Welcome and Announcements
What a joyful day it is! May God’s blessing be upon everyone as we shout together with all Christians, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Our Good Friday will begin with pancake breakfast at 10 am. Normally, we would have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. However, due to pandemic restrictions, we are doing things a bit differently. The Good Friday worship service will follow the breakfast.
We will have an Easter worship service at 10:30 am next Sunday. Unlike other years, we will not have our early Easter morning service this year as we still do our best to keep everyone safe in this time of transition. We will, however, have a special Easter after service fellowship. Also do not forget that we are asking everyone to bring Easter bonnets (hats) all decorated. The categories are Pretty, Fun, and Wacky.
In May we are beginning to reopen our activities. On Tuesday, May 3 at 10 am, we will begin our “Cinnamon Bun” Tuesdays. It will be a weekly program. Later in May we will also start “Tea Tasting” and other activities. Please take note of these programs. Come and take part.
Your minister will be away for two weeks after Easter to tend to family matters. The Rev. Martin Wehrman and the Rev. Raye Brown will fill in.
We thank Mr. David Cowan for his musical contributions to this morning’s worship. He will be back with us to help us celebrate Easter.
Call to Worship: (Psalm 118:1,2,19-29)
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Hymn: Ride on, ride on in majesty
With gratitude, O Lord, we come. Remembering how you entered Jerusalem to suffer, we come humbly in thanksgiving. On this day, as we lift up our voices and sing, “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” may you be praised and glorified. Sometimes in our rush to celebrate the joyful news of salvation, we forget to remember the passion Jesus suffered on our behalf, dying on the cross for us. On this day, give us wisdom, courage, and strength of the Spirit to remember how your coming kingdom in Jesus was rejected by this world. Focus our minds on your Son, so that we do not dwell simply on his suffering, but always remember how your love became the very force that put your kingdom in all of us.
Receive our praise and worship for this day. Be glorified in all that we do today and the rest of the week as we prepare and walk with Jesus to the cross, and rejoice with you in his resurrection.
All these we pray in the name of one who suffered, died, and rose for us. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 19:28-40
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'" So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord needs it." Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."
Sermon: Reasons for celebration
Jesus now enters Jerusalem. This is a very anticipated event. For most Jews of Jesus’ time, as we saw in last Sunday’s passage, they believed that when God’s anointed one comes to Jerusalem, the kingdom of God appears, overthrowing all powers and rulers of Jerusalem. Those who are following Jesus expect no less. There is this expectation that when Jesus enters Jerusalem, God’s reign begins. This is why Palm Sunday we celebrate is significant. We are attesting to the fact that with Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, God’s kingdom begins.
What is important for us to remember is that the expectations of Jews were not met as they imagined. On the other hand, we, those who are baptised in the name of the Triune God, see and experience the coming of God as Jesus enters Jerusalem. This is the big divide between the Israelites who remain as Jews and those who follow Christ. For the Jews there is no experience of God’s kingdom because the Roman Empire with its governor Pilate along with all those corrupt Jewish politicians, priests, and rulers remain. Nothing is changed with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. For us, we see God’s will being fulfilled when Jesus arrives at Jerusalem and begins his walk toward Golgotha.
A few things to note as we begin our journey with Christ. Jesus rides a colt that has never been ridden before by anyone. He enters Jerusalem like a king entering the city. As he moves toward Jerusalem, multitude of disciples are treating Jesus as the Messiah by shouting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” These are not ordinary people who are seeing Jesus for the first time. Rather, they are disciples who come in anticipation of the coming kingdom of God and are now praising and raising their voices. They are witnessing to the world that Jesus is indeed the king.
In other Gospels, they quote Psalm 118:26 more closely by shouting, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Here, in Luke, the title “king” is inserted. As the disciples shout out that the king is coming in the name of the Lord, the Pharisees ask Jesus to stop what these disciples are saying. The Pharisees, unlike the disciples, cannot see Jesus as the king. They do not want to acknowledge Jesus as the king. In this sense, a conflict between those who oppose Jesus and those who follow Jesus is clearly outlined. When the Pharisees ask Jesus to quiet the disciples, Jesus simply responds, “If these were silent, the stones would shout out.” Remember that in Chapter 9, Samaritans refused Jesus’ entry into their villages. Now, the Pharisees and by extension the inhabitants of Jerusalem are refusing Jesus’ entry.
