Year A
Palm/Passion Sunday
(Sixth Sunday in Lent)

5 April 2020

Eucharistic Preface

Let us lift up our hearts.
    We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
    It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is indeed right to give you our thanks and praise, O God,
for you alone are good and your steadfast love is forever.

The creation of the world was your doing
and is a marvel to our eyes.
Your prophets told of the coming one
who would teach your ways
and sustain us with your word.

Your son, Jesus, though one with you
gave up all he had,
taking on human flesh,
and walking the path of obedience
all the way to insult, betrayal and death,
trusting only in your vindication.
Though he was rejected by those who had cheered him,
you made him the cornerstone of new life
and raised him to the highest place of honour.
He has opened the gates of justice
and become our salvation,
so with shouts of joy we greet his appearing,
and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord
to your glory forever.

Therefore with .....

©2002 Nathan Nettleton

Short Preface
(for insertion into Eucharistic prayers with fixed prefaces)

We thank you for your son, Jesus Christ,
who, giving up all he had
and walking the path of obedience
all the way to insult, betrayal and death,
opened the gates of justice
and become our salvation.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton

General Prayer of Thanksgiving
(Preface reformatted for use apart from communion)

We give you all thanks and praise, O God,
for you alone are good and your steadfast love is forever.

The creation of the world was your doing
and is a marvel to our eyes.
Your prophets told of the coming one
who would teach your ways
and sustain us with your word.

Your son, Jesus, though one with you
gave up all he had,
taking on human flesh,
and walking the path of obedience
all the way to insult, betrayal and death,
trusting only in your vindication.
Though he was rejected by those who had cheered him,
you made him the cornerstone of new life
and raised him to the highest place of honour.
He has opened the gates of justice
and become our salvation,
so with shouts of joy we greet his appearing,
and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord
to your glory forever.

Therefore, with our hearts lifted high,
we offer you thanks and praise at all times
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton

Declaration of Grace / Absolution

The Lord who vindicates you is near.
God has heard your confessions
and you will not be put to shame.
With the Lord God as your help
no one can declare you guilty.

Sisters and Brothers,
    your sins are forgiven;
        be at peace.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton

Commission & Benediction

Go now and follow Christ in obedience.
Have the same mind as was in Christ Jesus;
Keep your ears open to God’s teaching;
Be humble, even in the face of hostility
and do not turn back.

And may God help you and keep you from disgrace;
May Christ Jesus lead you through the gates of justice;
And may the Holy Spirit keep you in God’s steadfast love
and fill your mouths with praise to the glory of God.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
    In the name of Christ. Amen.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton

Paraphrases of the Scripture Lections
for Palm/Passion Sunday - Year A - 5 April 2020
Lections from The Revised Common Lectionary.
Copyright 1992 by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT)
P. O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville, TN 37203-0003, USA. Used with Permission.

Liturgy of the Palms

* Matthew 21: 1-11

   Jesus and his followers were getting close Jerusalem. Their last stop was just outside the twin townships of Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of his followers into the township, saying, “As soon as you get into the main street you’ll see two donkeys tied up to a fence; a female and her awkward looking colt that has not yet even been ridden. Collect them and bring them to me. If anyone questions you, just tell them that the boss needs them, and they will let you take them.”
    These events again shed new light on what the prophet had said:

    “Broadcast this to the people of Jerusalem.
    Look, here comes your king!
        He doesn’t big-note himself,
        but comes riding a simple donkey,
            and a baby one at that!”

    So they did as Jesus had told them and brought the donkeys to him. They made improvised saddles from items of spare clothing and got Jesus seated. As Jesus began riding slowly up the road, the crowd began giving him the red-carpet treatment. Some were spreading their coats on the road before him while others were cutting down branches of leaves and flowers and spreading them along the road. Both in front of him and behind him, the cheering crowd began to chant:

    Hooray for the new King David!
    God’s blessing is on the one
        who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Hooray for God, the greatest of all!

    As he arrived in Jerusalem, it was absolute mayhem. The question on everyone’s lips was “Who on earth is this?”
    The answer coming from the crowd was, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton

* Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

Thank you, LORD, thank you!
........Thank you for your goodness!
........Thank you for your love —
................rock solid and timeless!
May all your people recognise
........that your love and loyalty last forever.

The minute they open the city gates
........— the gates of justice —
we’ll be the first through, LORD;
........eager to tell you how thankful we are.

These gates belong to you, LORD,
........those you have put right can come on through.

