Palm Sunday 2023 – April 02



  • Opening choruses
  • Opening prayer


Today is the Sunday referred to as Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday. It’s the last Sunday before the Easter season … and it’s a day that Christians use to remember Jesus entering Jerusalem, on His way to the cross, at the beginning of what we call Holy Week.

The theme for this week is having the mind of Christand on this Palm Sunday, we (in GCI) want to consider the thoughts  Jesus must have been thinking  as he approached the events of Holy Week.

The selected readings are … Psalm 31:9-16; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66  and Matthew 21:1-11.

  • In Psalm 31:9-16, we find the psalmist in sorrow and grief, yet confident God is aware of his suffering.
  • Isaiah 50:4-9a is the third of four servant songs that speak about having hope and courage in the midst of suffering.
  • In Matthew 21:1-11, we find Matthew’s account of the triumphal entry of Jesus … on His way to the cross.
  • In Matthew 26-27, we get glimpses into the story of Judas’s betrayal, the first Communion ritual and Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  • In the sermon today, we’ll be looking at Philippians 2:5-11, where we see what having a mindset like Christ means for us.



Psalm 31:9-16   

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.   10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery and my bones waste away.  

11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbours, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.  12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. 13 For I hear the whispering of many — terror all around! — as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.   

14 But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’  15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.  16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.  



HERE WE ARE … Don Moen …


AS WE WORSHIP … Don Moen …



Isaiah 50:4-9  

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.  Morning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.  
The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I did not turn backwards.  
I gave my back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;  I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.  

7 The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced;  therefore I have set my face like flint  and I know that I shall not be put to shame8 He who vindicates me is nearWho will contend with me?  Let us stand up together.  Who are my adversaries?  Let them confront me.  9 It is the Lord God who helps mewho will declare me guilty?  All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.   



  • Title:  Always At Your Side  (from the Speaking Of Life series)
  • Presenter:  Michelle Fleming, GCI Elder
  • Keynote Passage:  Isaiah 50:4-9

From the transcript . . . 

When we’re faced with a difficult next step, whether it’s our health, our job, or our family situation, we often feel alone.  How can we approach difficulties, including suffering, with courage and hope?  We can look to our Elder Brother Jesus and how he entered into our suffering during Holy Week – enduring what none of us could.

Today is Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday.  While we typically focus on Jesus riding on a donkey’s colt and being welcomed with cries of “Hosanna!,” another important aspect of this day in the liturgical calendar is Jesus’ purpose as he entered Jerusalem.  In fact, the word passion means “to suffer.”

Jesus was resolute and steadfast, knowing the suffering that lay ahead of him.  We can learn more about his desire and the reason for his courage and hope by studying the suffering servant poems found in the book of Isaiah.  Though these poems were written to encourage the Israelites in the Babylonian exile, we can see parallels with Jesus’ suffering during Holy Week. Today we’ll focus on the third poem in Isaiah 50:

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.  Isaiah 50:4-9 (NRSV)

The first part of the poem shows us that not only did Jesus have his ear attuned to what God was saying, but he also took time to “encourage tired people.”  In other words, Jesus noticed others around him were tired, maybe suffering, and in need of comfort and inspiration.  Even though he knew what he was facing, Jesus used his “well-taught tongue” to help others.  Let’s continue reading:

The Lord has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.    Isaiah 50:5-6 (NRSV)

Jesus knew his suffering was only part of a bigger story; it wasn’t the whole story.  Notice that when he was taking the next difficult step, the poem doesn’t say he wasn’t afraidIt says that he did not turn backward, and did not hide his face from insults.  This is the definition of courage: being afraid and yet taking the next right stepWhere did Jesus’s courage come from?  Let’s find the answer in the last few verses:

The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.  Who will contend with me?  Let us stand up together.  Who are my adversaries?  Let them confront me.  It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?    Isaiah 50:7-9a (NRSV)

As Jesus faced the events of Holy Week, we can learn from Isaiah’s third servant poem that the Lord God, never left his side.  “Look!” Isaiah says.  “It is the Lord God who helps me.”  Jesus had courage and hope during the most difficult week of his human life because God never left his side.

Isaiah’s servant poems give us a behind-the-scenes look at the Son of God’s desire as he faced suffering beyond what we can imagine.  We can understand how Jesus was sustained by God’s presence and endured the cross because his compassion compelled him to take on suffering and bring it to redemption.  

When we face adversity ourselves, we can be assured the Lord God will be with us.  Whether you’re facing difficulties, or in a peaceful place, may you be confident of the Father, Son, and Spirit’s constant presence right here, right now, always at your side.




  • Psalm 27:6  Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.  
  • I WILL SING … Don Moen et al …



Matthew 27:1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.  4 This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”   

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  9 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!”  

