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Sermon and Liturgy for The Sixth Sunday in Lent - Year A
Palm / Passion Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:45-54, 27:11-54
"Reconciliation Day"


READING:  Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:45-54, 27:11-54
SERMON :  "Reconciliation Day"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-le06sesn 828
                   
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)
                            

WORDS OF WELCOME:
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.


* HYMN: "All Glory, Laud and Honour"                     - VU 122


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Loving God - we come into your presence this day to give you thanks
and praise for your steadfast love - that love shown to us through
Jesus when he entered into Jerusalem to give his life for us.  Help
us remember, O God, as worship you this day why it was that he
suffered - and reconcile us to you and to each other as you have
reconciled us to yourself by the cross.  We ask this grace in the
name of  Jesus.  Amen.


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS


RESPONSIVE READING - THE PALMS (Matthew 21:1-11)
L  As they approached Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage on the
   Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to
   them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you
   will find a colt tied there which no one has ever ridden. Untie
   it and bring it to me.  If anyone says anything to you say,
   'The Lord needs it.', and he will send it immediately."
P  This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the
   prophet when he said; "Look, your king is coming to you,
   humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a
   donkey."
L  The disciples went and did as Jesus directed them.  They
   brought the colt and put their cloaks on it and Jesus sat on
   it.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and
   others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
P  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."
L  When Jesus entered Jerusalem the whole city was in a turmoil,
   asking, "Who is this?"
P  The crowds were saying, 
   "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."
L  This is the gospel of our Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "He Came Riding On A Donkey"                    VU - 124


CHILDREN'S TIME: "Welcome Jesus"
Object:   None
Theme:    Welcoming Jesus Into Our Lives
Source:   Modified From "The Whole People of God" Theme Conversation 
          For March 28 1999

Good morning.  We just heard the story and sang a song about how
people welcomed Jesus into the city of Jerusalem on the first day
of the week in which he ended being betrayed and crucified.   The 
welcome they gave him was very loud - and very joyful.  People
shouted "Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest" and they waved palm
leaves and spread them - and their coats and other pieces of
clothing upon the ground over which he and the donkey would go.  It
was very special greeting for a very special person.  It was the
way that people did things at the time of Jesus - almost two
thousand years ago.

If someone very special was to come to visit you in your house what
would you and your family do  to welcome him or her?  Say it was a
grandmother who you hadn't seen for a long time - or a very dear
friend of the family?  What kind of things happen when company
comes from away?   (hugs and kisses, stand in the driveway to seem
the drive in; throw open the door wide, put a banner saying
welcome, prepare a special meal, have a party, clear out a room for
them to stay in).

If the person was a member of the royal family, or a new baby, or
a movie star, what are some of the  things you might do (have a
parade, give flowers and chocolates, announce it in the newspaper,
etc).

There are many ways to welcome someone special.  It doesn't really
matter how it is done.  What really matters is the feeling behind
the welcome - feelings of love - and feelings of belonging.   This
is really how Jesus wants us to welcome him today   not just with
palm branches and songs and hurrays, but also with love in our
hearts, for God and for one another.  It's how Jesus welcomes us,
with arms wide open, and with a feeling of everyone belonging
together as part of God's family - as a part of his family.

Today you each have been given a palm cross   I want you to keep it
as a reminder of how people welcomed Jesus as their King and their
Friend with palm leaves so many years ago, and as reminder of how
Jesus was so special - that he gave his life for us on the cross. 
Let us welcome Jesus in our hearts now with a prayer and another
song.

LET US PRAY TOGETHER   Dear Lord Jesus   We are so glad you
   are here with us   and we greet you with love in our hearts
   we thank you for all that have done for us   and all that
   you will yet do   Help us to love one another   as you love
   us.    Amen


* HYMN:   "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna"                       - VU -122


PASSION LITANY
L  Let us consider in silence the welcome that we give to Jesus.
P  We think, now O Christ, of how we receive you into our lives
   day by day.
   .......... (silent meditation) ..........
L  We have sung of the welcome given to Jesus in Jerusalem.  Yet
   Jesus knew from the first that  he was going up to the city to
   die for his people.
P  From the beginning of time his death was written upon the heart
   of God.
L  Hear the prophet Isaiah speak for the one who would suffer and
   die for us.
P  From the beginning of time his death was written upon the heart
   of God.


A READING FROM ISAIAH 50:4-9a
   (NRSV) 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 backward.  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?