The second notable factor is the second part of the shouts by the disciples, “Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” What are they speaking of when they shout, “Peace in heaven?” In a way, this is the reverse of what the heavenly host proclaimed to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favours.” One of the scholars commented that “Peace in heaven” is “the gift of peace which is laid up in heaven for God’s people, but which Jesus now brings in a new way. Luke is sharing the point that Jesus has brought the peace of heaven.
The third thing to note is that Jesus’ day is not ending with his entry into Jerusalem. He weeps over Jerusalem. This time in his weeping, he points out that because Jerusalem is incapable of seeing this day of God’s peace, they have become blind. The consequence of their blindness to the coming of God’s kingdom is that the destruction will be unleashed upon Jerusalem. They will suffer for not being able to recognize the time of their visitation from God. The rejection is tied to the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of Jerusalem eventually leading to the kingdom of God not being established in Jerusalem.
The final act of the day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is the cleansing of the Temple. He drives out those who are selling in the Temple saying, ‘It is written,
“My house shall be a house of prayer”;
but you have made it a den of robbers.’
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem ends up in a confrontation with all those who are associated with the Temple and its activities. Jesus is making it clear that everything about the Temple is far from what it should be. This blindness to their wrongs has led Jesus’ lament well as the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Israel’s enemies.
Now it is time to think about what is happening that is so significant in ways that we continue to celebrate Palm Sunday after two millennia. Why does it matter for us to witness, remember, and reenact this scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem? Why does Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem matter so much in faith today?
Jesus could have done what he was doing in ministry continually. He could have continued to heal the sick, teach the people of Israel God’s good news, and bring hope to all. In a way he could have lived a fulfilling and trouble free life. By entering into Jerusalem, however, he turns everything he has been doing into something more than good will, promise, and giving hope. Indeed, By entering into Jerusalem he is becoming the very love of God he was teaching and demonstrating to the people of God what God’s love truly is. He is now more than a teacher who shares the knowledge about God, a healer who can show the mighty power of God, a prophet who can speak God’s ways, and a king who can rule with God’s wisdom. His entry into Jerusalem is where all his teaching, healing, prophesying, and ruling are revealed as bits and pieces of God’s love for humanity.
We have been struggling to figure out what it means to be Christians. We have been defining and redefining ourselves as believers, followers, the faithful, etc. We are here in Niagara Falls wondering how to be Christians or what ministries to carry out. We dabble at various ministries of care, compassion, mercy, and grace. However, we are not always clear about who we are to be as we continue to discern God’s will for us. In this struggle we see ourselves in those disciples who shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” With Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, we, too, expect God’s kingdom to come, rather than realising God’s kingdom is already here.
In our daily struggles, we desire to witness the coming God’s kingdom, too. Unlike other Gospels, however, Luke makes a very clear point. God’s kingdom, Jesus says in Chapter 17:21 is among you. Those, who are faithful to Christ, have God’s kingdom within them. There is no need to wait. It is, then, more than obvious that we live now as the citizens in God’s kingdom. This is why Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem signifies the boldness to live as ones who live under God’s reign, not under the rule of Rome or any political entity we are under, for that matter. With Jesus’ entry, along with Jesus, we reveal, proclaim, and witness to the world that we are God’s people.
Now more than ever, others see us as those odd people who are different from them, who do not hesitate to love one another, and who will go all the way to lay down their lives for others on the account of God’s love for the world. We are fully exposed as Jesus is fully revealed. There are no more excuses of not loving, being compassionate, and bringing God’s grace to all. From this point on, it is only right that we are judged by the way we appear to others. Yes, everything we do will be judged by the words we speak of and by the words of Christ we proclaim. It is not simply a matter of keeping our faith private. It is all about how we embody in this world our citizenship in God’s kingdom.
From this moment of Jesus entering Jerusalem, those who believe in Jesus as the Messiah, those who follow Christ, and those who witness him as the king who comes in the name of the Lord, are seen, judged, and experienced by their way of loving God and neighbours. With the entry, Jesus begins his passion. As Jesus begins his passion, all who are baptised in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit also begin our lives of passion, or suffering onto the cross. We carry our crosses alongside Jesus who carries his cross. As the body of Christ, we are led to humiliation, mocking, and eventually death on the cross too.
