ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – O Worship the Lord, Josh Snodgrass
- Welcome, Call to Worship, & Opening Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Praise Song – Welcome th King, People & Songs
- Prayers of the People – “Poured Out”, Adapted from Dr. Marciaa McFee, Worship Design Studios
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Ohle (Isaiah 50:4-9a, Philippians 2:5-11, Mark 14:1-11)
- Message: If We Only Knew Then What We Still Don’t Know Now – Rev. Ohle
- Anthem – Broken Things, Matthew West
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – O Worship the King, Josh Snodgrass
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Welcome! I’m Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church and I’m glad you’re here. It’s Sunday, March 28th in the year of our Lord.
Today, the 6th and final Sunday of Lent, is most often referred to as Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem amidst throngs of people waving palm fronds and shouting Hosanna, but more accurately known as Palm-slash-Passion Sunday.
In today’s message, “If we only knew then what we still don’t get now,” we’re going to look at that triumphant entry into Jerusalem and all that things that came with it … and so be sure you hang around to hear more.
We’ll get started in just a few more minutes, but I have a couple very brief announcements:
The “Union Grove Virtual Community Center” project is complete and is now live. Reservations to use the service can be made through our website on the “Contact Us” page. We are excited to be able to offer this free service to the community.
I’ve updated “Pray Act Give,” deciding to go with one theme of “Do no harm, do good, Love God” for the rest of 2021 and keep our focus on serving our wider local community. For those of you who are just joining us and/or unfamiliar with Pray Act Give, it works like this. First you pray for guidance and direction. Then you act on your prayers by finding or creating projects and activities based on what you discerned through your prayers. Lastly, you’re encouraged to look for opportunities to serve others by giving of yourself whether it be time, money, or talents.
You can access the information for our 2021 Pray Act Give on the website. The link is listed under Messages on the menu bar at the top.
Don’t forget that we have some special services coming this week. We’ll be observing communion for Maundy Thursday at 7:00 p.m. April 1. April 2 at 7:00, join us for a very special and moving Service of the Shadows. We’ll be offline on Saturday, April 3, as we pray and meditate in honor of keeping vigil at the tomb. Sunday, April 4, you can catch a special musical video at 7:00 a.m. here on Facebook or through our website. We’ll be back that morning at 11:00 a.m. to celebrate the risen Christ as we “Dare to Dance Again.”
And last, starting with this morning’s service, we will be setting aside our normal Order of Worship as we introduce elements of worship specific to this season of the Church. Speaking of which, you may want to pause the video now and retrieve a small amount of vegetable or olive oil from your kitchen. You’ll need it later in the video.
For those of you who prefer the regular Order of Worship, don’t worry. We’ll be returning to it April 11.
Now let us begin with a Call to Worship and prayer:
Good morning, God! Awaken us and be gracious unto us. Set our faces upon you like flint and open our ears to hear from you. Move us from being simply onlookers of Jesus to being worshipers of him.
We give you permission to empty us of that which needs to be evicted from our lives.
We come as your servants in need of you to break open the boxes that we
have tried to put you in, and extravagantly pour yourself out as oil upon us.
Help us not to judge those people and practices that we do not understand.
Teach us to not worry so much about standing up for you that we fail to stand with you.
May your Holy Spirit awaken us to worship beyond our comfort when our words will not suffice, and death has yet to fully behave.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Pastoral Prayer)
I will not be leading the prayer this morning. If you did not do so earlier, you may want to pause the video here and get a small amount of vegetable or olive oil from your kitchen for use during the video. Please also feel free to pause the video as needed in order to complete the suggested activities.
Come now to give God all glory, laud, and honor, and lay your prayers and petitions at His feet.
(The prayer portion of today’s service is available in the worship video only.)
We are people of One God and You are our God. God with Us who dwelt among us in the flesh as Jesus, we pray now the words You have given us through Jesus Christ, your son:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.”