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’  11 The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’  



1.   From study notes in the NET Bible

tn The expression ῾Ωσαννά (hōsanna, literally in Hebrew, “O Lord, save”) in the quotation from Ps.118:25-26 was probably by this time a familiar liturgical expression of praise, on the order of “Hail to the king,” although both the underlying Aramaic and Hebrew expressions meant “O Lord, save us.”  In words familiar to every Jew, the author is indicating that at this point every messianic expectation is now at the point of realization.  It is clear from the words of the psalm shouted by the crowd that Jesus is being proclaimed as messianic king.  See E. Lohse, TDNT 9:682-84.

sn  Hosanna is an Aramaic expression that literally means, “help, I pray,” or “save, I pray.”  By Jesus’ time it had become a strictly liturgical formula of praise, however, and was used as an exclamation of praise to God.

2.   From a YouVersion 8-day reading plan, Holy Week and Easter, designed in collaboration with BibleProject

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus and his disciples arriving in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover after a long journey.  Jesus’ arrival in the city is often referred to as the “triumphal entry.”  And it was— the crowds cried out, “Praise the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”  And they sang “Hosanna!” while throwing palm branches and coats on his path.

Why was Jesus given this royal treatment?

Israel’s prophets spoke about a king who would come to the holy city and bring justice and peace to Israel (Zech. 9:9).  When the crowds see Jesus on the donkey, they seem to think that Jesus is God’s promised King, the long-awaited Messiah sent to rescue Israel and establish God’s Kingdom on Earth.

But Jesus wasn’t the king they were expecting.

  • Many thought this king would honor the temple and its powerful leaders, but Jesus powerfully criticizes the temple system and predicts its collapse.
  • Others hoped Jesus would lead a military revolt as previous “messiahs” had done,
  • but Jesus rides in without armies or weapons or warhorses.  He comes on a donkey filled with patient, peaceful, self-giving love.

He shocks people further when he says that the Kingdom of God belongs not to the elite and powerful but to the poor and the outsider.  God’s Kingdom is one where love reigns — love of God and others, including our enemies.

Related passages …  John 12:12-16,17-19 and Luke 19:28-34, 35-40, 41-44.   



  • THE LOVE OF GOD … Dave Hunt …




Emptied, Humbled and Obedient

Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV

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 became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.  

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  

What is the passage saying to you?  What are you taking away?

  • What is the main idea in the passage?  …
  • What would you say is the key word in the passage?  …
  • What is the context?  … Philippians 2:1-4
  • What do you think was on Paul’s mind?  … Philippians 2:2 … c.f. Philippians 1:27
  • What can we glean about Christ BEFORE He became human?  … Philippians 2:6
  • What can we glean about Christ AFTER He became human?  … Philippians 2:7
  • What do you understand the phrase “emptied Himself” to mean?  …
  • How did Christ humble Himself?  … not by what is in Phil.2:7, but by what is in Phil.2:8.
  • What do you believe the phrase “even death on a cross” means?  … Phil.2:8 … Deut.21:22-23 … Galatians 3:13
  • How did God exalt the Christ?  … Philippians 2:9
  • What do you think is the “name” that is above all names?  … Isaiah 42:8, Psalm 83:18
  • What, for you, is the main takeaway?  …  …
      • Philippians 2:1-4,5  If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mindDo 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 interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus …. 
      • The key to unity in the Church is humility – of the kind that Jesus Christ had.


What would Home Office like us to take away from the passage?


Great Minds Think Alike

If you think back over your life, can you remember your best friend from high school or college?  You know, someone who knew you inside and out and still liked you.  You might have used sayings like “we’re on the same page” when you referred to your friendship.  It may have meant you had similar interests, goals, or ways of seeing the world.  The two of you were in sync, much like two gymnasts doing a routine or the figure skating couples you may have watched during the Olympics.  When one of you came up with an idea that the other had also just thought of, you may have said something like this: “Great minds think alike.”

Today we’re going to study what was probably an early Christian hymn found in Philippians 2, and we’ll explore what verse 5 in this passage means when it suggests that we should have the same mind as Jesus.  Let’s read Philippians 2:5-11.

Let’s set the context for the passage by looking to earlier verses in the letter to the Philippians.


  • There was concern about dissension among members:  Paul talks about his concern regarding those “opponents” who are emphasizing circumcision and law-keeping as a means of living righteously (Philippians 1:28, 3:2, 7-11, 18-19).  It is Paul’s desire that the believers in Philippi are unified, “standing firm in one spirit” (Philippians 1:27 NRSV).
  • Unity doesn’t mean there won’t be differences of opinion:  Paul understands human nature, and he urges the congregation to be united in love (Philippians 2:3-4).  It is possible to disagree with another’s opinion and hold that tension in love, without attempting to persuade, manipulate, or change another’s mind.  Melody Stanford Martin asks an important question in Psychology Today: “What would happen if instead of trying to change or control each other, we focus on seeing and understanding each other?”   Martin suggests that when we “suspend our need to convert [or persuade someone], we make space to learn.”   It’s in this space of learning that love exists.  