Thank you for answering our prayers, LORD;
........for coming to our rescue and putting us right.

From a rejected stone found in a rubbish pile cut and polished a priceless jewel.
This is obviously your work, LORD,
........and we can hardly believe our eyes!

Today is your day, LORD, a day to honour you;
........we will celebrate with joy and laughter.

Get us through safely, LORD!
........In the tasks ahead, give us success!

The one who comes in your name, LORD, the one who is truly blessed.
Gathered here in your house,
........we praise you for sending him.

You, LORD, are our only God,
........and you light up our lives.
In a great procession,
........we march to the sacred place,
waving branches and banners;
........tossing flowers in the air.

You are our God
........and we give you thanks.
You are our God
........and we give you our highest acclaim.

Thank you, LORD, thank you!
........Thank you for your goodness!
........Thank you for your love —
................rock solid and timeless!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton

Liturgy of the Passion

* Isaiah 50: 4-9a

The LORD God has given me the gift of the gab
    so that my words can teach others
    and put a spring in the step of the weary.

As I wake up each new day,
    God makes me hungry for learning.
The LORD cleaned out my ears
    so that I could hear every word.
I learned eagerly;
    I never rebelled or quit.

I was opposed by others,
    but I gritted my teeth and stood my ground.
I looked them in the eye
    when they insulted me and spat in my face.
I took it on the chin and did not fight back,
    when they gave me a belting and tore out my hair.

The Lord GOD is always there for me,
    so no disgrace ever gets to me.
I have steeled my jaw and dug in my heels,
    and I’m sure I’ll never be ashamed of my stand
        because I can trust God to back me up.

So, who thinks they can take me on?
    Let them stand up and face me!
Who are my opponents?
    Let’s see what they’re made of!

The Lord GOD is backing me;
    so who is going to accuse me of doing wrong?

©2001 Nathan Nettleton

* Psalm 31: 9-16

Be kind to me, LORD,
........I’m a mess.
My eyes are bloodshot from crying;
........My heart is breaking
................and my whole body aches.

Grief gnaws away at my life,
........sorrows piles up, year after year.
Misery is draining my strength
........and destroying my health.

I get no respect from my opponents;
........nothing but ridicule.
Those who know me can’t bear to look at me;
........even strangers cross the street to avoid me.

Everyone wants to purge me from their thoughts;
........they’ve given me up for dead;
................abandoned me like a burned out car.

Everyone is out to get me;
........they’re whispering behind my back.
They’ve portrayed me as a monster
........and put a price on my head.

But I still put my trust in you, LORD; are my God and you’re all I’ve got left.
My future is in your hands;
........snatch me from the grasp
................of those who are hunting me down.

I’m working for you; look on me with love.
........Stand by me and save me.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton

* Philippians 2: 5-11

Model your attitude on the attitude of the Messiah, Jesus.
Although Jesus was the same as God in every way,
........he did not think of his God-like privileges something to milked for all they were worth.

Instead, he laid it all aside
........and, with no more privileges than a slave,
........was born as a human being.

Having become a human being,
........he was the model of humility.
He didn’t demand his own way
........but let God set the agenda;
even when it included his own death,
........and a gruesome public death at that.

Because of all this,
........God has raised him to the status of number one
and honoured him more highly
........than anyone else in the universe.

So now, just the mention of the name ‘Jesus’
........should bring everyone to their knees;
........everyone who has ever lived or ever will.

Everyone, everywhere will honour God openly acknowledging
........that Jesus the Messiah is Lord of all!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton

* Matthew 26:14 - 27:66 (or scroll down for the shorter extract Matthew 27: 11-54)

