Liturgy Lessons: March 25, 2018 (Palm Sunday)
Procession of Palms
Reading: Matthew 21:1-11
Anthem (CPC kids choir): “Sing Hosanna”
Call to Worship: Psalm 118:22-29
Opening Hymn: All Glory, Laud, and Honor (#235)
Confession of Sin: The Convicting Spirit (from Valley of Vision)
Assurance of Pardon: Revelations 19:11-16; Hebrews 2:9-12
Hymns of Response: Hosanna in the Highest; My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness
Reading of the Word
Gloria Patri: #735
Sermon: Rev. Casey Bedell
Supper: Be Still My Soul (#689); There is a Higher Throne
Closing Hymn: Rejoice, the Lord is King (#310)
“O Lord, save us. O Lord, grant us success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.
The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.”
– Psalm 118:25-27 (NIV)
The church calendar year, or liturgical calendar, follows the events in the life of Christ. Adhering to the main body of the calendar, which begins in Advent and ends at Pentecost (followed by months of “ordinary” time), can be a significant formative practice for a congregation. At its best, this countercultural tradition provides churches and Christian worshipers with devotional rhythms that echo the human heartbeat of Christ. Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, is the beginning of Holy Week, the liturgical summit of Christian Worship. After our long march through the Church calendar year, we arrive at this week in which we remember and recount the final days of Christ’s earthly journey. Because of the dramatic nature of these events, our worship services sometimes invite us to think of ourselves as participants in these narratives. Thus, this Sunday we join the festive throng at the gates of Jerusalem during Jesus’ triumphal entry as our young people process with palms(a.k.a. “Ferns” in the northwest) shouting “Hosanna”. This is a word found in the New Testament in three different places: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9, 15), “Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9, 10), and “Hosanna!” (John 12:13). Like the word “Hallelujah,” “Hosanna” is in our regular Christian canon of speech and song. But do we know what it means or where it comes from?
“Our English word ‘hosanna’ comes from a Greek word ‘hosanna’ which comes from a Hebrew phrase ‘hoshiya na.’ And that Hebrew phrase is found one solitary place in the whole Old Testament, Psalm 118:25, where it means, ‘Save, please!’ It is a cry to God for help. But something happened to that phrase ‘hoshiya na.’ The meaning changed over the years. In the psalm it was immediately followed by the exclamation ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The cry for help, ‘hoshiya na,’ was answered almost before it came out of the psalmist’s mouth. And over the centuries the phrase ‘hoshiya na’ stopped being a cry for help in the ordinary language of the Jews. Instead it became a shout of hope and exultation. It used to mean ‘Save, please!’ but gradually, it came to mean ‘Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!’ The word moved from plea to praise, from cry to confidence.”
– Dr. John Piper, desiringgod.org
This Sunday let’s join the children in a passionate proclamation of “Hosanna.” It is a powerful double-edged holler of “Help!” and “Hallelujah!” The Son of David has come, and he has come to suffer on our behalf. When he entered the city, he was headed to the cross, which is the center of gravity in the story, the nucleus of the narrative. And so, on Passion Sunday the curtain goes up again on the dramatic retelling of those climactic final steps for our Savior. This Sunday he comes and next Sunday he conquers. “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Son! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!”
All Glory, Laud, and Honor
Text: Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans (c. 820)
Tune: ST. THEODULPH, Melchior Teschner (1615))
This hymn text, originally consisting of 78 lines (39 couplets), was written by St. Theodulph while he was in prison. The first line of text directs all praise to the “redeemer King,” which is a bold statement considering that Theodulph was imprisoned for suspected treason against the king of France. This poetic retelling of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem has been used in the church for fourteen centuries. The medieval liturgy actually re-enacted the story of Palm Sunday. Using this hymn as a procession, the priests and people would start outside the city walls and march towards the gates, waving branches and casting flowers, all the while following a living representation of Jesus seated on a donkey. Before the gates were opened, a choir of children would begin to sing, then in Latin: Gloria, laus et honor, with that refrain often echoed by the crowd. Once the song was over, the gates were opened and the procession made its way to the cathedral for the celebration of the Mass. The tune was not originally composed with Theodulph’s text in mind, but it did not take long for the two to be matched. The pairing became so popular that the tune is now named after Theodulph himself. This marriage of tune and text results in some unintended theological brilliance. The melody consists of four four-bar phrases. The first eight measures are a repeated melodic phrase that is rising and hopeful. In contrast, the last two musical phrases are mostly descending lines, resulting in each verse ending on the lowest note in the entire phrase. The effect is one of a grand, melodic arc that lifts and then lands back where it started. Settling and satisfying in its structure, the melody mirrors the expectations and experience of those who greeted Christ with shouts of “Hosanna”. It is not the big high-note finish that we would expect from the start. Rather, it is a melody fitting for a servant King who brought hope through humility, took up a cross before a crown, and gained deliverance through death.
Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
Tune: Ellacombe (1784)
Text: Jeannette Threlfall, st. 1 (1873); Ross Hauck, st. 2 (2016)
In Mark 10:16 Jesus declares, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” As Jesus greeted the children on Palm Sunday, I can imagine his delight at their enthusiasm, which probably manifested itself in undignified giggles and body wiggles. Oh, that we would have half of that effervescent enthusiasm, giddy gratitude, and juvenile jolts of joy! This hymn reminds us of that joy, made all the more profound after our assurance of pardon. Because this hymn follows our confession and assurance, I added a different second verse, hoping to bring a more theological fit to this point in our liturgy. After the “joy of our salvation” has been restored, we are invited to join the children in a “loud Hosanna.” I love this tune. It has an intangible sweetness and lilt, and, despite its rather constant movement, it seems fairly simple and intuitive. There are moments of surprise where it goes its own way, but then eventually finds itself back home again. It often repeats itself in short segments and…..wait…..I forgot if I was describing the music or one of my children! Well, In likewise manner, may we get lost in childlike delight as we sing our “Hosanna, in the highest”!
– Link to sheet music (using vs. 3 only)
– Text to alternate vs. 2:
O magnify the God of grace who hears his people’s cry,
And sends his own beloved son, exalt his name on high!
Now we at last can be restored from sin and all its stains,
for Christ our savior and our Lord forever in glory reigns!