a community creating for the relentless return of Sunday

confession: Palm Sunday

On this day, O God, we gather with the children who lead the crowd into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday;

And we consort with the scribes and leaders who condemn Jesus.

We work with the disciples to prepare the way,

And we linger with those who do not understand.

We follow the crowd, shouting, “Hosanna,”

The same crowd who will say all the louder, “Crucify him!”

We celebrate the Son of David,

And we confess we do not follow him to the end. Forgive us, Lord, when we deny you, when we fail to love as you loved or to serve as you served. As we find ourselves in your story this week, reveal the grace you share all the way, even on the cross, Amen. (silent prayer)

Assurance of Grace

One: Brothers and sisters, hear the good news! Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us! (Romans 8:34) Friends, believe the good news!

All: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

 

Submitted by Laura Cunningham, Western Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC

Confession: Prepare the Upper Room

Beloved God, you have told us to prepare the upper room for a special meal – and we have gotten lost on the way. Everything seems so straight-forward, like when you ask us to find a man carrying a pitcher of water when we enter Jerusalem. But is it that man over there? Surely it can’t be the one with the long hair, or the strange tattoo, or the one who smells funny. Right from the start, we are overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of the City. Where are you in the midst of this chaos and commotion? How will we ever accomplish what you have sent us to do? But then – finally – we start to see your face in the outcast, the poor, and the weak. In seeing your face, we can do what you have asked us to do. We ask the questions you have us ask, and find the upper room prepared as you said it would be. Help us to remember you. Help us to remember to trust you. Help us to always see your face in the people we encounter – and thus know your eternal loving presence. Amen.

– Rev. Lucus Levy Keppel, Ancho + Corona Presbyterian Churches, New Mexico

(Based on Luke 22:7-12, for a Maundy Thursday service)

invitation to the table: bringing our best and our worst

Friends, come to the table!

Bring your shouts of “Hosanna,”
bring your palms,
bring your hopes of a victorious king
to overcome the oppression and sorrow of this world.

Bring your cries of “Crucify him,”
bring your denial and wandering,
bring your hopes dashed by one who was crucified
because he would not validate the power of this world.

Just as Jesus gathered with his disciples here on the night before his execution,
just as he met his disciples in the breaking of the bread on that first resurrection evening,
so too we gather at this table,
bringing our best and our worst,
to this place where we will be made whole
as we meet Jesus again.

submitted by Rev. Andy James, First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, Queens, New York

Maundy Thursday: Surely Not I?

a prayer to be placed right after the part of the reading where the disciples ask if they are the one to betray, and Jesus answers Judas with “you have said so.”

Surely not I, Lord? Surely not us? Surely not.
Surely I am not the one who will betray you.
Surely we are not the ones.
It’s someone else who denies knowing you,
someone else who uses you for their own gain,
someone else who wants to control you.
Surely not us.

For the times when we protest too much…
For the times we point fingers to cover up our own wrong…
For the times we think of ourselves more highly than we ought…
Forgive us.
For the times we have betrayed you with our words—
speaking thoughtlessly,
hurting someone to get a laugh,
denying that your call extends to the parts of our lives we would rather keep to ourselves…
Forgive us.
For the times we have betrayed you with our actions—
living as if you are confined to the sanctuary, leaving us free when we are not here,
acting as if we have ben given domination over, rather than stewardship of, your creation,
walking away from those in need, literally and politically…
forgive us.
For the times we have betrayed you with our hearts—
putting you far down our priority lists,
loving our ideas about you more than we love you,
longing for our way to be the one you choose…
forgive us.
For the times we have lived contrary to our baptism,
dipping our hand in the bowl but keeping our whole selves out,
believing we can earn grace…and that they should work for it too,
Forgive us.

Surely not I, Lord?
You have said so.
The truth rings in our ears…and it hurts, O God,
to admit it: it is us.
We follow other gods, we are a poor reflection of your glory,
we use our wealth, status, and power in ways contrary to your will,
we imprison you in our understanding of your word,
we refuse to create justice or to love mercy,
and walking humbly with you would mean letting go of our way.
The truth hurts us, Lord, even as we hear you say: you have said so.
And yet we believe—
we believe that you have the power to transform us and through us to transform the world.
We believe that your grace is enough.
We believe that we have received more love than we can imagine.
We believe that you are the Way, the Life, and the Truth—
the truth that sets us free.
Amen.

Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL

Maundy Thursday prayers

Opening Prayer (in unison)

O Lord our God, tonight we gather to remember our Savior Jesus and his sacrifice of love for us.  We pause to remember his last meal with his closest friends and disciples.  We pause to remember the betrayal he would suffer.  We pause to remember the pain that would be His to bear.  We gather to bear witness to our Savior.  We gather to grow in our faith and be renewed once again by the Story of mystery, Story of the Resurrection.  Send your Spirit to be with us this night till Easter morning.  In Christ we pray.  Amen.  

Prayer of Confession (in unison)

We confess tonight that we are like those who crucified our Lord.  

We are like those who denied Jesus—refusing to claim him as Lord of our whole life.  

We are like those who have mocked him—forgetting his power in this world.  

We are like those who made him a crown of thorns—diminishing his authority in our lives.  

We are like those who hung him on a Cross—choosing the allure of violence and fear rather than justice and peace.  

We are like those who turned away their gaze—afraid to enter into the suffering of this world.  

Forgive us.  Have mercy upon us.  

On these days of emptiness and death before the Resurrection we begin tonight to offer our confessions to you in silence…..

 

-Silence is Kept-

 

Assurance of Pardon (responsive)

Even in the darkness of this night, even in the emptiness of these hours that stretch out before Easter morning the promise of the Resurrection is still at hand.

It is a dim light, and yet to the light we cling.

Give us grace to receive this assurance of your love.

Grant us peace on this night.  Amen.  

 

Submitted by Rev. Shannan R. Vance-Ocampo, Transitional Presbyter, Albany Presbytery

Maundy Thursday: a complete service

Call to Worship             (based on Psalm 26:3-12)

God’s steadfast love is before our eyes.
We walk in God’s faithfulness.
We wash our hands in innocence.
We go around your altar, Lord.
We sing a song of thanksgiving
And tell about your wonderful deeds.
O Lord, we love the house in which you dwell.
We love the place where your glory abides.
In the great congregation, let us bless the Lord.
God’s steadfast love is before our eyes.

Hymn                  Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts (or Communion hymn focused on body/blood)

First Lesson                    John 6:1-14

Reader 1: After Jesus healed a paralyzed man near the Temple and argued with the Jewish authorities, he went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival.

Reader 2: Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Reader 3: Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”

(Communion elements are brought forward by an adult and a child.)

Reader 1: One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?”

Reader 2: Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.”

Reader 3: So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.”

Prayer of Confession

Holy One, forgive us. We believe only the things we can see. We want to be faithful to you, but we get caught up in the numbers. A year’s salary will only go so far. Our time gets spent just as fast as our paychecks. We look around and see “not enough” instead of rejoicing that you have given us more than enough. We hold onto what is ours for fear it will all disappear.

Bend back the fingers we have clenched tight shut around the last piece of bread or the last bit of fish. There is more left over than we can calculate. Help us to see it.

(Silent confession)

Assurance of Pardon

Our God is not a cruel parent. Our God seeks to be in relationship with us. Our God loves us enough to take on our form and live among us.
God will not turn us away when we have come confessing with open hearts.
God offers forgiveness and welcomes us to the table of grace and plenty where all the faithful gather. This is the Good News that brings new life.
We thank God for it.

Communion Invitation           

The same people who ate the loaves and fishes followed Jesus the next day, all the way to the other side of the lake. Did they follow him hoping for more signs that he was God? No. Jesus said to them, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

Friends, we gather at this table not to fill our stomachs but to be fed by spiritual food. Jesus told the people, “The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!”

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Believing in him, we come to this table to share a holy meal.

Communion Prayer  

Let us pray. Lord, we come to you looking to be fed. We remember the stories of miraculous feeding, of manna in the wilderness, and the abundance of loaves and fishes, and the miracle of the wine at the wedding in Cana. We ask your blessing on these ordinary elements, the bread and the juice. We believe you feed us in ways that go far beyond our literal understanding. Through the awesome wonders of creation to the joy of human love and the power found in a group of people working on your behalf, you have blessed us. You became present to us in Jesus and blessed us further with your grace and mercy. You remain present to us in the working of the Holy Spirit. We give thanks for all the ways you show your love for us as pray together using the words Jesus taught us:

Our Father, etc. Amen.

