Lectionary Texts

You are free to reprint these resources for use in worship. Please include the attribution “RootsOfJusticeTraining.org, 2015.” If text is spoken but not printed, we appreciate printing in your bulletin a general “Thanks to RootsOfJusticeTraining.org for some of the [prayers/text/ideas] used in this service.”

Opening Prayer

God-who-is-making-all-things-new, we know you were there in those Jerusalem streets when those who were marginalized came to meet Jesus. Though they had been long kept silent, we know you heard their cries: “Hosannah! Save us!” As we gather for this time of worship, we bring our own lives, hopes, dreams, fears. We bring, too, an awareness of the great mutual interconnection of all that lives and breathes in your world. We open ourselves to the pain and joy that is always present in our homes, community, and world. Help us to have an awareness of the ways in which we need saving. Hear us when we, too, cry out, “Hosannah! Save us!”

– Caela Simmons Wood, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015

Responsive Reading

One: O give thanks to our God. For he is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever!

Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!

One: Open to us, O God, the gates of your righteousness. Keep us on the path as we work to bring about your Reign on Earth.

Many: Let us enter through God’s gates and give thanks for holy dreams of justice.

One: This is the day that our God has made. A day of freedom, healing, salvation, justice.

Many: Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

One: O give thanks to our God. For she is good;

Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!

– Caela Simmons Wood, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015

Benediction

As we leave this place, may we be blessed with the courage to engage in prophetic acts that challenge the violence of the powerful.

– RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015

Preaching Ideas

Psalm 118:1-2,19-29 and Mark 11:1-11

As part of the Passover festival, pilgrims to Jerusalem recited or sang Psalm 118. Hosanna, meaning “Lord save,” came from the same psalm. Interestingly, in verse 22 of Psalm 118 we read, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” While Mark seems to imply that Jesus was at least in some way fulfilling the messianic expectations of Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Passover, a deeper look at Mark’s version of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem suggests a stark contrast between the expectations of the restoration of the Kingdom of David and the nature of the Kin-dom that Jesus had come to establish.

In his book JESUS: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, Marcus Borg suggests that by riding a donkey into Jerusalem, Jesus is engaging in a “prophetic act.” Borg goes on to say that “prophetic acts were provocative public deeds performed for the sake of what they symbolized… ancient ‘street theater’—actions performed in public to draw a crowd and to convey a message.” He also reminds readers that the other procession entering Jerusalem, as it did every year at the time of Passover, was that of the Roman governor Pilate accompanied by the imperial cavalry and foot soldiers. Jesus, like the authors of the gospels, knew about this annual imperial procession, so his decision to enter the city as he did was “a planned political demonstration, a counterdemonstration.” It was, if you will, an anti-imperial act.

The last thing Jesus did on this day of his anti-imperial entry into Jerusalem, according to Mark, was to enter the temple and look around before retiring for the night to Bethany with his disciples. This same gospel tells us that the following day Jesus went to the temple once again and dramatically challenged the oppressive temple-state system by angrily overturning the tables of the money changers as well as those selling offerings. As Timothy Geddert concludes in his commentary on Mark’s gospel, when Jesus looked around the day before, he was so outraged by what he saw that he was “prepared to risk both popularity and his life in response.”

When was the last time any of us engaged in a “provocative public deed” as a prophetic act? Are we prepared to participate in anti-imperial acts as Jesus did when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey? Are we willing to look around the way Jesus looked around in the temple? To recognize the oppressive systems of our time and the ways in which we support them and perhaps benefit from them? Are we prepared to get angry enough at the exploitation, oppression, and killing of those who are marginalized, dehumanized, and criminalized by our society to risk our popularity and our lives, not only as individuals, but as faith communities?

Contributors

Rick Derksen is a trainer with Roots of Justice and serves on the ROJ board. He’s an antiracism organizer with several Seattle-based activist groups including European Dissent, EPIC (Ending the Prison Industrial Complex), and the Seattle Race Conference committee. His identities include white, male, partner of 40 years, parent, grandparent, ordained Mennonite minister, and part of Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church.

The Rev. Caela Simmons Wood is pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Manhattan, Kansas. Pastor Caela is passionate about racial justice, LGBT rights, and gender equality. You can read her sermons at her blog.

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