Year A – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5–11

Philippians 2:5–11: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.  9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Summary – The Church at Philippi was a healthy church, but not a perfect church. There were issues of disunity and disharmony (ch. 2-4). They needed the direct command, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (2:14). Paul extorted two women by name to, “live in harmony in the Lord” (4:2).  In this well-know passage (ch. 2) he urges the church to make his joy complete, “by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (2:2). Paul gives a deeply poetic basis for unity resulting from humility: be of the same mind that was in Christ Jesus who humbled Himself even to death on a cross.

Insight – Have you ever heard a familiar tune with different lyrics? Sometimes we do this for fun, but sometimes we hear a new verse written by the songwriter, but was wasn’t recorded in the version we know.  Though we’ve never heard these words before, we know the song. Paul is doing this here. He’s giving us a different verse to an old song – the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (chapter 53). The Servant of the Lord (Is. 53) empties or “pours out” himself unto death. He bears griefs and sorrows, is wounded, is bruised, is chastised, is oppressed, is afflicted, is cut off, is stricken, is put to grief, is an offering for sin, and has poured out His soul unto death for all “we like sheep that have gone astray.” Paul summarizes the entire humiliation of the Servant in “emptying Himself.”  All of this, as Isaiah 53 anticipates, brings about an exaltation. The stone table of death is shattered when He was “bruised for our iniquities.”

Child’s Catechism – Why should we stop grumbling and complaining? Because we should be like Jesus who humbled Himself.

Discussion – Do you have any hard relationships with others? How can the example of Christ’s humility help you deal with difficult people in your life?

Prayer – [Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Palm Sunday – Psalms 118:1–2, 19–29

Psalms 118:1–2, 19–29  -1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!   2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.   20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.  28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.  29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Summary – Psalm 118 was used by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles after the exile. It calls worshipers to acknowledge the goodness of their Covenant Lord. The worshiper desires to enter into the gates of God’s house (temple). Then in the verses 22ff there is a turn toward Messianic prophecy. The builders rejected the chief cornerstone and yet it is the Lord’s doing. This must have been puzzling for worshipers anticipating Christ, but now it is crystal clear. This is the day the Lord made – the day of Christ’s rejection. The Psalm foreshadows Palm Sunday – Bind the procession with branches to the altar. Christ Himself entered into Jerusalem like a pilgrim with a festal procession with branches and then was rejected as the chief cornerstone. Through this God will save his people. O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.

Insight (from Jared McNabb) – This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. This event calls to mind that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey the crowds were praising Jesus with the words from this Psalm, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt 21:9). Later on in Matthew 21, Jesus quotes from verse 22 of this Psalm and applied it to himself. Christ was the stone that was rejected by the people, and he went to the cross. But his work on the cross was not defeat, but actually the work of the very foundation of the House of God, laying the cornerstone. The cornerstone of the building was the most important stone in constructing a building; it was foundational. Christ’s work on the cross has laid the foundation for our salvation.  What looked like rejection and defeat was really the cornerstone for history and our lives.  And THIS, “it is marvelous in our eyes! Let us rejoice and be glad!”

Child’s Catechism – How is Jesus described in this Psalm? Jesus is described as the chief cornerstone.

Discussion – In what ways is Christ the cornerstone of history? In what ways is Christ the cornerstone of your life?

Prayer – O Lord, You are our Rock, our Cornerstone, and we are thanking You for building the foundation of the Church and our salvation with Your own sacrifice of rejection, torture and death. Forgive our forgetfulness of this foundation and make us ever mindful: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Amen.

Year A – Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-13

Matthew 21:1–16: When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Summary – This passage provides the climax of Christ’s journey toward Jerusalem. He has “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, Matt. 16:21, 20:17; cf Is. 50). When He arrives in Jerusalem He goes to the temple. Jesus’s “triumphal entry” culminates in the “cleansing” the temple. To understand this, we must see how Jesus reenacts Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 7:12, 26:6; 1 Sam. 4:15-22; Ps. 78:60). Jesus replays Jeremiah’s experience with the destruction of Shiloh (tabernacle) and Solomon’s temple (586 BC) at the time of the exile. This all fulfills the pattern of cleansing a leprous/unclean House (Lev. 14:33-47; cf. John 2:13). Jesus symbolically tears down the house as a prophetic action foreshadowing the actual destruction of the temple (70 A.D. Matt. 24:1ff).