Friends, hear the good news: God through Christ has remembered us with kindness and steadfast love. As far as east is from west, so has God removed our sins. Believe the gospel: in Christ you are forgiven.
Open our eyes, gracious Lord, as we turn now to your scriptures. We long to know you, to understand life, and to be changed. Examine us, Lord, by the floodlight of your truth. Open our hearts and minds to hear and understand.
In the name of our True Teacher, Jesus, Amen.
Today’s scriptures are taken from the New Revised Stndard Version and The Message.
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?
Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Mark 14:1-11 (NRSV)
It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.
But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way?
For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.
For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.
She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.
Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
May the word we have heard, Lord, be planted deeply in our minds and hearts. Help us not to walk away and forget it, but to meditate on it and obey it and, in doing so, build our lives on the rock of your truth.
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – If We Only Knew Then What We Still Don’t Know Now
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
The seething holy city of my heart,
The saviour comes. But will I welcome him?
Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
Changes their tune. I know what lies behind
The surface flourish that so quickly fades;
Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
The hardness of the heart, its barricades,
And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
Of a perverted temple. Jesus come …
Break my resistance and make me your home. (Malcom Guite, A Sonnet for Palm Sunday, malcolmguite.wordpress.com)
I would imagine most of you are remembering all those Palm Sunday services where the choir and maybe the whole congregation would enter the church waving palm fronds and shouting Hosanna! That’s my memories of Palm Sunday. Here we are, two thousand years later, and we still tend to view this day as a celebration. Hosanna in the highest, the King has arrived! Heysanna, hosanna, sanna, sanna, hosanna, heysanna, ho-san-na.
If we’d only known then what we still don’t get now …
Borrowing from an article by Rev. Dr. James C. Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, “We’ve made Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday cute, admirable, joyous – missing how laughable and even ridiculous it had to have been. A king on a little donkey, not a war stallion like Bucephalus (Alexander the Great’s mount) – a borrowed donkey at that.”
Think about who would have been there to welcome and follow Jesus on that ride. At least some of those in the crowd would most likely have been people like Bartimaeus who was recently healed by Jesus.
The people there weren’t armed, weren’t rich, and weren’t influential. They were the ancient equivalent of today’s dreamers and marginalized and working poor. People who had been overrun, beaten down, conquered, and were now under the authoritarian governance of a non-believing ruler that cared little about them or their needs or their God. Their usefulness to him was only about what he could glean from them through the collection of taxes to fund his projects, his aspirations, his wars, and his ego through projects he believed would immortalize his name. And anyway, according to him, he was a god.
I wonder what Caesar thought, what mental image came to his mind as his messengers brought back the accounts of the day’s events. Here was this upstart, radical, backwoods Jewish rabbi being greeted as if he were the de facto king … riding in from the east on a lowly burro, being cheered and greeted with shouted praises and adulation.
On the other hand, his legions would have reported being met with silent frightened, resentful, and even angry stares as they marched, under the command of Pilate, Caesarea on the coast to Jerusalem to intimidate the citizens of Jerusalem and to secure the city overcrowded at Passover. His stomping regiments, with arms clattering and banners waving high, heading east into the city could not have found a greater contrast than Jesus, donkey hooves clomping on the stone, children holding leafy branches in the air, heading west into the city. The perpetual clash of good and evil coming to its climax.
The Scribes and Pharisees, and possibly some of their Temple guards may have been present among the crowds the lined the road Jesus was taking. Unable or unwilling to open their hearts and minds to his prophetic message or the cries of those shouting hosanna, they would have been singularly focused, watching for anything Jesus or his followers might do that violated any of the rules they had constructed to keep people in line, rules based on their own interpretations of the scriptures over the centuries.
