Mitchells Presbyterian Church

Audio/Video Service March 28, 2021

Palm Sunday

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”

Welcome and Announcements:

Welcome everyone to Mitchells Presbyterian Church on this Palm Sunday 2021.  I’m Reverend Michael Clang, Covenant Pastor here at Mitchells and I am so glad that you all have tuned in to our YouTube channel to worship with us today.  It’s my hope and prayer that the next 30 minutes will be a real blessing to you. Don’t forget, on April 11th, we will once again gather in the sanctuary.  Know that we will continue to record and post our services on our YouTube channel.  Be on the lookout for more information about this service and the protocols that will be in place in the April newsletter.  

In the email blast that is going out today, there will be some resources for your Holy Week.  There is a Stations of the Cross service that is appropriate for Friday or Saturday and a Stripping of the Table service that is perfect for Maundy Thursday.  Additionally, we will post on our YouTube channel Friday morning a Good Friday service that we are recording here in the sanctuary that will share the Passion Story from John’s Gospel. So, please tune in.  Now, hold up your palms if you have one, or anything green, or even the palms of your hands has we offer this prayer:

Opening Prayer:

We praise you, O God, for your redemption of the world though Jesus Christ, who entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph and was proclaimed Messiah and king by those who spread garments and branches along his way.  Let these branches be signs of his victory, and grant that we who carry them may follow him in the way of the cross, that, dying and rising with him, we may enter into your kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord and savior.  Amen.

Call to Worship: (from Psalm 118)

L: Awake to the day of triumph for our Savior!

P: Come with your branches, hosannas, and songs!

L: Fill the air with welcome to the Lord!

P: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hymn of Adoration:  #88 “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” (Verses 1&2)

Prayer of Confession:

On this day of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we wave our palm branches, throw our coats before him, shout our praises and confidently confess our sin because of the sacrifice he made in order to save the world.  Let us pray: Lord, you hold nothing back, not even your Son.  The lengths you will go to be in relationship with us are astounding.  Jesus pours himself out for our sake and enters Jerusalem in order to take upon himself the sin of the world.  Yet, we fail to respond with gratitude.  We neglect to hear and heed your saving Word.  We turn aside from your way and withhold that of which you have need.  Forgive our fleeting faithfulness and our hollow shouts of Hosanna.  Humble us, turn us toward you, help us to look to the interests of others, shape us into a closer imitation of Christ, our Savior (silent confession) Amen.  

Assurance of Pardon:

Hear the good news: In Christ, you are a new creation!  The old is gone and behold, the new has come.  Know that you are forgiven and be at peace.  Amen

Anthem: “Jesus, the King” (sung by the MPC Choir)

Prayer for Illumination:

Let your Word, O God, break open our hearts this day through the power of the Holy Spirit, that we may enter into the coming Holy Week with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Scriptures:  Mark 11:1-11 & Philippians 2:3-8 

Sermon: “Do You See What I See”

“Let the words of my mouth . . .” 

Well, it’s been a couple weeks now and let me tell you, it has been interesting fostering a blind dog.  Like all our fosters, I knew that “Gabe” would come with the usual assortment of ailments that have to get treated in the beginning.  That was a given, and I knew we could handle that part . . . though when you are up “cleaning the cage” in the early morning hours you do start to wonder. No, what I was worried about was his vision.  How were we going to handle a blind dog?  Would he crash into all our furniture and give himself a brain injury?  Would he tumble down the stairs?  Would we have to carry him outside so that he could “do his business”?  Easy to do with our old miniature Dachshund, but a bit more of a challenge with a 35 lb. Foxhound.  I just had no idea.  

Well, let me tell you, I have been amazed, so much so that at times I forget that he is blind.  Using his keen sense of smell and exquisite hearing he seems to “eco-locate” like a bat all over the house, lightly tapping this wall or that chair as he maneuvers wherever he wants to go, including navigating the steps.  It’s unbelievable.  