    One of Jesus’s twelve closest followers, a man named Judas Iscariot, met with the High Priests in secret, and asked them, “What would you pay me for the information that you need to arrest him.”
    They agreed on a price of thirty pieces of silver, and from then on, Judas was looking for the right moment to double cross Jesus.
    On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, Jesus’s closest followers asked him where he wanted them to book a room for their celebration of the Passover Meal. He sent them to see a certain man in the city with instructions to say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is due. I want to celebrate the Passover with my followers in your house.” So they did as he asked, and got everything ready for the Passover Meal in the man’s house.
    When the evening came, Jesus sat down to share the meal with the twelve. While they were eating, he said, “I kid you not; one of you will double cross me.”
    They were all quite shaken by this, and began asking him in turn, “Surely, Lord, it is not me, is it?”
    He answered, “I will be betrayed by one who has been sharing meals with me; one who passes me the sauce and tops up my glass. And while the fate of the New Human is well known to scripture, the writing is on the wall for the one who stabs him in the back. That one is going to wish he had never been born.”
    Judas, who had already taken the blood money, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, do you, Rabbi?”
    Jesus replied, “Take a good hard look at yourself, Judas!”
    Later during the meal, Jesus took a loaf of bread in his hands and praised God. He broke the loaf, and gave it to his followers, saying: “Take some of this and eat it. This is my body.”
    Then he picked up a glass of wine, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them, saying: “Drink this; all of you. This is my blood which seals God’s new alliance and is spilled for countless people in the forgiving of their toxic ways. I’ll tell you now; not another drop will pass my lips until the day when we drink together in celebration of the culture of my Father.”
    Then, after singing the hymn that concludes the meal, they went out to the Mount of Olives. As they went, Jesus said to them, “You lot will all drop your bundle and turn your backs on me tonight. It will be just like the old saying in Scripture,
    ‘Knock off the shepherd,
        and the sheep will run in all directions.’
But when I have been raised, I will go on up to Galilee ahead of you.”
    Peter protested, saying, “Everyone else might lose their nerve and shoot through, but not me. I will stick with you, no matter what.”
    Jesus said to him, “Don’t bet on it. Even before the rooster crows tonight, you will have sworn three times that you don’t even know me.”
    “Over my dead body!” said Peter. “I’d die before I would deny you.”
    And all the others swore the same.
    Soon Jesus and his followers arrived at the Gethsemene Gardens. He asked most of them to wait for him while he found a place to pray, and took only Peter and the brothers, James and John, with him. As they went, he became increasingly disturbed and distraught. He said to the three, “I feel totally gutted. It feels like it’s killing me. Wait here and hang in there with me while I pray.”
    He went ahead a little and threw himself down on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if there is any way out of this, I want out. But still, the bottom line is whatever you want.”
    When he got up, he found that his companions had fallen asleep. He woke Peter, saying, “Couldn’t you hang in there with me for even one hour? Stay on the watch, and pray that you will not have to confront things that stretch you to breaking point. Your spirit is raring to go, but your body can’t hack the pace.”
    Then he moved off for a second time and prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way to get rid of this bitter cup than for me to drink it dry, I’m ready to do whatever you want.”
    When he came back, he found them all asleep again, simply unable to keep their eyes open. So he just left them and went off to pray for a third time, praying in the same way as he had before. Then he returned to his followers and said, “Are you lot planning to sleep right through? Come on. The time is up. A traitor has dealt the New Human into the hands of the corrupt. On your feet, and get moving! Look, here comes the one who has done the dirty on me!”
    Even before he finished getting the words out, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived on the scene with a heavily armed mob. They had been dispatched by the chief priests and political authorities. The traitor had given them their cue: “The one I greet with a kiss is the target. Bust him.”
    So he went straight up to Jesus and said, “How are you, Rabbi?” and gave him a kiss.
    Jesus said to him, “Mate, get it over with.”
    Immediately the mob surrounded Jesus, grabbed him roughly and began to drag him off. In a flash, one of Jesus’s followers pulled a knife and began lashing out, slashing a personal attendant of the High Priest and cutting off his ear. But Jesus said, “Put that knife away, back where it belongs. All who live violent lives will die violent deaths. What were you thinking? You must realise that one word from me and God would send a dozen elite fighting units of angels. But if I did that, what would be left of the agenda outlined in scripture that took all this into account?”
    At the same time he addressed the mob, saying, “Do you think I am some kind of dangerous thug, that you need your weapons drawn and your batons ready when you come out here to take me in? I have been sitting in the temple nearly every day, teaching the people, and you could have easily busted me if you had wanted to. But it had to happen this way didn’t it, just as the prophets in scripture described.”
    By this time, his followers had all turned tail and run for their lives.
    The mob who had seized Jesus dragged him off to the home of Caiaphas the High Priest, where all the religious lawyers and political heavy-weights were waiting for him. Peter followed at a safe distance, trying to keep track of what was going on. He got as far as the security guards stationed in the High Priest’s entrance courtyard, but no further.
    The chief priests and the ruling council were doing their best to frame Jesus on charges that would lead to a summary execution. Although a procession of witnesses brought false allegations against him, they couldn’t get anything to stick. Eventually though, two separate witnesses testified that Jesus had claimed to be able to completely demolish the Temple of God and rebuild it in just three days. The High Priest put Jesus back on the stand and said, “You have heard the allegations that you claimed to have powers which only God could possess. What do you have to say in your own defence?”
    But Jesus remained silent. Then the High Priest said to him, “I remind you that you are under oath before the living God to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Tell us then: are you the Messiah, the Son of God?”
    Jesus replied, “You said it! And what’s more, from now on you will see the New Human seated as God’s right hand man and riding in on the clouds of heaven.”
    At that, the High Priest feigned utter dismay and turned to the council saying, “It’s blasphemy! This man is claiming to be on a par with God. Why should we bother with further witnesses? You have all heard him for yourselves. What is your verdict?”
    The verdict was unanimous: “He must die for this.”
    There was a near riot as they all began to stick the boots in, spitting in his face and roughing him up. Some of them were even hitting him from behind and then saying, “Come on, Mr Messiah. Show us how good a prophet you really are. Name the person who hit you.”
    Peter was still keeping a low profile out the front courtyard. A girl who worked there recognised him and said, “You were with that Galilean bloke, Jesus, weren’t you?”
    But in front of everyone, he denied it, saying, “I’ve got no idea what you are talking about.”
    A short time later he was walking along the front porch when another staff member piped up and said, “Look, that bloke there was with Jesus the Nazarene.”
