5 April 2020 – Celebrating the Passion of Christ
A pastoral note from Byron:
Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday. Passion comes from a Latin root that means suffering. You might think, wait. That doesn’t sound romantic. Think about it this way: a passionate person has a suffering that needs to be satisfied, a pain that needs to be healed. Someone who is com-passionate is “with suffering” of others. Today we are not going to give ourselves to the typical Scripture passages that address the palms, rather we are going to look at the other half of the Scripture passages that pertain to the passion of Christ, that is, the Sufferings of Christ that defined His last week on Earth leading up to His Death and Resurrection. As mentioned last week, the point of this liturgy is to Exalt and Equip. I’ve prepared this liturgy primarily to exalt Christ by bringing attention to Him through prayers, songs, Scriptures and meditations. Secondly, I’ve prepared this liturgy to equip His Church. The mission of the Church is to disciple people in the way of Jesus; to glorify the Creator of Heaven and Earth. I am equipping you to learn how to lead yourself or your family to worship Jesus when things are abnormal. Right now, that includes a liturgy like this, a game plan for you to follow.
Let me be crystal clear: our church will not be left crippled. You have opportunity to be cared for and equipped in a few ways, including pastoral check-ins / visits. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity.
Suffering and unknowns are not new to humanity or followers of Jesus. In our unknowns, we entrust ourselves to the Loving Creator (1 Peter 4.19). I am awed with the workings of the Almighty Creator. This Creator currently has the full attention of Creation, and during the Global Church’s Season of Prayer and Fasting! I am utterly astounded with His Sovereignty and gracious patience toward Creation.Though it is appropriate to bring grief and worry to God, to straight up have it out with Him, right now is not the time to ask, “When will it end?” The appropriate question is, “Holy and Loving Creator, what are You teaching us? We are listening.” Be sure of this, the King will not allow His Creation to forget Him, What a loving and powerful God!
BTW, I spoke a bit on Friday’s fb video about having it out with God. You can find the videos at https://www.facebook.com/pg/GraceMidCity/videos/ – if you only have a few minutes to scroll through fb, then watch the last 6 minutes of Friday’s video.
If you commit to trusting a Sovereign and Good Creator and do the hard work of learning to lead yourself or others in worship, then our first gathering together may very well spark an awakening. I don’t think anyone wants to advocate an easy religious consumerism. Let us root ourselves in the knowledge of Christ, standing together, united in one spirit, struggling together to remain faithful to the good news of Jesus (Philippians 1.27). We will harvest what we plant. Commit to the hard work now and experience later the reward of knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection and the participation of His sufferings (Philippians 3.10). While these may be difficult times, these are opportune days for the Church – you and me! – to grow in new ways; there may be some things that don’t need to go back to how they were. After all, that’s what it means to be a disciple; learning a new way of life.
- If you’re alone this morning, call someone in your House Church, or another church member and ask if you can go through this liturgy and worship Jesus together.
- Find an intentional place to spend time in worship, inside or outside. BTW, do you notice how there seems to be more birds, bees and butterflies than normal? This is our Creator’s world!
- Light a candle to remind yourself the Light of the World is gathered with you, even though we are scattered from one another.
- Put out a piece of crimson cloth to be reminded of the suffering of Jesus.
- Have a Cross in the room since we’ll be sending our problems to the Cross of Christ.
- Set aside at least an hour to truly have a meaningful time of worship.
- Get out an instrument and play along. The chord charts are under the song links.
- Read everything aloud and sing along with the music, even if no one else is physically gathered with you. If others are present, take turns reading each part of the liturgy. Have fun! Let children participate! And be sensible with their attention span (and yours!).
Let us tend to His Presence while He nourishes and shapes us.
Here’s a Palm Sunday poem from the donkey’s point of view.
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;BY G. K. CHESTERTON
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
Source: The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (Dodd Mead & Company, 1927)
Call to Worship – May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us as we are scattered and awaiting to be gathered.
Glory be to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!
