A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Prayers of the People: Hosanna! Always and Especially in the Time of Covid 19 ~ Passion/Palm Sunday '20 Yr A

For Sunday, April 5, 2020, Readings: The Liturgy of the Palms: Matthew 21:1-11, Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; The Liturgy of the Word: Isaiah 50:4-9a, 
Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Mt 26:14-27:66
        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!”  [Matthew 21:9]

               Hosannah, Lord, hosannah! Lord, send us now success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord… [Psalm 118:25-26a]

             The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher... Morning by morning he wakens...my ear...The Lord God helps me...and I know I shall not be put to shame. [Isaiah 50:4, 7b]

                But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, "You are my God. My times are in your hand...in your loving-kindness save me." [Psalm 31:14-15a, 16b]

                     Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God...And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death...[Philippians 2:5-11]

Then [Jesus] went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples. "Sit here while I go over there and pray"...Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "So you could not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak."  [Matthew 26:36, 40-41]

Hosanna! The perfect short prayer, for these and other times, that we didn’t know that we knew.
      How strange “Palm Sunday” is this year as I write in the midst of the Coronavirus/ Covid-19 Pandemic. With churches closed, the festival-like processions with waving palms and joyful hymns don’t lend themselves to online liturgies with no congregants. For those of us in Christian denominations that follow the Revised Common Lectionary, it almost seems more appropriate, just now, to move directly into the second part of this particular Sunday’s usual worship practice, the Passion narratives. However, these two parts are inextricably interwoven and significantly more cohesive and substantive when taken together than when separated. It is human nature to only want the fun part, yet as we know all too well, in the span of mortal life we cannot overlook the difficult in favor of only the pleasurable. And, that is why the shout of HOSANNA! is more important than ever, on this day and on every day.
           Hosanna, pronounced “Hoshana” in the Hebrew [Old] Testament, comes to us today in Psalm 118 appointed for the “Liturgy of the Palms,” in verse 25-26 (NRSV):  Hosannah, Lord, hosannah! Lord, send us now success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. In original Aramaic, the language Jesus would likely have spoken, the exclamation was “help, save, I pray.” The words of the Psalm become clearer with that in mind if we shift to “Help, Lord, Help! Lord, send us now success.” In the Jewish Study Bible (of the Jewish Publication Society and published by Oxford Press 1985/1999), verses 25-26 read as O Lord, deliver us! O Lord, let us prosper! May he who enters be blessed in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the House of the Lord.
            Christian usage in the Christian [New] Testament has become an exclamation of special respect for the one who saves us. Neither definition excludes the other and so to proclaim Hosanna! is to recognize, celebrate, and respect Jesus as our Lord and Savior even as we ask him to help us.
           As we continue to stay at home to prevent further spreading and/or incurring this new plague, we are given a fresh opportunity, perhaps never undertaken before, namely, to read the full texts of today’s readings without at once listening to the recitation by another. We begin with the acquiring of the animal for Jesus to ride, the choice of which has significance. As Jesus was accused later in the week of proclaiming himself "King of the Jews," riding into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey symbolized that he was coming in peace, as a ruler would do to show a peaceful arrival rather than a warrior King riding in on a horse bent on war. Then the procession with palm branches celebrates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem just on the heels of his miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead just two miles away. The greetings of hosanna are a recognition that he is a Messiah who will remove and save them from the oppression of Rome.
           The Passion narrative develops the details of his Last Supper, betrayal by Judas, and the machinations of the Chief Priests whose local standing and power among the Jewish hierarchy and Rome were clearly threatened by this acclaimed and unorthodox prophet and miracle-worker. All of these elements were carefully noticed and recorded by the Roman occupiers and the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council who had its own police force and trial court. How easy, it seems, to go from enthusiastic cheers of the crowd to the strongly manipulated and equally enthusiastic and deathly jeers by the same people mere days later. 
        Two thousand plus years on, it is still a story for our own time. How easily are we turned from waving palms to throwing punishing stones by a few well-placed headlines or Facebook comments because we simply followed the crowd?
        Jesus enters the chaos of his times as he enters the chaos of our own. As Lutheran Pastor David Lose has noted:
               The tragedy of the day is that the people are half right. He did come as God’s Messiah. But they misunderstood what that meant – not “regime change” by violence, but rather the love of God poured out upon the world in a way that dissolved all the things we use to differentiate ourselves from others and the formation of a single humanity that knows itself – and all those around them! – as God’s beloved people. The other tragedy of the day is that the religious and political authorities are also half right. Jesus was a threat. For that matter, he still is. He threatens our penchant to define ourselves over and against others. He threatens the way in which we seek to establish our future by hoarding wealth and power. He threatens our habit of drawing lines and making rules about who is acceptable and who is not. He threatens all of these things and more…Jesus’ resurrection…affirms that God’s love is stronger than hate and God’s life is stronger than death…[Still, in this day,] he continues to threaten our reliance on anything – our wealth, position, political identity, good works, relationships or, for that matter, our limitations or life tragedies – anything other than God’s mercy. What’s hard about this message is that we all have come at times to seek our identity and secure our future on things other than God. The blessing of this message is that none of these other things are up to the job. No matter what we trust in, we will be disappointed, as only God’s Word can declare us as not just acceptable but as blessed and beloved. Jesus’ journey to the cross shows us just how far he was willing to go to demonstrate to us God’s unconditional love and acceptance. And once you hear that message of grace, mercy, and love, then whether you name it Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, or just the Sixth Sunday in Lent, there is suddenly good reason to shout our hosanna with all the joy and hope we can muster.”*
           Let us pray in distance and together, this day and always: Hosanna!


Leader:  ~ Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, in this year of years, our usual way of living has changed as quickly as those who turned from Hosanna to Crucify Him. Grant us the willingness to walk consciously through this Holy Week with fresh eyes, and, the uncomfortable awareness of how often we, too, have slept in Your presence.
                                                     O Lord our GOD,
RESPONSE:                  Our times are in Your Hands

~ Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, lighten the hearts and enlighten the minds of all who govern in this Community, this Nation, and this World, that they may seek the cause of healing humanity through global cooperation. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord our GOD,             
                                                       Our times are in Your Hands

~ Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, cradle in Your benevolent arms all who are sick, desperate, or hopeless, and give peace of heart to those who care and worry. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord our GOD             
                                                       Our times are in Your Hands
~ Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, ease the burden of grief in these dark times, as those we mourn now live in the eternal radiance of everlasting resurrection in You. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord our GOD             
                                                       Our times are in Your Hands

~ Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials, aloud or silently… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord our GOD             
                                                       Our times are in Your Hands
~ Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, embrace and enrich those You have called to lead us in Your Church through this sacred week and beyond. Inspire their words, their prayers, and their souls, that they and we together, may draw ever closer to You. We pray especially for: add your own petitions
The Celebrant adds: GOD Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, in Your loving-kindness sustain our hope and save us from this time of trial, that humbled in our human form, we may seek and serve Christ in ourselves, in each other, and in all of humankind. We ask through Jesus, our Strength and our Redeemer; and the Holy Spirit, the Wisdom of our Souls, who together with You are One God, now and forever. Amen. 

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