If we’d only known then what we still don’t get now …
If today’s service included a children’s moment, I might consider helping the kids think about the significance of the burro Jesus rode … “an animal of peace fit only for burden and labor.” We might talk about how choosing to ride the burro showed that Jesus didn’t come to frighten anyone, to threaten anyone, but only to help people and carry their burdens for them. We might even have ventured into what that young burro, one of God’s creatures, might have been thinking or felt like, knowing that he had the honor and privilege of carrying the King. God’s creatures are, after all, far more intuitive than we humans realize … more intuitive than the average human, for that matter. We might talk about whether the burro might have stepped a bit more lively and proud because he was carrying Jesus, surprising the folks who tend to label burros as slow, plodding, and stubborn, and how, for the rest of its natural life, the memory that it carried the King would have sustained and refreshed it when the subsequent burdens it was asked to carry weighed it down to the point of wanting to just lay down and give up.
If we’d only known then what we still don’t get now …
We could think about what was going through the minds of the disciples as they walked along beside him. Some may have been worried they were drawing too much attention to themselves, some may have been overjoyed to finally be free to share freely who their teacher really was. And at least one may have begun to silently question whether things had begun to go to far, to spin out of control and Jesus was now crossing a line.
If we only knew then what we still don’t get now.
What might that crowd have been thinking as they cried out Hosanna and waved those leafy branches? As I mentioned before, our modern day recreation of that procession tends to be joyful … laughing, smiling, happy faces waving palm branches marching merrily into the sanctuary …
If only we understood that our … and their … shouts of “Hosanna!” weren’t cheers, but a prayer, a cry for help meaning “Save us now!” To quote Rev. Howell again, it’s “Hard to beat the wisdom inside Jesus Christ Superstar’s “Hosanna Heysanna…” with the crowd’s escalating appeals to Jesus: Won’t you smile for me? Won’t you fight for me? Won’t you die for me?” All their lives and the lives of the generations before them, they expected the Messiah to arrive on a warhorse in full armor leading legions of angels who would finally and completely free them from the oppression of whoever was ruling them … not the Prince of Peace vision they got. Their thoughts must have been rocking back and forth between excited jubilation and a gnawing hunch about the agony the Holy One will suffer over the coming week.
If we’d only known then what we still don’t get now.
Howard Thurman speculated for us about what might have been going through Christ’s mind that day:
“I wonder what was at work in the mind of Jesus of Nazareth as he jogged along on the back of that faithful donkey. Perhaps his mind was far away to the scenes of his childhood, feeling the sawdust between his toes in his father’s shop. He may have been remembering the high holy days in the synagogue with his whole body quickened by the echo of the ram’s horn. Or perhaps he was thinking of his mother, how deeply he loved her and how he wished that there had not been laid upon him this Great Necessity that sent him out on to the open road to proclaim the Truth, leaving her side forever. It may be that he lived all over again that high moment on the Sabbath when he was handed the scroll and he unrolled it to the great passage from Isaiah, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach good news to the poor.’ I wonder what was moving through the mind of the Master as he jogged along on the back of that faithful donkey.”
If we only knew then what he already knew … and we still don’t get now.
In three days’ time, Jesus would be sitting down at the home of Simon the leper and a woman would come with an alabaster jar of a costly ointment which she broke open and poured on Jesus’ head. The passage from Mark told us of the ensuing efforts of some of the disciples to rebuke her for wasting the ointment, declaring the jar unbroken could have been sold for a significant amount of money that could then be used to help the poor. What must have been going through Judas’ mind as he argued with his Teacher? Was he so full of self-righteousness about his admonition of the woman’s actions that he didn’t hear what Jesus was telling them … that the woman was preparing him for his burial? When he left them to go to the chief priests to arrange Jesus’ arrest, did he realize the role he would be playing in Jesus’ eventual death?
Hosanna, heysanna, sanna sanna hosanna heysanna hosanna … hey, JC, JC, would you die for me?
If we only knew then what he already knew … what he was willing to do … for us … no matter how much he would have wished there was another way … asked his Father that night in the garden to take the cup away then … and conceded to God’s will not his own … and we still don’t really get.