    Once again Peter denied it adamantly: “I swear I don’t even know the man. I give you my word on it.”
    Later still, some of the bystanders became more insistent, closing in on Peter and saying, “You’ve got to be one of them. Your accent gives you away for sure.”
    Peter began foul-mouthing them and yelling, “I’ve never even set eyes on the bloke. I swear it on a stack of bibles!”
    But the moment the denial was out of his mouth, a rooster began to crow, and as the words of Jesus came flooding back – “Before the rooster crows, you will have sworn three times that you don’t even know me” – Peter ran off down the street bawling his eyes out; a broken man.
    The next morning, the chief priests and the ruling council met to work out what steps they needed to take in order to get Jesus executed. Setting the wheels in motion, they handcuffed him, marched him off, and transferred him into the custody of Pilate, the Roman governor.
    When Judas, the traitor, saw that Jesus was now on death row, he couldn’t live with what he had done. He took the thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and the ruling council and said, “I am guilty of a terrible thing. I have betrayed an innocent man to death.”
    But they said, “What has that got to do with us? You made your own bed; go lie in it!”
    Judas threw the money back at them, stormed out, and went off and hanged himself. Gathering up the money, the chief priests said, “We can hardly put this into the Temple offerings; it has got blood all over it.”
    So they put their heads together and decided to use the money to buy a property that a nearby potter had put up for sale, and redevelop it as a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the place came to be known as “the Killing Field” – a name that has stuck. It shed new light on the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“They took the thirty pieces of silver,
        the price set on the head of a man by his own people,
    and they spent it on a potter’s field,
        just as the Lord had told me.”
    Jesus was brought before Pilate for further interrogation. The governor got straight to the point: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
    “They are your words,” said Jesus.
    The delegation from the chief priests and the ruling council began outlining all the allegations against him, but Jesus made no attempt to defend himself. Pilate turned to him and said, “Do you realise the seriousness of all these crimes they are accusing you of?”
    But, much to the governor’s amazement, Jesus continued to remain silent, not even replying to a single charge.
    Now a custom had developed that the Roman governor would release a political prisoner – any prisoner nominated by the people – during the annual celebration of the Passover festival. One of the most notorious prisoners held at the time was a man named Jesus Barabbas. Pilate realised that Jesus of Nazareth had only been charged to get him out of the way of his religious rivals, and he saw the annual custom as an opportunity to solve two problems at once. So when the crowd had gathered he addressed them, saying, “Which prisoner would you like me to release for you this year, Jesus Barabbas or the Jesus they call the Messiah?”
    While Pilate was still presiding over the court, his wife sent him a message saying, “Don’t get yourself caught up in the conspiracy against that innocent man, for I have had a long and disturbing dream about him.”
    The chief priests and the council members began putting the word around among the crowd that they should call for the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus. So when the governor asked them again which of the two they wanted him to release, they all began to shout, “Barabbas.”
    “Then what am I supposed to do with the Jesus they call the Messiah?” Pilate asked the crowd.
    The shout came back, “Execute him!”
    “Why? What evil has he done to deserve death?” asked Pilate.
    But the crowd just kept chanting, “String him up! String him up!”
    When Pilate saw that it was useless to go on, and that further argument would only spark a riot, he called for a basin of water and made a show of washing his hands as he said to the crowd, “This man’s blood is not on my hands. Have it your own way and be it on your own heads.”
    The crowd responded, roaring as one, “It is on our heads. We and our children accept full responsibility!”
    So Pilate gave orders for the release of Barabbas, and after having Jesus flogged for good measure, he handed him over to the executioners.
    The governor’s security guards kept Jesus detained for a while in the Roman headquarters while the whole battalion gathered round and entertained themselves at his expense. They stripped him naked and then dressed him in a scarlet robe. They twisted some barbed wire into a crown and jammed it on his head. They put a flag in his hand and made a big joke of coming up and saluting him and saying, “Heil, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on him and gave him a serious bashing with their batons. When they’d finished their brutal sport, they stripped the robe back off him, put him back in his own clothes, and marched him off to be executed.
    As they hit the main street, they pulled a Cyrenian man named Simon out of the crowd, and forced him to carry the large wooden cross on which Jesus was to be strung up. The place where the executions were carried out was called Skull Hill, or in Hebrew, Golgotha. When they got there, they offered Jesus a strong drink – wine spiked with a common drug – but when he tasted what it was, he refused it. They strung Jesus up on the cross by driving nails through his flesh. Then they tossed coins for his clothes, and sat down to wait for him to die. The sign hung on his cross to inform onlookers of the offence for which he was dying, read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
    A couple of convicted thugs were executed at the same time. The three crosses were erected in a row with Jesus on the middle one. People passing by hurled insults and ridicule at him. They shook their heads and said, “What happened to the big man who reckoned he could demolish the Temple and rebuild it in three days? Show us what you’re made of and save yourself now! Getting yourself off the cross should be a piece of cake if you’re the Son of God!”
    The chief priests, the religious lawyers and the members of the ruling council were all there sticking the boots in with the best of them. “He reckoned he could save everyone else, but he can’t even save himself!” they said. “He is supposed to be the King of Israel, so let’s see him prove himself by getting himself down off the cross. He made a big noise about trusting God, let’s see whether God is interested in getting him out of this one. After all, he did claim to be God’s Son!”
    Even the two thugs being executed alongside him joined in and hurled more abuse at him.
    At midday, the sky went black for three hours and it was dark everywhere. At about three o’clock Jesus screamed out in agony, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you turned your back on me?”
    When the people standing around heard this, some of them thought he was calling for help from Elijah. Someone poured some wine that had turned to vinegar into a sponge and held it up to his mouth with a stick, but the others said, “Hold your horses. Let’s see whether Elijah will turn up to rescue him first.”
    Then Jesus let out another loud cry, and breathed his dying breath. At that very moment, the curtain that closed off the most holy place in the Temple tore open, all the way from the top to the bottom. There was a violent earthquake, that split rocks and broke open the tombs. The bodies of many of God’s people who had been laid to rest in peace were raised, and after Jesus had been raised they came out of their tombs and went into Jerusalem where many people saw them.
    When the commanding officer and the security guards on duty with him saw the earthquake and everything else that happened, they were scared spitless, and said, “Fair dinkum, this bloke must have been God’s Son!”

