Thursday, April 14, 2011

Worship for Palm Sunday - 2011

Thursday after the Fifth Sunday in Lent
April 14, 2011

The Lord be with you

A “Lectionary” is nothing more than a series of readings from the Bible assigned to be read on specific days. In general there are two broad groups of lectionaries. One is a continuous lectionary which seeks to move through a book (or most of a book), or the entire Bible (or most of the Bible), by assigning specific readings for each day. Such lectionaries typically do not take into account the seasons of the Church Year. You might be reading about the birth of Jesus in the middle of August and about the first Pentecost at the end of December. The other type of lectionary you might call seasonal. It seeks to pay close attention to the Church Year. So you will always be reading about the birth of Jesus at the end of December and about Pentecost fifty days after Easter.

For history buffs, the continuous lectionaries were first developed in the monasteries. At least in the Benedictine Monasteries, the brothers would spend six hours of the day in “prayer.” “Prayer” here is more comprehensive than simply pouring out whatever is on your heart to the Lord. It includes singing, reading, and so forth. The Prayer Services in our hymnal, like Matins and Vespers, come from this tradition. The seasonal lectionaries were developed in the cathedrals and were designed with non-ordained people in mind. The main service of the day, with the Lord’s Supper, follows this tradition.

Today most liturgical churches typically use a seasonal lectionary which has assigned readings for each Sunday plus other important days like Christmas, Good Friday, and the like. At Lamb of God we use a Three-Year Lectionary which was developed by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Most of our churches use it. However there is a sizeable minority that uses the One-Year Lectionary that was developed by our denomination. This lectionary is basically the same one found in The Lutheran Hymnal, but has Old Testament lessons added. There are really quite a few differences between the Three-Year and the One-Year lectionaries. For example the One-Year Lectionary retains the old Introits, so the old names for the Sundays still make sense. The One-Year Lectionary also maintains things like the Pre-Lenten Sundays (Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima) and the season of Trinity. These elements are missing from the Three-Year Lectionary. Finally, a smaller percentage of our churches use the Revised Common Lectionary. This is also a Three-Year Lectionary which is very similar to the one developed by the LC-MS. The main attraction to this lectionary series is that there is a great wealth of sermonic aids available. This is true because it is used across denominational lines.

One of the advantages of a Three-Year Lectionary is that it can incorporate features of a continuous lectionary. So, in ours, most of the Gospel lessons in Series A come from Matthew, most of the Gospel lessons in Series B come from Mark, and most of the Gospel lessons in Series C come from Luke. John is use in all three series to supplement with material not found in the first three Gospels (which have many similarities). You will also find continuous readings in the Epistle lessons, and sometime the Old Testament lesson.

One of the disadvantages, in my opinion, is that is has in places caved-in to the secularization of our society. It is generally true that fewer people attend mid-week services. This means that services held on days like Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have fewer worshipers. The compilers of the Three-Year Lectionary rightly understood that Easter is rather meaningless without Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. In stead of hoping and praying that people would attend such services, they simply put it all on the Sunday before Easter. This Sunday used to be called Palm Sunday. Now it is called Sunday of the Passion. The assigned readings cover everything from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday (Easter Eve).

I have, long ago, discovered that this is just far too much material to cover adequately in one Sunday service (not to mention that the readings are so long that the time for the sermon is severely restricted). So, for this one Sunday in the Church Year, I revert to the old One-Year lectionary, using the Old Testament lesson found in the new One-Year lectionary. All this is to say, while most of the churches in the LC-MS will be celebrating the Sunday of the Passion this coming Sunday, at Lamb of God we will be celebrating Palm Sunday.

What about the concern of skipping over Maundy Thursday and Good Friday? Well we will have these services on their regular days according to the Church Year. Our members are STRONGLY encouraged to attend them. The issue that drove the adoption of the Sunday of the Passion still exists. Without the events of Holy Week Easter almost becomes just an excuse to buy new clothing and have breakfast at church. Easter is soooo much more that that! So I encourage all who read this blog, whether they live in Spartanburg or across the ocean, to attend the mid-week services in their area as they prepare of Easter.

