The Sunday of the Passion


The Liturgy of the Palms

Dear friends in Christ, during lent we have been preparing for the time that comes upon us now. On this day our Lord Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem, in the wake of his own tears yet in need of welcome. The people who met him threw palm branches on the road as a sign they were with him, but the path before him led to self-giving, suffering and death. Today we go out to meet him, welcome him, and prepare to stand beside him. We will stand with him, seeing the crown of thorns and seeing the cross. And we will follow him through this week from today, by way of the dark road of suffering and death, as brothers and sisters with him in his suffering and love, until our world is one world, one people, one God, many expressions, resurrected in one love.


The Christ of hope enters the city, riding into our lives in humility

but with all the authority of good. Christ comes among us in grace.

Christ dares to ride towards our life, inviting our company

and affirming us in every trembling promise. Christ comes among us in grace.

Not wearing the garments of power, but staying in simple open-armed humanity and welcoming our every moment in the true celebration of life:

Christ comes among us in costly love. Let us bring our praises.


Collect: Almighty and ever living God, in tender love for our entire human race, you sent your Son Jesus the Christ to be in the midst of humanity, who would suffer death upon the cross and in doing so show us his humility and love. May we share in his passion for life and love, as he lives in us, united with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Gospel Reading: Matt 21: 1-11


“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,


“Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”


The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee”


Reflection (see below immediately beneath the service)


The Prayers of the People


On this day, Jesus enters Jerusalem humbly riding on a donkey and proclaiming a message of peace. We are caught up in the joy of the moment but know that this story will soon move us to despair.


Let this not be a time of fear or desolation, for the love of God is stronger than fear or loss, and is always near.  As we pray for all of creation, let us join together saying: Life-maker, Pain-bearer, and Love-giver, be with us now and give us hope.


Life-maker, Pain-bearer, Love-giver, be with us now and give us hope


For peace among nations, forbearance among all peoples and a fulfillment of the promise of a peace that passes all understanding.


At this time of crisis, we give thanks for governments that promise payments to assist those in need, and for banks and other lenders who promise not to foreclose on mortgages and extend the time for monthly payments


Each day we could easily be overwhelmed with news about the pandemic. Our prayer lives could become so cramped with worry about the virus that other world news meriting our prayers, barely register. We pray for a greater balance both in the world’s reporting of daily events and, for ourselves, to have the energy to remember the larger picture.


Life-maker, Pain-bearer, Love-giver, be with us now and give us hope.


For the church wherever and however it is manifest in the world that within its own structures and in the larger community it would give full expression to concerns for justice and peace.


At this time, we give thanks when hints of goodness and love creep into our tightly held ways of being church. We celebrate when churches learn to worship, minister and offer pastoral care to one another in new ways, including using the phone or the internet.


Life-maker, Pain-bearer, Love-giver, be with us now and give us hope.


For all who feed our souls and raise our spirits in these challenging times.

We rejoice in the creating life force both within and all around us – and for pastors, poets, story tellers, musicians and artists of all kinds who help us celebrate the foibles, the frailty, the grace and the giftedness of our humanity. We give thanks for the social media platforms that enable us to share these gifts with a world-wide community.


Life-maker, Pain-bearer, Love-giver, be with us now and give us hope.


For all whose lives have been impacted by violence and discrimination of any kind: for all who have felt scrutinized or ignored, followed or shut out, unfairly blamed or unduly praised remembering  the foreigner, the stranger, the homeless and the hungry.


There are so many individuals or groups that we should remember today but at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic let us never forget the power of this virus to run rampant among the homeless, those in long term care facilities, jails, refugee camps or the many other places in the world where the simple precautions of handwashing and social distancing are not possible.


Life-maker, Pain-bearer, Love-giver, be with us now and give us hope.


For the anxious, the weary and the sick; for those living in alienation and brokenness, in families and marriages; for those suffering financial hardship, and for those who are consumed with sorrow.


We are reminded daily of the risks taken by health-care workers, grocery clerks, delivery people, emergency service providers and all other essential personnel – and we give thanks.


We hold deep in our hearts those who have lost loved ones, remembering especially those swept away by this virus, and who have died alone without the support of friends and family.


This day, may we commit our unconditional love and support to something or someone other than ourselves – to phone, email, write, reach out in care or concern.


Life-maker, Pain-bearer, Love-giver, be with us now and give us hope.


God of All, Creator, you are with us always. Teach us your gentle ways, ways that fill our souls with strength and joy. Guide us on this pilgrimage to truth and wholeness; and fill us with your promise of a love that knows no bounds. Amen.



God our help and strength, you fill our hunger for justice and peace, made real in how we remember and follow you. Strengthen our faith, that through the life and message of Jesus the Christ, we may be lead to one another, and to you.


Thanks be to God, the Humble One,

the One who travels towards all that we fear and all that overpowers us.

Thanks be to God who invites our love

and moves through the centre of our life

in hope and truth.

Journey with us Humble One

as we walk the way of the cross. Amen.


* This liturgy is an adaptation of sources from the BAS, an archival Palm Sunday liturgy from St. Matthew’s Auckland New Zealand, with redactions based on inclusive language and progressive principles, and the prayers of the people as written by Gerry Punke for Palm Sunday 2020.


Reflection for Palm Sunday

The Gospel story we are looking at today would traditionally be the entire passion story. But our focus is also on the story of Palm Sunday. Jesus rides into the city in the donkey, as the crowd thrown palm branches on the road around him.


The part of that story that I found most moving, thinking about our situation these days with the pandemic, is what was happening with Jesus just before he got on that donkey. Do you remember what happened? He stood there looking over the city and cried. We can only imagine what he wanted, in that moment. Maybe for people to be able to connect to love and compassion, instead of political division, or the games and manipulations he may have known were coming. Maybe he was able to see both the dark reality of humanity, and at the same time, know the unlimited ability we have to come together and change … well, everything.