Insight – In the middle of the game how do you know who will be the winner? The one who “triumphs” may not be clear until the game is over. This is the case with Jesus entering into Jerusalem. At the climax of Matthew we find Jesus entering finally into Jerusalem to fulfill a prophecy by Zechariah. A closer look at this prophecy reveals a promise showing how God will accomplish His purposes:

Zechariah 9:8–11 – But I will camp around My house because of an army, Because of him who passes by and returns; And no oppressor will pass over them anymore, For now I have seen with My eyes. 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

So is Jesus climactic entrance really a “triumphal entry”? It is not an immediate triumph. Rather, it was a defeat of the Son of Man. He was seized, interrogated, beaten, tortured and finally, mercilessly put to death in the cruelest way. But  . . . because of this “defeat,” planned before the foundation of the world, the greatest triumph was possible. As Matthew hints, the true son of David will have dominion from sea to sea because of the blood of his new covenant. Jesus, though He appeared to all the world as a defeated crucified failure — a loser — by this death, brought in the judicial and official basis of the very victory of God. Jesus does triumph, but through the cross.

Child’s Catechism – How did Jesus triumph? Through His death on the cross.

Discussion – How do believers ultimately “win” their triumph? Is it similar or different to Christ’s triumph?

Prayer – Almighty Lord, we give your praise for the triumph of Jesus through the crown of thorns and the cross of Calvary. Grant that we may follow Him by giving of ourselves in service, obedience, and love in order that we may be found in His righteousness through faith. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Year A – Palm Sunday – Isaiah 50:4-9

Palm Sunday – Liturgy of the Word
Isaiah 50:4-9a: The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens- wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

Summary – Isaiah explains how God sustains him through the Word. Like a teacher, Isaiah is able to share this Word to help others. Each day Isaiah hears God’s voice. The next verses provide a Messianic image, fulfilled in the trial of Jesus: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” Yet this Messiah is determined and will be vindicated since the Lord is with Him. One can hear echoes of Paul in 1 Cor. 1 and Romans 8: 1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Romans 8:33 – “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.” This passage concludes with the picture that the enemies of Messiah will all pass away.

Insight – Have you ever looked carefully at a nice woven rug or a tapestry? There are usually recurring patterns. The Bible is full of patterns, too. This passage provides us with a pattern that is deeply woven into the experience of God’s people. Isaiah begins by receiving the Word from the Lord, then giving it to others. In so doing, Isaiah moves to reflect upon his own suffering for the sake of that Word. As he explains this, he moves into Messianic territory, prophesying the very events of Christ’s life. These events took place  in Christ’s trial and crucifixion. The pattern seems to be 1) receiving the Word. 2) Suffering because of the Word. And 3) Identification with Messiah. The apostles experienced a similar pattern. As they went out proclaiming the good news, they were often rejected and suffered (e.g., Acts 16 in Philippi), but as a result they knew more of Christ. One important application is that we grow in receiving God’s Word. That is, we should increase our intake of Scripture and listen for His voice as we do so. Then we will perhaps be able to harvest the fruit of that Word as we speak with  others. But remember that as you do so, you will likely experience some kind of persecution. Still, the result is a deeper experience of identifying with the One who was struck, beaten, spit upon, and finally crucified for you.

Child’s Catechism – How should we grow? By hearing more of God’s Word and sharing it with others.

Discussion – What are some ways that you could to know and grow in the Word even more?

Prayer – God of the covenant, in the glory of the cross your Son embraced the power of death and broke its hold over your people.In this time of repentance, draw all people to yourself, that we who confess Jesus as Lord may put aside the deeds of death and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.

All Glory, Laud, and Honor

All Glory, Laud, and Honor
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Blessed One.

The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans, always knew who was really in charge.  At one time a influential church leader in Charlemagne’s court, directing, writing and educating for the imperial state; at the end of his life he found himself locked in a monastery.  Charlemagne’s son, Louis the Pious did not trust the bishop once the king died.  It was during his years at the monastery, when earthy kings failed him, Theodulph wrote his hymn of praise to our heavenly King.  Originally in Latin, John Neale translated the English version we sing today.

Based on the Gospel accounts of the Triumphant entry.  The hymn remains a Palm Sunday processional after more than a millennium.  These words reflect the shouts and cheers of praises sung so long ago.  But, these praises came just before his death… as Christ, the royal Son of David entered Jerusalem two thousand years ago.  This Sunday we will join the angels, singing these praises in the presence of our resurrected Christ.

As Lent draws to a close, we should all be more aware of our dependence upon God.  But this hymn calls us to show great respect and gratitude for who God is and what He has done for us.   We can be as two faced and half-hearted as those who shouted two thousand years ago; and yet He has chosen to graciously acceptance our praises.

MW