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


CHOIR ANTHEM:


PASSION LITANY
L  The heart of a person cannot be trusted.  All are sinful.  All
   are weak.  Those who welcomed Jesus turned on him.  One who
   believed in He was the Son of God, denied him three times.  One
   who followed him day by day betrayed him.  Yet he came to us,
   knowing this - he came to us knowing who we are.
P  From the beginning of time his death was written upon the heart
   of God.
L  Hear the record of his betrayal as he prayed in the garden.
P  From the beginning of time his death was written upon the heart
   of God.


A READING FROM MATTHEW 26:45-54
   (NRSV)  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are
   you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at
   hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
   {46} Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand."
   {47} While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve,
   arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from
   the chief priests and the elders of the people. {48} Now the
   betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss is
   the man; arrest him." {49} At once he came up to Jesus and
   said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him. {50} Jesus said to
   him, "Friend, do what you are here to do." Then they came and
   laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. {51} Suddenly, one of
   those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck
   the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. {52} Then
   Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all
   who take the sword will perish by the sword. {53} Do you think
   that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me
   more than twelve legions of angels? {54} But how then would the
   scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?"

L  This is the gospel of our Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


PASSION LITANY
L  The record is clear - the wood of the manger in which the
   Christ child was laid was but a prelude for the wood upon which
   he would die.  The humble stable in which he was born because
   there was no room for him in the inn, but a foreshadowing of
   the strangers tomb in which he would be buried.  
P  From the beginning of time his death was written upon the heart
   of God.
L  Let us hear the record of how he became one of us - but we
   received him not; the story of how  the innocent one was tried
   and condemned and killed - so that the guilty might live.
P  From the beginning of time his death was written upon the heart
   of God.


A READING FROM MATTHEW 27:11-54
      (NRSV)   Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor
   asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You say
   so." {12} But when he was accused by the chief priests and
   elders, he did not answer. {13} Then Pilate said to him, "Do
   you not hear how many accusations they make against you?" {14}
   But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that
   the governor was greatly amazed. {15} Now at the festival the
   governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd,
   anyone whom they wanted. {16} At that time they had a notorious
   prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. {17} So after they had
   gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release
   for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?"
   {18} For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had
   handed him over. {19} While he was sitting on the judgment
   seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that
   innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of
   a dream about him." {20} Now the chief priests and the elders
   persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus
   killed. {21} The governor again said to them, "Which of the two
   do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas."
   {22} Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Jesus who
   is called the Messiah?" All of them said, "Let him be
   crucified!" {23} Then he asked, "Why, what evil has he done?"
   But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!" {24} So
   when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a
   riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands
   before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood;
   see to it yourselves." {25} Then the people as a whole
   answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" {26} So he
   released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed
   him over to be crucified. {27} Then the soldiers of the
   governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they
   gathered the whole cohort around him. {28} They stripped him
   and put a scarlet robe on him, {29} and after twisting some
   thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed
   in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying,
   "Hail, King of the Jews!" {30} They spat on him, and took the
   reed and struck him on the head. {31} After mocking him, they
   stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then
   they led him away to crucify him. {32} As they went out, they
   came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this
   man to carry his cross. {33} And when they came to a place
   called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), {34} they
   offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted
   it, he would not drink it. {35} And when they had crucified
   him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots;
   {36} then they sat down there and kept watch over him. {37}
   Over his head they put the charge against him, which read,
   "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." {38} Then two bandits
   were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
   {39} Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads {40}
   and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in
   three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down
   from the cross." {41} In the same way the chief priests also,
   along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,
   {42} "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King
   of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will
   believe in him. {43} He trusts in God; let God deliver him now,
   if he wants to; for he said, 'I am God's Son.'" {44} The
   bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the
   same way. {45} From noon on, darkness came over the whole land
   until three in the afternoon. {46} And about three o'clock
   Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?"
   that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" {47} When
   some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "This man is
   calling for Elijah." {48} At once one of them ran and got a
   sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave
   it to him to drink. {49} But the others said, "Wait, let us see
   whether Elijah will come to save him." {50} Then Jesus cried
   again with a loud voice and breathed his last. {51} At that
   moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to
   bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. {52} The
   tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had
   fallen asleep were raised. {53} After his resurrection they
   came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to
   many. {54} Now when the centurion and those with him, who were
   keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took
   place, they were terrified and said, "Truly this man was God's
   Son!"

