup renew our hope even in the midst of pandemic. Wrap your hopeful presence around all whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing, and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen. (Maren C. Tirabassi, adapted)
CLOSING HYMN Ride On, Ride On in Majesty
OUR COMMON COMMISSION
Let us now forth into the world in peace.
Being of good courage.
Holding fast to that which is good.
Rendering to no one evil for evil.
Strengthening the fainthearted.
Supporting the weak.
Helping the afflicted.
Honoring all persons.
Loving and serving the Lord,
And rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
With waving palms, proclaim the lordship of Christ. But do not abandon him in the days ahead, for only by walking with him as you witness his love for his closest companions and his demonstration of servanthood, during their final meal, his betrayal, his courage in speaking truth to power and his suffering and death, will you discover the full meaning of discipleship. Amen.
NOTE: We had ordered EcoPalms for this service, but we do not want to encourage any of you to come out of quarantine more often that is necessary, so they will not be offered for distribution this year. Please stay safe.