Suspending our desire to change or control others requires a big dose of humility, and that starts with kenosis.  Kenosis is a Greek word that means self-emptying, but it doesn’t mean we completely lose ourselves and become doormats.  Let’s look at Jesus’s example as described in Philippians 2:5-11 to understand how our Triune God approaches the idea of kenosis.

The triune God and kenosis

Kenosis, or self-emptying, is the way the Father, Son, and Spirit live.  Franciscan theologian and philosopher, Bonaventure, who lived in 1221-1274, talks about the relationship of the Trinity as a fountain full of love.  The Father holds nothing back but empties into Jesus, the Son.  Jesus then empties all into the Spirit, and the Spirit empties back into the Father, no withholding.   The fountain represents the infinite love that is at the center of everything, and the Father, Son, and Spirit don’t fear emptying themselves completely because the fountain of love will never run dry.

We can see the self-emptying attitude in Jesus, his willingness to let go of meeting others’ expectations and cultural norms, and his gift of loving people where they are, without judgment (Philippians 2:6).  Kenosis forms the central feature of the mind of Christ, and in the hymn in Philippians, Paul makes plain that everything Jesus did came from his self-emptying mindset.  First, he became a human, emptying himself of his divine privilege and putting on our flesh (Philippians 2:7).  By Jesus becoming fully human, humanity is bestowed with dignity and fellowship with the Divine.  In everything he did during his thirty-three years on earth, Jesus descended, chose humility, and emptied himself of any rights or privileges, ultimately allowing himself to bear the hatred of the world by dying on a cross so that hatred could be dissolved in God’s love for their creation (Philippians 2:8).

Kenosis and us

Human beings are put off by the idea of emptying ourselves. First, Jesus’ teachings tell us that the way to winning is by losing, and that goes against cultural rules and expectations. But we can see it is true by observing Jesus’ life and interactions with people.  Why does kenosis, having the mind of Christ, work?

  • It meets our deepest need.  Emptying ourselves of our egotistic tendencies to be important, right, or perfect makes space for God in us.  Our hearts long for deep communion and being at one with God, even as Jesus was of one mind and heart with God.  What initially seems to be a great loss, giving up our own notions of rightness and perfection, becomes an opportunity to be filled with the Spirit of God.
  • It’s the path of transformation.  Jesus did not avoid death.  Instead, he transformed it into resurrection.  If we don’t believe that infinite love is at the center, we will behave as if there isn’t enough.  We will feel like we must protect ourselves, not trusting in our inherent worth as children of God.  On the path of transformation, we must let go of our human shortcomings, guilt, and shame, as well as our biases that are rooted in our desire to be right or protect ourselves.  By letting go, emptying ourselves of the weights that hold us hostage, we can find our truest selves, grounded in the steadfast, infinite love of God (Philippians 2:9-11).

Moving toward kenosis

Kenosis does not come naturally to us, but life presents opportunities for letting go, often through experiences of great love or great suffering.  However, there are practices we can incorporate to make us aware of habitual thoughts and feelings that keep us stuck.

  • Contemplative (or centering) prayer:  This practice of prayer doesn’t focus on a laundry list of wants or suggestions for God to act upon.  Instead, contemplative or centering prayer incorporates silence and a focus on a chosen word or phrase that communicates your intention or consent to God’s presence.  You rest in God’s presence, and when you notice your mind becoming distracted, you return to your chosen word or phrase.
  • Silence:  Similar to centering prayer, silence allows you to focus on your breath and an openness to God’s nearness.  Sitting in silence is not comfortable, but it affords an opportunity to notice the types of thoughts and feelings that arise, and then consider their truth and helpfulness.
  • Lectio Divina:  The Latin phrase, “Lectio Divina,” refers to a close reading of scripture to notice what God might be saying to you.  It is not a theological or doctrinal study, but a careful listening to what God wants us to know about ourselves and our relationship with God, not about anyone else.  Though you can find helpful information online about Lectio Divina, the basic steps are as follows: 1) read the passage slowly, out loud if possible; 2) identify a word or phrase that catches your attention; 3) read the passage again slowly, perhaps from another translation; 4) identify how the passage or the word/phrase relates to your life right now and what feelings have arisen in your heart; 5) read the passage again and ask God, “What are you saying to me?” 6)  Journal or sit quietly with what comes up.

Great minds do think alike, and Philippians 2:5-11 challenges us to develop the mind of Christ by understanding kenosis and how it can be part of our mindset, too.  As we close, let’s read together a poem prayer written by Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes from the Unfolding Light website:


Your deepest humility and self-emptying
is not of rank or status or even suffering, but of love;
your greatest miracle is this:
that you loved the people who are impossible to love.

My Chief, my Beloved,
here is my salvation, and my calling.

I love you and entrust myself to you.
May your heart be in me,
that with all my life
I may thank you,
I may worship you,
I may follow you.


  • ABOVE ALL … Lenny LeBlanc …



… A Prayer* for Palm Sunday … from the Book of Common Prayer (2019) … 

 Almighty and everlasting God, in your tender love for us you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon himself our nature and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and come to share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. 




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