His biggest obstacle seems to be . . . well . . . me!  When my mother lost her eyesight, we talked about her getting a seeing eye dog.  But with being on the farm she decided that it just was not practical for her to walk all around anyway and since she had my Dad, who I shared with you before was so good with her, she joked, “he is my seeing eye dog”!  Well, for Gabe, I am his “seeing eye person” when we go outside and quite frankly, I’m terrible!  Tracie does such a better job.  We go walking and he just follows our other dogs and I forget that he is blind and I hold the lease to tight and “bam” he hits this tree or “whack” right into the street sign.  I’m awful.

Fortunately, he is never moving at a fast pace to do any damage, but it’s been hard for me to get used to.  Mainly, because when you look at him, you would swear that he IS seeing.  And THAT has been, no pun intended, an eye-opening experience for me.  His not seeing is making me see things I did not see before.  He stops, cocks his head up, and sniffs the air and you realize, “oh yea, the neighbors are grilling out tonight”.  He stops and looks behind him, seeming to stare at nothing when, sure enough, around the corner comes another dog on its evening stroll.  With him, I am seeing things I usually don’t notice in my neighborhood when I walk my other dogs.  It’s uncanny.

A few years ago, author Alexandra Horowitz wrote a book called, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation.   Living in New York City, she wanted to “see” more things in her neighborhood.  So, she embarked on a series of 11 walks, each with a different person who had a different perspective.  She walked with an artist, a geologist, a physician, an urban sociologist, her son, and of course, her dog.  On these walks, she saw things as these others perceived it.  Realizing that most of us do not see the same things revealed to her the startling power of human attention and what it means to be an expert observer.  

In today’s reading from Mark, Jesus is showing us that he too is an expert observer.  The question for us is, do we see what he sees?  Our reading began today with the triumphant arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Mark relates how Jesus seemed to carefully orchestrate all the details from his starting point at the Mount of Olives to his riding in on a colt, which had to be a sight to see, as I wonder if his feet might have been dragging the ground.  It all symbolized a peaceful demonstration that countered the arrival of Pilates war machine on the other side of town.  He got a great reaction from the crowd of pilgrims as they laid down their coats and palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna!”  

And then Mark says that he went to the temple and “he looked around at everything” before heading back to Bethany to spend the night.  The Greek word that Mark uses for his looking around is “Periblepo”.  It’s a word that is used only 7 times in the New Testament and 6 of those are in Mark’s Gospel.  It means “to see” but it’s more than just seeing.  It’s “being observant”; it’s “perceiving”; it’s “being aware and then acting on what you observe”.  In other words, it’s a deep seeing that leads to action.  Just like Alexandra on her NYC walks or me with my blind dog Gabe, it’s seeing things in a brand-new way but it’s also a seeing that then leads to movement or action.  We see this action from Jesus when he returns to Jerusalem the very next morning. 

Heading straight to the temple he starts overturning the tables of the money changers and kicks out those selling sacrificial doves and then basically blocks the entrance so no one can get in.  Mind you this is a time when this place would have been hopping with activity from all the pilgrims who would have been arriving ahead of the Passover celebration.  

What did Jesus see when he “looked around at everything” the previous day that caused this unusual outburst?  Some have speculated that when he shouts, “you have made my Fathers house a den of thieves” that he was angry with all the buying and selling that was going on.  

But why would he be angry at the moneychangers or the sacrificial dove sellers since they were only providing a needed service to give the pilgrims who had traveled large distances a way to make their sacrifices? No, a den of thieves is NOT where the actual stealing occurs.  Its where you hide out AFTER your stealing.  Jesus was seeing deeper into what the temple was becoming.  

Remember back when the prophet Amos said, “I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies”.  Take away all of this, the music, the sacrifices, the offerings, and rather let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. (Amos 5:21-24). God is a God of justice and righteousness and when worship substitutes for justice, God rejects the temple, or for us today, the church.  That is what Jesus saw and that is why he reacted by symbolically “stopping” all the temple activity.  He saw the hypocrisy of what was happening.  Of people making their sacrifices to God but then leaving the temple and treating others poorly, especially those in need and on the margins of his society.  We might say they were “saints” on Sunday and “sinners” the other 6 days of the week.  

So, what would Jesus “see” here today after “looking around at everything”?  Would he overturn our pews?  Would he knock over our offering plate?  Would he say that we are a “den of thieves”?  Or would he say, “well done, good and faithful servants?” After looking around, I think he would say “do you see what I see”?  

I heard a podcast recently were pastor and theologian Brian McLaren was sharing about all the different bias that we have that make us see the world the way that we do.  One of these is Confirmation Bias which says that we don’t see things as THEY are but rather, we see things as WE are.  We see things through OUR filters.  Jesus would tell us, to start seeing things as he sees them.  To see them though HIS filter.  That’s what “seeing Jesus” means . . . to be changed, to die each day to our old self or ego and to be raised up to start seeing as Jesus sees.  To see the needs and hurts of others and to respond with love.  

Paul encouraged the church at Philippi and he encourages us to see in this very way.  To see; to act; to imitate; what we see in Jesus.  Let me close with our reading from Philippians:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and become obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross.”

As we come to the end of our Lenten journey and enter Jerusalem with Jesus and the disciples for this most Holy of Weeks, may we see and act like Jesus.  May it be so.  Thanks be to God!

Affirmation of Faith (Apostles Creed):

As our response to the scriptures being read and proclaimed, let us affirm together what we believe by reciting together the Apostles Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.  Amen.

Call for Offering:

“In plenty or in want, all that we have is a gift from God.”  

Thank you everyone for continuing to send in your tithes and offerings to the church office.  For the offerings that we have received this week, let us pray:

Prayer of Dedication:

We ask your blessings on these gifts offered in faith and given with joy.  May they be an outward sign of your mercy and grace and a witness to your overflowing goodness toward all creation.  In Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Pastoral Prayer (with Lord’s Prayer):

“Be Still and Know that I am God”.  As we come to this time of prayer, let us start with 30 seconds of silence to calm our busy minds and open our hearts to the presence of the living God who fills us and completes us and makes us whole. I invite you to take some nice slow breaths in and out; breathing in calm and letting go of anything that is troubling you.  Let’s breathe [go 30 seconds]:

Let us pray for the church, our neighbors in need and the whole world, saying: Hear our prayer.

On this Palm and Passion Sunday, we come with praise and leave with passion. Help us, O God, to be ever attentive to your presence in our midst during Holy Week. Help us to see that the crucifixion we remember on Good Friday is present in small and large ways throughout our communities and world. And enable us to stand with the crucified among us, we pray to you, O God: Hear our prayer.

O God, we see so much bloodshed and senseless violence in the world and in our country. Help us to be nonviolent resisters of hate and malice and prejudice. And enable us to be agents of your love in all that we do, we pray to you, O God: Hear our prayer.

O God, we pray for the elected leadership in our local governments, state legislatures, Congress, and our president. We pray that they would have the courage to work for the common good for all the people of this country, and that they would put aside differences in order to serve the greater good, we pray to you, O God: Hear our prayer.

O God, we continue to pray for those struggling during this pandemic. Help us support those delivering needed aid and vaccines and let us be witnesses to the benefits of receiving the vaccine ourselves. And help us all take responsibility for every measure that protects us, we pray to you, O God: Hear our prayer.

O God, we pray for this congregation.  Continue to guide our PNC as they continue the search for our next pastor.  Be with all of those on our prayer list and with those we bring to you now in the silence of this moment [silent prayer]. 

We ask all of this, in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray the prayer that we all now pray together Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.   For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.

Hymn of Dedication:  #89 “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna (v.1&2)

Closing Words/Benediction:

May we put on the mind of Christ and start seeing the world as Jesus sees it.  Blessings on your Holy Week.  You all are amazing and so loved!  Here is your virtual hug 😊 

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord be kind and gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you with favor and grant you peace.  God’s Shalom!  Today and every day!  Amen.