L  This is the gospel of our Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "Ride On, Ride On"                              - VU 127


SERMON: "Reconciliation Day"

   "Gracious God - bless now the words of my lips and the
   meditations of our hearts.   Amen.

The cross of Christ - is many things -
it is a symbol of shame and scandal,
an instrument of torture
a barbaric punishment,
a sign of human brutality and sin.

But for Christians it is something more  - 
it is  - for all the guilt - all the shame - and all the horror
that attaches itself to it - a symbol of love.
      - The symbol of God's love for us.
      - The symbol of Christ's love -
      - The symbol of reconciliation between God and us,
      - and a symbol of our willingness to be reconciled  to each
   other.

I want to tell you a story of reconciliation today  
- a personal story.

In 1993, while Charlene and I were living in Ontario, Charlene's
brother Ian phoned us from his home in Halifax.  He called to
apologize to his sister for how he had treated her over the
previous five years.

There had a been a falling out in the family; 
A very serious falling out,
and Ian, who had many problems at the time, cut off his sister.

The last few times she had heard from him - he had called to
threaten her, to tell her that he would get her - that she would
pay for all that he thought she had done to him.

So when Ian called to apologize we didn't really know what to make
of it.  In many ways he sounded like he always sounded - boastful -
arrogant - and confused.

He called back a couple of times in the next three weeks to talk.
He called very late at night - and talked about all his plans and
how he was making a new beginning.   The conversations were not
encouraging to us.  Other family members suggested that we watch
out.

The third time he called, he told us that he was going be in
Toronto on Friday, April 2nd - and  could we please come down to
have supper with him before he went on to Vancouver by train.

We did not know what to do.  Ian had caused us a lot of grief. 
Neither Charlene or I trusted him.  Furthermore - we had a dinner
appointment for that Friday night with some very dear friends, an
appointment that had been planned a couple of months ahead of time,
an appointment that both they and we wanted to keep very much.

We told Ian we would call back about seeing him 
- that we had to make some arrangements,
and then, after hanging up Charlene and I confessed to each other
we did not know what to do.

So we set out a fleece before God.

We prayed to God - as did Gideon before the threshing floor, and we
told God that if he wanted us to see Ian that he would cancel our
appointment for us and that if he wanted to stay home - that our
plans would remain undisturbed.

That was on the Monday night before the Friday when Ian was due to
arrive in Toronto.

On the Thursday night I arrived home to find a phone message.

The message was that the person we were going to see had three
clients coming in to see her late Friday evening and she would have
to cancel our engagement.

So on Friday afternoon we loaded up the car and headed into
Toronto.

We had a fantastic time.  
We discovered a changed Ian, 
   he wasn't perfect; but for the first time in many years he was
   pleasant to be around, 
he showed care and concern for us and for others in the family,
   he told us the past was past - and he hoped that we would
   forgive as he was trying to forgive.

We said that we would.

We then had a good dinner and after supper we returned to his
hotel.

At the hotel Ian gave us pictures of his new daughter and Charlene
in turn dug around in her purse and pulled out a newspaper clipping
and gave it to Ian with the words - "I cut this out a year ago or
so and I want you to have it."

It was a letter to Ann Landers - which goes like this:

   Dear Ann Landers - I've suddenly become aware that the years
   are flying by.  Time somehow seems more precious.  My
   parents suddenly seem old.  My aunts and uncles are sick. 
   I haven't seen some of my cousins for several years.  I love
   my family Ann, but we've grown apart.

   Then my thoughts turn to the dark side.  I remember the
   feelings I've hurt, and  I recall my own hurt feelings - the
   misunderstandings and unmended fences that separated us and
   set up barriers.

   I think of my mother and her sister, who haven't spoken to
   each other in five years.  As result of that argument my
   cousin and I haven't spoken either.  What a waste of
   precious time.

   Wouldn't it be terrific if a special day could be set aside
   to reach out and make amends.  We could call it
   "Reconciliation Day".   Everyone would vow to write a letter
   or make a phone call and mend a strained or broken
   relationship.  It could also be the day on which we would
   all agree to accept the olive branch extended by  a former
   friend.  This day could be the starting place.  We could go
   on from here to heal the wounds in our hearts and rejoice in
   a brand new beginning.  Signed - Van Nuys.

Ann's response was this - "This is a great idea.  I propose that
every year at this time we do just that - that we celebrate
"Reconciliation Day"  and pick up the phone or write a letter that
will bring joy to someone who might be in pain.. 