    There were a number of women there too, watching it all from a distance. They had been among Jesus’s followers since the days in Galilee and had provided most of the resources needed by his group. Among them were Mary Magdalene, another Mary who was the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of James and John, Zebedee’s wife.
    That evening, a wealthy man from Arimethea went to Pilate and asked permission to take the body of Jesus for burial. The man’s name was Joseph, and he was a follower of Jesus. Pilate gave orders for the body to be released into his care. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in clean linen cloth. He buried Jesus in a new tomb which he had had cut into the rock for his own eventual use. He rolled a boulder over the entrance to the tomb to seal it, and then went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting opposite the tomb watching all this.
    The next day was still part of the sacred festival, and a deputation of the chief priests and members of the Pharisee party held an early meeting with Pilate. They said, “Sir, we have remembered that while that con man was still alive, he claimed that he would rise again three days after his death. So please give orders to have guards secure the tomb for the next three days so that his fan club can’t steal his body and start telling everyone that he has been raised from the dead. A fraud like that would be even more dangerous than the pack of lies he was pushing before.”
    Pilate said to them, “Fair enough. There are security guards at your disposal. Go and do whatever you think is necessary to prevent anyone tampering with the tomb.”
    So they took the security guards, taped off the area around the tomb, sealed the stone, and kept it under constant surveillance.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton