Palm Sunday

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

Welcome to Virtual Worship for Palm Sunday 5 April 2020


As we continue to be the church scattered, I hope that those of you who need to be in isolation will still feel connected to the wider congregation. This Sunday we begin our journey into Holy Week, and I encourage you all to set outside a special place in your room or home for you to pray, contemplate and make space for our virtual worship.

Call to Worship  (adapted from resources by Rev. Thom Schumann)

In silent sanctuaries, in our homes or apartments or rooms,
wherever we are in these moments of worship,
God waits to greet us with joy and wonder.
We awake to find ourselves enveloped in grace.
During these days of isolation and worry,
in this time of uncertainty and feat,
Jesus challenges us with the possibility of faith.
Even in these times of safe distancing
and caring for others, as well as ourselves,
we can offer healing and hope to others.
In the shadowed evenings when fear lurks outside,
and we long to hear the lullabies of grace,
the Spirit is with us.
The Light of life shines on us
from early morning when we begin our days
to the time of rest, comforting us in the shadows of sleep.

Lighting a candle

If you have a candle in your home, you can light it here as part of our virtual worship, If you don’t have a candle, you can imagine one. We say the following words:

We share a common quest for a deeper faith and a deeper experience of the divine. The time is drawing near. Jesus is preparing to enter Jerusalem. How will we greet him? The power of Jesus is that he lived what he taught, even when it led to his death. He lived with an abiding awareness of God, showing the love of God in all he said and did.

Take a moment to reflect in silence.

As we light this candle, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of illness and disease in the world. We also acknowledge the light is the symbol of Christ, and the darkness can never overcome in.

Let us pray:

Prayer of the Day (adapted from resources by Rev. Thom Schumann)
God of Love:
you hand us the palm branches,
so we can wave them in hope;
you steady us in the days
when pain is stuck
to the bottom of our lives,
when fear is our constant companion.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with hope.

God of healing:
When our mouths turn numb
and we cannot speak our dreams,
you tenderly caress our faces,
leaning over to hear our faltering words.
When our arms have grown weak
from the burdens we carry,
you take them from us,
and strengthen us with your mercy.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with grace.

God of Wisdom:
when death hovers so close
we can feel it’s cold breath,
you come to us,
the warm breath of resurrection
pushing aside our fears.
When we hesitate to walk into
the unknown stretching before us,
you tightly clasp our hands
and teach us the first step.
We empty ourselves
so you might fill us with peace.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we open our hearts to you,
as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .


This week, I invite you to read and reflect on this week’s Lectionary readings, Matthew 21:1-11 and Psalm 118.

Psalm 118: 1-2; 19-29

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
This psalm has been chosen as it contains the lines about the cornerstone (traditionally understood as a symbol for Jesus) being rejected.

This psalm has been chosen as it contains the lines about the cornerstone (traditionally understood as a symbol for Jesus) being rejected.

The psalm also reminds us that being people of faith does not always mean that things will go the way we want them to, or that the faith journey will be easy. Being true to the way of discipleship can actively bringing discomfort and hardship upon ourselves. The pathway forward in the midst of a pandemic is not clear. We are learning to live and worship in different ways.  Many of us are spending a lot more time at home.  Our normal routines have been disrupted and things we took for granted, like shopping or gathering with friends in a café, are either much more challenging or unlawful. 

The psalm reading is very timely for such times. It speaks to us of a people who were living in risky times, whose faith was tested and for whom life was not easy. Like the psalmist, perhaps one of the tasks we now face is contemplating on how we find God in these extraordinary times in our lives.

Matthew 21:1-11 (you can read the passage here:

The story of Jesus’ triumphal march into Jerusalem is a very well-known story, and in the synoptic gospels culminates in Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ arrest.

It is a familiar story, and one way of seeing it differently is to think about this scene through the lens of a priest or Roman at the time. There is no doubt that Jesus is being treated like a king by the crowd. Each action Jesus takes (palm branches, cloaks being laid down, riding the donkey) plays upon the vocabulary and Jewish scriptural tradition in relation to power and kingship, and whether Jesus meant them that way, that is how people would have understood them back then.

What meaning does this scene hold for you? What are the immediate implications for Jesus if he was understood by the Temple authorities and the Romans as presenting himself as a king or messiah? Does looking at the story this way give us another insight?

In the greater scheme of the gospels, this procession will lead to Jesus’ darkest yet most triumphant moment. It explains exactly what the phrase “pick up your cross” means for Jesus, and exactly what losing your life to save it means.

Oscar Romero 1917-1980, a former Archbishop of Salvador says:

Those who, in the biblical phrase, would save their lives—that is, those who want to get along, who don’t want commitments, who don’t want to get into problems, who want to stay outside of a situation that demands the involvement of all of us — they will lose their lives. What a terrible thing to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled, with good connections politically, economically, socially — lacking nothing, having everything. To what good? They will lose their lives.

How do you think this statement relates to how the church is seen and how it acts today?

(If you want to read more, see John’s blog at )

Prayer: A New World  (written by John van de Laar)

In the quiet moments, in the still places,
I can sometimes hear it;
An urgent voice, echoing through the wildernesses of the world,
and of my heart calling me to prepare and to participate
in the new world that wants to be born.
How can I be part of something that I haven’t seen,
that I struggle even to conceptualise, let alone understand?
Yet, still the voice calls, and my heart stirs.
I begin to imagine a world of joy and creativity,
a world where the poor are always cared for
and the rich are always generous;
a world where justice guides,
and where mourning is always temporary;
a world where the highest values are valued most highly
and where priorities and agendas are set
with the greatest good in mind.
This world exists, Jesus, in the Gospel you preached,
in the stable and the cross and the empty tomb,
in Baptismal waters and Eucharistic meals
in your constant calling, and your constant coming.
And so we praise you for this world,
and for the dream that we can learn to know it here and now
even as you do. Amen.


May you be blessed by the love of God
and in these testing times feel the presence of God around you.
May you be blessed by the compassion of Jesus
And may you find the still waters of his peace upon you.
May you be blessed by the healing of the Spirit
And may you find her grace upon you. Amen.

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018. 

Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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