He taught us and told us over and over again, his words, his lessons carefully recalled and recorded by his disciples and still we don’t get it now any better than the crowds who followed him into Jerusalem did when they turned on him that fateful Friday … when their cries of “Hosanna” turned into zealous shouts of “Crucify him” … when they … given the chance to choose between saving him and saving a thief named Barabbas … chose the thief.
There before them was the Son of God, God who had rescued their ancestors from a life of oppression and slavery in Egypt, God who provided them over and over again as they wandered forty years in the wilderness before he led them into the promised land, God who forgave them over and over and over again despite their constant failure to live up to and keep the covenant He made with them … and they chose the thief.
The passage from Philippians is called the Christ Poem describing the nature of Christ and what he did for us:
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard being equal with God something to be grasped after.
But he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, and coming in the likeness of humans.
And being found in appearance as a human, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death— even death on a cross.
Therefore God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.
And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
That poem … that early hymn … summed up what Jesus had taught us both through his messages and lessons and even more so through his actions while he lived among us. To empty ourselves of self so that He can live in us. To be living examples of what and who he is.
And that’s the part we don’t get.
Oh, we try. We make concerted efforts, especially during the high seasons of the church like Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmastide. We gather in front of our video screens to worship for an hour a week.
But between those hours, we too often slip back into old habits. We stay silent even though we watch the oppression of our sisters and brothers daily on the news. We forget we are people of one God as we worry and work and plan to acquire more and more and more things without knowing or caring about the costs those things may cause others or God’s creation around the world. Through our failure to just do the simple things he taught us … to love one another as he loves us … we continually choose Barabbas over and over again.
If we only knew then what we still don’t get now … Hosanna heysanna sanna sanna hosanna heysanna hosanna … hey, JC, JC … Lord please forgive me …
With his last breaths he pleas to his Father to forgive us. And we are saved by that grace through faith … the faith we will find and embrace in the coming week as we move through the agony of the Passion to the hope and promise and defeat of death in his resurrection.
He called us to go forth, to carry the Good News to all nations, and to make disciples. Going forth must begin and it must begin today. To stand up for our brothers and sisters. To speak truth to power when power becomes corrupt. To love our neighbors. To share the good news through our actions. To empty ourselves of self and allow him to live in us and through us.
Those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna!” (Mark 11:9)
“Save us, we beg you!”
Save us, God, from worldly empire that would take us from the realm of your grace.
Save us from all evil and oppression.
Save us from our own evil, known and unknown.
For we wave palm branches that soon enough will become ashes in our hands, as we cry, Crucify!”
Hosanna! Save us, we beg you.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Thank you, again, for worshipping with me today. If you can, please consider making your weekly offering just as if we were meeting in person. The information for doing so will be on your screen in just a moment.
Now hear this benediction:
Now you have waved your palms at him. Now you have followed him on the parade route. You have seen Jesus for yourself. You know that he is real. Go forth and continue to see him in the world! Go where he goes and do what he commands. And may the peace of God rule and abide with you now and forever! Amen.
Stay safe folks. Wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, get your COVID vaccination as soon as you’re eligible, really truly love your neighbors … even the ones you’d rather not. And remember … Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
God be with you. Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord in the name of Christ.
- Closing prayer – Hosanna, Steven Garnaas-Holmes
- Benediction – B. Kevin Smalls
Even though we can’t meet together in person, the church still has expenses that need to be met. If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through the online service provided by Holston Conference. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove.
Just visit http://www.holston.org/churchoffering, and follow the instruction for making your offering. When asked, please choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC Blount – Friendsville.
If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:
Smoky Mountain District
PO Box 905
Alcoa TN 37701-0905
Please be sure to make your checks payable to Smoky Mountain District and write “Union Grove UMC Friendsville” on the memo line!