Palm-Passion Sunday, April 2, 2023

Each section of our Sunday service began by “setting the stage”, followed by a scripture reading and other liturgical elements.

View service at; Download PDF of these brief messages at SettingStage_02April2023_PalmPassion


Setting the stage

Today we join with the people of Jerusalem, welcoming Jesus as the honoured one of God.  At the beginning of a week that looked like it would be all about celebration, we honour the arrival of the Christ, the Messiah, the one who is God’s own holy love, right here, with us, welcomed with cries of Hosanna.


CLEANSING THE TEMPLE: Matthew 21: 12-13

Setting the stage

Such an iconic image, Jesus’ creating a disturbance in the Temple.  It’s an image harkened to whenever righteous indignation makes us properly angry at the injustices in our world.  It awakens us from complacency, aware that God is not pleased when we take the entire gift of life and reduce it to a series of commodities to be afforded by some but not all.  It calls us to self-examination as Church, to overturn our own safe disengagement from the difficult lives that so many people lead, simply because those with power choose their own benefit over a greater common good.


FOOTWASHING: John 12: 1-8 and John 13: 4-7, 13-16

Setting the stage

As you will hear, there were two separate events in holy week that fall under the category of footwashing.  First, there is Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet, and the sharp rebuke by Judas, who held the common purse for the disciples.  The hymn we’ll sing in a couple of minutes outlines this event well.

Then, there is Jesus, the one heralded as Messiah a few days earlier, stooping down in the posture of a house slave, washing the feet of his followers.  That humility, that willingness to serve and bring comfort to the weary, has been intended as a way of being for those who follow Jesus ever since.


THE LAST SUPPER: Matthew 26: 17-19, 26-29

Setting the stage

A year ago we were honoured to have Rabbi Rick Kline join us, to lead us in the Seder.  Passover was a time to deeply honour the God who did not turn away at the sufferings of the Hebrew people in Egypt, the God who delivers.  That same sense of deliverance is present in the upper room, at the last supper, as Jesus and the disciples gather for Seder and as he commands them to remember all they have done together, all they have been together, each time they pause for sacred ceremony, and in fact each time they receive the sustenance of bread and cup.  God’s own deliverance is with them and us in this moment.


GETHSEMANE: Mark 14: 32-38 and Mark 14: 43-45

Setting the stage

Three things happen on the Mount of Olives, in the place called Gethsemane.  Jesus lays his heart open in prayer, anxious about what appears to be next for him, pleading with God, child to parent, seeking guidance for these next difficult steps.

The disciples are there to support Jesus, and they do not, falling asleep instead.

Judas knows where they are, and betrays Jesus to the authorities.

We engage this scene in all its fullness, identifying with those times in life when anxiety, and fatigue, and betrayal, may make God’s presence hard to believe.



Setting the stage: readings from Mark 14 and 15

We’d call it a Kangaroo court in our day – a verdict already decided before the hearing had even begun.  This is the way that things are often stacked against those outside the approved systems of power.  As Bob reads excerpts from the so-called trials, I will be extinguishing the six Lenten candles, those candles signifying the energy and hope that had been evident and growing throughout Jesus’ ministry.


THE CROSS: John 19: 17-22 and John 19: 25-30

Setting the stage

One of the stained glass windows in this sanctuary honours hymn writer Isaac Watts. Writing in 1707, he described the closing scene of today’s service with these words: See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Indeed, here we experience God’s own willingness to endure the suffering of the world, initiated by the injustice of the world, and we sit with all the implications of that.


The Christ Candle is extinguished – We leave in silence


  • Rev Greg Wooley; this Sunday’s service was in Banff.