I have been so lucky to write prayers in this season that I know have been a blessing. Some of you have kindly commented and encouraged me. Some have messaged me and thanked me personally. Others have commissioned me to curate prayers for their congregation through a series of their own design. (If you are interested in such a blessing to your creativity, contact me here. I would love to work with you.) Still others comment in those groups of clergy on social media looking for a particular kind of prayer and I quickly chime in with questions.
The Call to Worship I offer for Palm Sunday in is the last of these wonders. There was a request for a readers theatre or a choral reading with cheering and waving that would work for an online format.
There will need to be instructions for this which I usually do not enjoy and try very hard to avoid, but this is a listening challenge to hear good news with fresh ears. So there will be certain things that will call to the attention of the worshipping body in this Call to Worship. Those responses appear in bold in the invitation below but would be omitted if it is to appear in print. I wouldn’t even have the leader read those parts but allow for the worshipping congregation to fill them in which means there will be gaps and the reader will need to pause for those words to be filled in. If you are using multiple readers, that might be where you cut to the next person so that there is a natural gap.
I offer this suggestion for a lead into this Call to Worship:
Today, we begin again to wander into the unknown as we have done so many times before. We enter in a city full of life and love where it feels like anything and everything is possible, but where still so much could go wrong. The days ahead will hold death and destruction. There will be grief and devastating loss but all of that is still unknown just as it was one year ago when this pandemic first became real. We didn't know. We couldn't know and so we listen closely for what good news might feel like now. Listen for good news and respond with your whole body so that every time you hear "God is good," you reply, "All the time, God is good!" Each time you hear "gates," you respond, "Prepare the way!" Each time you hear "Jerusalem," you respond with booming organ music that sounds like "Duh duh daaa." Every time you hear "the people shouted," you fill in their response with "Hosanna!"
I recommend practicing these prompts a few times so that they become familiar. I also didn’t include anything about waving palm branches as it doesn’t feel that there is one prompt that works best. Shouldn’t there be all kinds of palm waving anyway? I would suggest this Blessing of the Palms for that possibility but don’t let that limit you in adding it to the Call to Worship. Here is what I imagined for such an interactive experience in worship intended for all ages.
Interactive Call to Worship Inspired by Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 and Mark 11:1-11 Give thanks to God for God is good. All the time, God is good! Give thanks to God for love that knows no limit. God loves across every boundary and division. God's love opens the gates. Prepare the way! Love makes a way through every city and village but on this day when still so much feels unknown and the future is hard to see God's love makes way into Jerusalem. Duh duh daaaaa. God's love opened that city's gates. Prepare the way! Nobody really knew why this was happening. The disciples made preparations in Jerusalem. Duh duh daaaaa. Once they got to that city near the Mount of Olives, they did just what Jesus had told them but they did not know what would come next. They couldn't have believed it even though they knew that God makes a way where there is no way, even though they believed with all their hearts and minds that God is good. All the time, God is good! Give thanks to God for something was happening that day. God's love is always busy moving and changing what we think we know and that day was no different when love paraded through Jerusalem. Duh duh daaaaa. There was a sense that things could be different as the people shouted, Hosanna! We come today with the same hope trying to believe with all our hearts and minds that God is good. All the time, God is good! We open our hearts as the city opens its gates. Prepare the way! Like the people throwing palm branches and cloaks on the ground, we are shouting just as the people shouted, Hosanna! Again, the people shouted, Hosanna!
I wanted a song to followed the Call to Worship that functioned as a meditation on Hosanna. I don’t have to tell you, dear pastor, that this is so often confused with celebration and it’s really a bit more complicated than that. Icky atonement hints aside, I like this one. As I went through my files, I found an old benediction I really liked but didn’t save where I found it. Oops. Nonetheless, it’s been adapted so it isn’t exactly what the original was and I love how it leads into Holy Week for those of us that aren’t ready for the passion part of this Sunday yet. (Sorry. I’m in that camp this year.)
Benediction Adapted from an unsaved source May we have courage as we move into the unknown that awaits us. We do not go alone. Love will carry us. The nights ahead will be long. Love will carry us. It will not be easy and we may fear nothing will ever change. Love will carry us. We go now together into the unknown. Love will carry us.
If you haven’t yet planned something for Holy Week, you might relish in the gift that is this Easter Pageant for a Pandemic Year. It does require some legwork so it’s not recommended for the last minute planner. There are some other ideas here including some alternate suggestions for Palm Sunday. I also have a very short playlist of Easter music on YouTube that might help your sermon writing or worship planning.
That’s all I have for you, dear pastors. I am praying for you. I am praying for you, as always.