Ian read the article and then pointed out to us something that
neither of us had noticed when Charlene gave it to him.  The letter
was dated - April 2nd 1992, a year ago to that very day.

God works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.
We do not always understand what God is about,
or why God does things just as he does.

But the cross of Christ which draws us all here today is, no matter
what else it might be, a sign of reconciliation.

The cross is God's way of reaching out to us - and making things
right.  It was and is God's way of showing us forgiveness, of
giving us a new beginning, a beginning from which we can go on and
heal the wounds in our hearts and in the hearts of others.

God's "Reconciliation Day" is the day we call Good Friday, the day
on which Jesus called out from the cross - Forgive them Father -
they know not what they  do."

My friends - the good news is  that the Father has forgiven us -
That is what the cross is all about
That is what Jesus laid down his life for
This is what Jesus came to do.

Accept what God has given you through Jesus Christ our Lord,
and rejoice my friends,
- rejoice in the new life which his death bestows upon those who
desire it,
- rejoice that he who was treated as a stranger and a criminal in
our midst, receives us as his family,
- rejoice that he came and accepted death, even death on a cross,
so that we might be reconciled to God - and to one another.

Rejoice, and when this service is over, go:
go and call someone
call them and show to them the forgiveness that you have received,
reach out your hands across the walls that divide you from someone,
as Christ has reached out to you.

Blessed be his name, now and evermore.  Amen


----  Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Lent 6 - Year A 
for a different prayer or meditation with which to conclude the sermon 
and/or lead into the prayer time below.


Let us pray - Dear Lord God - we know something of the suffering
that Christ experienced for us - for we know in our lives the pain
of hatred and rejection and betrayal.  We are not innocent O Lord,
but we thank you and praise you for the fact that we are forgiven. 
We thank you - and we ask you help, O God, in forgiving others and
in breaking down the walls that divide us one from another. Amen


CONFESSION OF FAITH (Philippians 2:5-11)
L  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  
P  Who, being in the form of God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
   but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, 
   being made in human likeness.  
L  And being found in appearance as a man, 
   he humbled himself and became obedient to death 
   - even death on a cross.  
P  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place 
   and gave him the name that is above every name,   
   that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,  
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
   and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
   to the glory of God the Father.


* HYMN: When I Survey The Wondrous Cross                 - VU 149


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER: 
God of grace - we rejoice today with humble hearts as we celebrate
your love.  We thank you for how Jesus did not count equality with
you a thing to be held onto - but instead emptied himself and came
unto us as a servant to reconcile us to you.  Help us we pray O God
to show such love to one another in his name.  Bind us together and
heal our wounds, especially  the wounds that exist within our own
families...  Lord hear our prayer....

God of mercy - we remember how the disciples slept while Jesus was
in agony.  Give to us not only spirits willing to help others - but
the strength of mind and body as well... Lord hear our prayer.... 

God of truth - we remember how Pilate allowed the passions of the
crowd to rule him.  We pray to you Lord - be with the leaders of
our nation and our world - that they may rule according to the
principles of justice and truth, rather than according to that
which is popular or approved of by polls and statistics... Lord
hear our prayer....

God of compassion - we  pray to you as well today for all those who
suffer unjustly - for the hungry and the homeless, for those who
are persecuted and reviled for their truth telling, for those who
afflicted by war and human terror.  Give to them the victory of
your son Jesus Christ... Lord hear our prayer...

O God - we thank you for the peace you have made with us by the
blood of the cross.  Move in us in such a way that we never, in
weakness or in willfulness - deny what you have done.  Help us to
love one another as you have loved us - and to act in such a way
that all people may  give glory unto the name of our saviour -
Jesus Christ our Lord - he who taught us to pray together saying
"Our Father..."


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541)
and Prayer of Dedication

   O Lord, you offered yourself to us a servant - giving to us
   everything you had - even your life.   Accept now that which
   we offer in your service - bless it and every work of our
   hearts and our hands  that they  may be fruitful in the work
   of your kingdom.  We ask this in your name.  Amen


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
   go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of
   God, the body of Christ.
                                 
                      
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace
and may  the fullness of God's grace through our Lord Jesus Christ 
rest upon each and everyone of you 
and produce within you the fruit of his holy obedience 
- to the glory of God the Father - both now - and forevermore. 
Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons..


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