Our lessons for Sunday will be Zechariah 9:9-12, Philippians 2:5-11, and John 12:12-19. We will be using Psalm 92 for our Introit. The sermon, titled “Welcome Your King,” will have John 12:13 as its text. We will be using a specially designed liturgy and the regular liturgical songs will be replaced with hymns. We also will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

Our opening hymn will be “All Glory Laud and Honor” (LSB 442). Our hymn of praise will be “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” (LSB 443). In stead of the normal verse between the Epistle Lesson and the Gospel Lesson, we will sing verse one of “Life Up Your Heads, O Gates” (LSB 341). The sermon hymn will be “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty” (LSB 441). The offertory hymn will be “Let the Vineyards be Fruitful, Lord” (LSB 955). The confirmation hymn will be “Thine Forever, God of Love” (LSB 687). For our Sanctus we will use “Holy, Holy, Holy” (LSB 507). Our distribution hymns will be the rest of “Lift Up You Heads, O Gates,” and “Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord” (LSB 637). Our closing hymn will be a look forward to Holy Week, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (LSB 425).

Another special feature for this coming Sunday will be the reception of Christina Mullinax into communicant membership. This will be the culmination of a two-year study for her. In her confirmation Christina will be affirming the faith the Lord gave her in her baptism and pledging to remain faithful to her Lord. This will happen after the offering is received and before the general prayers. It is a big day for her and Lamb of God. Part of the celebration will include a covered-dish lunch after the service, to which everyone is invited.

Below is a video of our sermon hymn, “Ride on, Ride on, in Majesty” being sung by the members of Messiah Lutheran, a Wisconsin church that is a member congregation of the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). The CLC was founded in 1960 by member congregations of the former Synodical Conference. It has about 75 congregations.

Our Sunday morning adult Bible study is continuing its study of the Gospel of Matthew. This week we should finish chapter three (the baptism of Jesus) and maybe get into chapter four (Jesus tempted in the wilderness). Our Education Hour begins at 9:00 AM and everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Zechariah 9:9-12: Zechariah was active from 520 to 480 BC. This puts him after the return of the exiles from the Babylonian Captivity. In this prophecy he foresees our Lord’s Palm Sunday arrival into Jerusalem, and describes his reign in terms of righteousness and salvation. This reign is established by the “blood of my covenant,” which points towards the cross of Christ.

Philippians 2:5-11: Paul urges us to have the mind of Christ. He explains exactly what he means by this by summarizing the life work of Jesus, who willingly and purposefully gave up everything for us. Because Jesus was obedient unto death the Father highly exalted him. All too often we want the exaltation without the obedience. We want to be served, not to serve others. But that is not the way of the Kingdom of our Lord. Christ entered his glory after his death. Paul says, have this mind among yourselves.

John 2:12-19:
This is the traditional Palm Sunday Gospel lesson. Jesus enters Jerusalem and a great buzz is in the air. This is true, in part, because Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the grave. John is the only Gospel that mentions “palm branches.” The other Gospel writers, while telling us of branches, do not tell us what trees the branches were taken from. The Pharisees continue to fear Jesus and his great popularity. They serve as a reminder that miracles do not create faith. Faith is a gift of God, a gift these men refused.


• There will be a pot-luck luncheon after church Sunday as we celebrate the confirmation of Christian Mullinax.
• May newsletter information is due Sunday.
• We have several special worship services this week:
  • On Wednesday we conclude our trip through holy week, hearing about the rest of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Services are again at 12:15 & 7:00 PM.
  • On Thursday we will have two Maundy Thursday Communion services, one at 12:15 and the second at 7:00 PM. The evening service will conclude with the traditional stripping of the altar.
  • On Good Friday the sanctuary will be open from noon to 3:00 PM. These are the hours of darkness while Jesus was on the cross. Material is provided for prayer and meditation. At 7:00 PM we will have our traditional Tenebrae service (service of darkness).
  • On Saturday we will join with other area LC-MS congregations for the Easter Vigil service. The service begins at 8:00 PM, and will be at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Greenville.
  • Next Sunday is Easter. We will not have the adult Bible study. Instead we will have breakfast, prepared by our men. The worship service will be at our regular time, 10:30 AM. This will be a Communion service.
• On Saturday, April 23, our cubs will be going to Walnut Grove Plantation and participating in “Militia Days.” This is a focus on the roll the plantation played in the Revolutionary War and what life was like back them.

Well, I pray I will see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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