Our way of following Christ is not glamorous, full of riches and glory. Ours is just like Christ’s on his way to Golgotha. This is why on this day, we march in front of Jesus, shouting hosannas and putting palm branches on the road for Jesus to ride on. With the full understanding that we are being revealed to the world not as the citizens of this world, but of God’s kingdom. From this point on, we follow Christ all the way to the cross, death, and resurrection. In following Christ we declare our allegiance to God, not to this world. From this point in time, we do not take sides in the world, but bring God’s love. All our being is centred on sharing Christ’s love with the world, not on rescuing the world from its troubles. This is why we celebrate and rejoice. We praise knowing that the kingdom of God is within us. From today, with Christ, we worship and serve God in all of life by loving God and neighbours.
What a wonderful and gracious gift you have given, O Lord our God! In your compassion, you sent Jesus so that your kingdom might be in each and every one of us. With thanksgiving we come with prayer. Hear our prayer.
Though your Son came into the world, ministered to your people, he was rejected even when he entered Jerusalem as the king sent by you. The world, being oblivious to your love, grace, mercy, and compassion, continues its way of destruction. People of the world worry over their own future because their survival is threatened by wars and impending environmental destruction of their own making. Leaders blame one another, all the while leading their peoples into darkness. They pay no heed to the suffering of your creation, including your people. Open the eyes of these leaders and all those who are mired in ways of compounding suffering and causing death everywhere.
As ones who follow your Son, we ask that your grace and mercy stay with us in our suffering and even in moments of death. May the resurrection hope be rekindled in all of us to be strong in faith to bring forth the life full of your love, shown through your Son’s passion, death, and resurrection. Cast out our fear. Make us bold in ways to proclaim, share, and witness your Son our Lord as the only Way, the Life, and the Truth.
Help us to see beyond the immediate and urgent matters of life so that having your kingdom in us, we may bring your love to all those who suffer. Make us be present with those who are weak, meek, poor, and in despair. Send us to those who need your love the most. Empower us to step forward and receive your commission to love your people, our neighbours. Help us to see your image in everyone we come across.
We pray for those among us whose health is deteriorating, whose minds are less and less able to uphold your glory, and whose spirits are lost in the darkness of this world. Keep them in your care. Keep them in our hearts. Continue to remind us to love them the same way we love you. If for a moment we forget to receive them as from you, awaken us in ways that we may freely bring forth your love to them all.
We pray for this congregation. As your body in Niagara Falls, we are beginning to plan to share your kingdom in our hearts with all those around us. In our discernment of your will, we have been given all these new tasks. As we begin our preparations for sharing the very life of Christ with all those around us, be with us. Bless us in ways that we will be blessing to all whom you will send to participate, receive, and enjoy in these ministries you are unfolding through us. Give us faith to persist in joyful service. Bring success in ways that those who come will find spiritual renewing through all these activities we will share on your behalf.
We thank you for all who belong to this congregation and all who have been participating in our worship services. May our worship and service continue to glorify you in this world.
In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
Mission Moment: Hummingbird Ministries
Hummingbird Ministries has focused its healing ministry on Indigenous children in recent years. We use Circles, activities and meals to teach the Gospel of Jesus while upholding the traditions of Indigenous Peoples. Art, workshops and presentations at local churches help elevate the dignity of Indigenous people and educate non-Indigenous people about valuable ways to embrace cultural differences and take part in reconciliation efforts. Grounded in The Presbyterian Church in Canada Confession of 1994, Hummingbird Ministries seeks to offer a place of worship (a Holy House) where Indigenous people may encounter Jesus Christ through kindness, respect and upholding of meaningful Circle practices.
All that we have, share, and enjoy are from you, O God, who provides for us sufficiently. Now we bless you through these offerings. These offerings are small tokens of our love for you, our commitment to you, and our promise of being your servants in this world. Receive them. Send us into the world to joyfully love and serve you and our neighbours. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: Hosanna, loud hosanna