It is the first day of a new week. Be assured my dear friend, there is nothing you’ve done this week – even if it’s criminal – that can separate you from the love of the Creator in Christ Jesus. There may be consequences to foolish decisions, but there is no condemnation in Christ. Say these sentences aloud and find life in their truth:
Jesus is powerful enough to change me.
Jesus is powerful enough to heal me.
Jesus is powerful enough to love me as I am.
Almighty and Everlasting God, in Your tender love for us You sent Your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon Himself our nature and to suffer death upon the Cross, giving us the example of His great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of His suffering, and come to share in His resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
United In Truth
We are united in the truth that Christ has come, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. Say aloud the truths of “the faith handed down once and for all” (Jude 3) as taught by Jesus to the Apostles. Be reminded and proclaim with joy what you, what we, believe:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,— Apostles’ Creed
Creator of Heaven and Earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son, Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Pray-Sing Psalm 31.9-16
Pick a tune and sing along – http://psalms.seedbed.com/psalm-31/
The Lord’s Prayer
This is a powerful moment. Your voice is joining the heavenly host and other worshippers of Jesus scattered around Baton Rouge who are pouring up praise to the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Let us pray as our Lord instructed…
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.Matthew 6
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen.
Public Reading of Scripture
The Scripture passages are Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 27:11-54
Read one or all of the passages. If you’ve got children with you, be sensible with how long they can sit and listen. If you have to pick one, select the Philippians passage.
Musical Worship – the songs are selected on the theme of being drawn to the Cross of Christ where we find the security of God’s Love and the sufficiency of God’s Spirit. We want to draw near to the Cross of Christ where we find His Love for us.
“There Is A Redeemer”
“We Have Been Healed”
“My Worth Is Not In What I Own”
Expressing the Love of Christ to the Children
Pray for the children and youth of Grace:
“Father, fill the children and youth of Grace with the Spirit of Your Son, Jesus.”
We’re going to say each name aloud. This is not a list to race through, say each name then picture the person in your mind. After you picture them, move to the next name.
Lois, Micah, Naomi, Emma, Nora, David, Sophia, Noelle, Jace, Sophia, Beckett, Easton, Iva James, Colton, Rose, Paul, Amaya, Miles, Lizzie Mae, Nezzie, Sofia, Simone, Samuel, Virginia, Evie, Thomas, Karli, Grant, Cailyn, Rayana, Jack, Greyson, Caroline, Travis, Ethan, Arin, Liam, Rachel, Sami, Thomas, Grant, Whernska, Levi, Judah, Natalie, Benjamin. What a group!
Kids – enjoy singing From The Overflow of the Heart the Mouth Speaks – https://gracemidcity.com/from-the-overflow-of-the-heart/
You may remember we were being guided in prayer based on the book, Spirit Walk. The premise of the guided prayer was SWAP:
Surrender to God
Wait on God
Pursue the promptings of the Spirit
In accordance with the Season of Prayer and Fasting we’re in, and considering current events, we’re going to ask one question regarding “Pursue the promptings of the Spirit.” Parents, give your children the freedom to answer without fear that you’ll start lecturing them.
- What do you think our Holy Creator is communicating to His Creation through this new coronavirus? What might the Spirit of Jesus be prompting His Church to pursue?
After a brief discussion, let each person vocalize a prayer, as much as they are comfortable.
Recognizing Our Dependence Upon Christ
When we make an offering, we give what already belongs to Christ; Of Your own, O Lord, do we give. Money is not the only offering, we offer our talents, abilities, and gifts to the exclusive use of King Jesus and His Kingdom. We offer every bit of ourselves in service to Christ and His Creation. We don’t want to be tone-deaf about economic crisis facing some in our church, nor do we want to presume financial instability in our church. If you are facing an economic crisis today, please let Byron know your need so your church can support you in some way. If you have financial security and even abundance, share generously with those in need. We are still receiving mail at 630 Richland Avenue, 70806, or give online at https://gracemidcity.churchcenter.com/giving
Offertory song – Byron’s take on Psalm 71 (has similar beginning to Psalm 31) – https://gracemidcity.com/without-you-theres-no-song/
Shaping the Church by the Scripture and Spirit of Christ
The Scripture passages are Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 27:11-54
While adults discuss some of the aspects of Jesus’ work, a child can draw v51-53 of Matthew 27.