I don’t like to jump from his tears, to the so called triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I don’t think the word triumphant honours the emotional and spiritual pain Jesus had, that moved him to tears.

And so, as we look around our current world, with all that is happening, I feel compelled as we enter Holy Week, to stand here looking over the “city” or world, moved to our own tears, or at least without flinching, as we analyze where we are, and why. Perhaps then, we can accompany the donkey into the world with wisdom based on what is real. Which in turn guides us to action that is full of hope.

I am hearing a lot about how the world has changed, a new world. It could be. And we will see, when this ends. Will humanity have learned a new way to be? Will it look different standing on that hill, before we get on the donkey?


Let’s look at what makes a pandemic possible. It isn’t airplanes and travel (pandemics existed long before modern travel enabled such rapid transmission) . It isn’t specifically what happened in Wuhan, China. And it sure as heaven isn’t mother earth striking back for the way humanity has exploited her. Humanity created the circumstances. No one else.


So, if we are hoping to live in a new world after the pandemic … do we know what it was in the old world that created our situation today?


Let’s put it in political and economic perspective. We hear phrases like global society, global economy a lot. What is usually meant, is that we are literally in touch with and aware of what is happening in every corner of the world now. We can communicate in a fraction of a second with a friend of a completely different country, language, culture, on the other side of the planet.


But it’s more than that of course. We have a global economic system that depends on banks making loans to developing countries or tribes, and paying interest for generations, profiting shareholders and stock owners. We have multinational corporations that have more wealth and power than most nations, and who lobby for and build economic sanctions and legislative change such that a corporation, or even a small business can contract and exploit human labour and natural resources in another country, without labour laws, human rights or even sanitation.


We call it consumerism (the spawn of capitalism). And every single one of us wears clothes, eats food, and owns product and objects that were made of exploited natural resources, and exploited human labour. As a global society, we depend on it. Or at least our luxury does.


And, in a terribly oversimplified explanation on my part, because of my terribly overly simple brain I suppose … we have a global reality of a wealthy minority (the empire of consumerists) and a vast majority ranging from surviving, to extreme poverty.


And so, it happens. In this case, on an otherwise normal day in the street markets of Wuhan … people surviving in a country well known for the enablement of human exploitation by countries around the planet, in a complex web of economics that depend on a huge population being seen as a commodity to be used as cheaply as possible (even at the expense of survival) … struggling to survive …


And within that setting, like in many places around the world, some people have a place in a global market for exotic animals, tiger parts to heal liver or kidneys, or rhino horn to cure fever and arthritis, or elephant tusks to treat ulcers … traditional medicine … people who may not even get a meal a day … people who are employed in mines exposed to mercury for less than a dollar a day … the list goes on and on….


So of course, in a global society where human beings are exploited, and where exotic animals have a multi-billion dollar market, and corporations can contract companies to get people to work in non-survivable conditions … and where animals are exploited on a level never seen before in human history … chicken farms housing hundreds of thousands of animals, their beaks and talons amputated, living in filth, distress and disease….


Those are the circumstances that lead to one normal day on some street in the open market in Wuhan that the coronavirus evolved to be able to transfer from a bat, to a human being.


It isn’t the first time. The Spanish Flu in 1918 originating in Kansas USA…. in SARs in 2002 originating in Guangdong province in China … MERs in 2012 originating in Saudi Arabia … ebola in 2014 originating in West Africa. It happens around the world, and is hardly a “Chinese thing” as we hear so often from American news.


Though we are hearing it said that the coronavirus brings a new world, a new era to us … it hasn’t. The same conditions being described a few minutes ago … the exploitation of animals, nature, a global economy depending on poverty, toxic environments, etc. has always been part of the civilized world. Coronavirus is not part of anything new. Just a new form of virus.


Which brings us back to the original question with which I began this reflection. When Jesus was overlooking the city, before he got on the donkey, just before the tears, might he have been caught in that same juxtaposition of seeing exactly what was wrong in his world, in that moment, the stark and the dark … and wondering if this time, we might evolve into something different? What he has said, what he has done, what was about to happen … would it change everything?


My simple thoughts, entering Holy Week, are as follows. If we recognize the very real conditions we have enabled and created in a modern world that virtually guarantees something like pandemics (SARs, MERs, Ebola, and Covid – 19 just since the we entered the 2000’s emerging from situations of massive exploitation of humans, animals and natural resources) ..


… then a new world would mean that humanity is willing to fundamentally change the very nature of how we use nature, animals and one another to propagate a global society dependent upon poverty, exploitation, and abuse.


We will see. As the wave of coronavirus peaks and fades in each country, and banks, corporations, industry, governments and business, and yes us … return to a life of regaining profits, stabilizing economies, and reopening all those consumer markets and stores carrying all those products made in wherever, by whatever exploitable population …. and malls become packed, and the oil industry receives massive bailouts, and banks begin collecting interest on deferred mortgages, car loans and lines of credits advertised as compassionate measures in a time of financial stress but in fact are exploitive measures where banks are making money off of the pandemic (!!!)….


… well now, how will that be different again?


I offer all these thoughts because I felt captured in that moment when Jesus was about to ride the donkey into the city. But he just stands there a moment. And he weeps.


As we journey through Holy Week, I am so aware of how God must weep at the suffering of humanity, and all living things. From weeping, comes the empathy that can connect us all. From that connection, comes compassion. And compassion is the one thing that really can change the world.


On Easter Sunday we will explore what that compassion really is. It is our new world. But let’s not just jump over there. Let’s look into the darkness first. Until we understand it. Until we have tears. Then we will be ready both to understand the cross, and the planet.