Words of Institution

Jesus said to them, “I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Sharing of the Bread and Cup

This is the bread. This is the cup. These are the things of God for the people of God. Come, for all things are ready.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Holy and gracious God, for the meal we have shared, for the nourishment of the spirit and for the life of this community, we give you thanks. Help us to see miraculous signs wherever we see you. Help us to work always for the food that endures, in Christ’s name. Amen.

Anthem/Hymn                             Ah, Holy Jesus (or similar hymn)

Second Lesson                              John 19:23-24                (Reader Three)

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and his sandals, and divided them into four shares, one for each soldier. His shirt was seamless, woven as one piece from the top to the bottom. They said to each other, “Let’s not tear it. Let’s cast lots to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill the scripture, They divided my clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing. That’s what the soldiers did.

Lord Jesus, we divide you. We claim you belong to us. Others claim you belong to them. Help us to see you in your wholeness, pouring out your love for all people.

(Reader Three leaves during hymn, to be followed by choir members, Deacons/Elders w/ chancel items.)

Hymn                                  When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (or similar hymn)

Third Lesson                                  John 19: 25-27               (Reader Two)

Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Lord Jesus, some of your followers stayed with you to the end. We want to have that kind of faith. Give us the strength to see things through, even in the midst of darkness, danger and despair.

(Reader 2 leaves as hymn begins, to be followed by remaining choir members, Deacons, etc.)

Hymn                                  Beneath the Cross of Jesus (or similar hymn)

Fourth Lesson               John 19:28-30                                (Reader One/Pastor)

After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.

Lord Jesus, you showed us God’s abundant hospitality and turned water into wine. We showed you human hospitality and let things go sour. We showed no mercy, and yet we ask for your mercy, Lord.

When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life.

(Reader One closes Bible, carries it out of sanctuary.)

 

Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong, Reflectionary.

litany for Palm Sunday: threat

Jesus was beloved by the poor and the outcast
but he was a threat to people with power.
Jesus stood against the Temple,
so he was a threat to the Sadducees.
Jesus healed on the Sabbath and ate with sinners,
so he was a threat to the Pharisees.
Jesus took the titles of “Lord,” “Son of God,” and “King.”
those were the Caesar’s titles: he was a threat to the government.
Jesus came without violence
yet he disturbed the peace.
Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God
and the kingdoms of this world were frightened.
Lord, help us to love your Kingdom more than the kingdoms of this world.
For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Submitted by Rev. Drew Ludwig, Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, NY

confession: caught between options

God, so often we do not know what to do. We feel caught between the options, uncertain of where you are leading. In our anxiety, we turn on each other, relying on sarcasm and mocking to bolster our pride. In our frustration, we ask all the wrong questions while never listening for an answer. In our fear, we sacrifice you on the altar of our own security and desire. Forgive us, O God.

~silence~

One:    We stand at the threshold of your kingdom, Lord.

All:     Open wide the door of life, and give us courage to walk through.

 

Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL

Confession: You invite, but…

One:    You, Lord, invite us into relationship

All:     but relationships are messy and hard work, so we turn you into an idea instead.

~silence~

One:    You, Lord, invite us to trust,

All:     but we insist trust must be earned, so we turn back to what we know.

~silence~

One:    You, Lord, invite us to come in,

All:     but we aren’t sure we want to commit, so we stand in the doorway, undecided.

~silence~

One:    You, Lord, invite us to go out,

All:     but we don’t want to offend anyone, and we don’t know enough,

            so we stand at the threshold and look but never leap.

~silence~

One:    Forgive us, O God,

All:     for our chosen captivity to the kingdoms of this world.

Open wide the door of life, and give us courage to walk through.

 

Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL.

confession: denial

You, O Lord, are the giver of every good gift. Your love is the ground of our being. You call us to listen, to feast upon your word, and to follow in your way. You call us to trust you with everything we are and everything we have. Yet so often we deny you—by claiming we deserve what we have, by remaining silent in the face of injustice, by keeping busy so we do not have time to hear the cock crow.

For all the ways we have betrayed you, and ourselves, forgive us, O God.

~silence~

One:    Open wide the door of life, O God,

All:     and give us courage to walk through.