These are powerful images of humility.
- Isaiah is a Messianic (Hebrew word for Christ) prophesy about the Messiah being a Humble and Suffering Servant Who will be vindicated.
- The Philippians passage highlights the humility of Creator becoming Creature. To quote Bishop Fulton Sheen, “Superman walks into a phone booth and comes out Clark Kent.”
- The Matthew passage is lengthy, but necessary to see the humility of Jesus on full display. Have you noticed verses 51-53 before? Who knew so many people came back to life in the Bible! An interesting word study is in v17, “Barabbas” means “son of the father” (bar is son and abbas is father). One “son of the father” is released while the other Beloved Son of the Father continues to suffer.
Sing “Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross” – https://gracemidcity.com/jesus-keep-me-near-the-cross/
No chords, just piano and vocal recorded.
Nourishing the Church with the Body and Blood of Christ
I plan to celebrate communion / Lord’s supper/ Eucharist (the New Testament word for “thanksgiving”) when we are gathered again in one room. It is one more reminder that life together with Jesus Christ is a communal way of life. During this season of Prayer and Fasting we are reminded that although we don’t need bread to make it through the day, we do need Christ, the Bread of Heaven.
We are scattered this morning. Physically, we are not together. Spiritually, however, we are as close as we’ll ever be. In the prayer of Jesus, as recorded in John 17.26, He says I’ve made Your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that Your love for Me will be in them, and I Myself will be in them.
Lord Jesus, You have made known to us the name of the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. By Your Holy Spirit, You continue to make God’s great name known. Father, increase our love for Your Son, Our Redeemer, and King, Jesus. Make us aware of the work You are doing in us and through us. Truly You are working in our waiting. Continue to give us imagination and creativity with our lives and our church. Grant us the courage to join You in Your work. Protect us from reacting to anything in haste. Protect us from desperate thinking. We want to walk by faith. We are fully dependent upon You for any success in our lives and ministry. We are reminded today that though we are separated, by the power of Your Holy Spirit we are fully united with You and one another now and forever. Amen.
But you have drawn near to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, to countless angels in a festival gathering, to the assembly of God’s firstborn children who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better than Abel’s blood.Hebrews 12.22-24
The word Zion refers to the place God dwells. This is the city where Jesus rode in, and then carried out a Cross upon which He would die. His life was in some way lived in exile; He was rejected by His own Creation! All humanity’s life is somehow lived in exile; we don’t know what life might look like for us in a couple weeks or a couple months. When Jesus returns on the Day of Resurrection to make all things new, we will feast and weep no more!
Facing the Cross in your room or on your table, cast your cares upon Him Who cares for you. Send your worries to Jesus and leave it all with Him.
Lord Jesus, You are our Refuge and Fortress.— Kenyan Prayer
All our problems –
we SEND to the Cross of Christ!
All our difficulties –
we SEND to the Cross of Christ!
All the devil’s works –
we SEND to the Cross of Christ!
All our hope –
we SET on the Risen Christ!
Calling All Creatures To Praise Our Triune God
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all Creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. A-men.
Sending The Church To Witness
May the God of peace,
who brought back the Great Shepherd of the sheep,
our Lord Jesus,
from the dead by the blood of the eternal covenant,
equip you with every good thing to do His will,
by developing in us what pleases Him through Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory forever and always. Amen.
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirits (Phil 4.23).
I would love to say “Hi!” to you this week to touch base and to be sure you’re being cared for and discipled in the way of Jesus. Please let me know what time works for you if none of these times work: https://calendly.com/gracemidcity/pastoral-meeting I will be taking some time off after Resurrection Sunday, but the appointment calendar is a rolling 3-week calendar. Make as many appointments as you’d like.