A New Commandment

A Service for Palm/Passion Sunday

Seven pod groups from Grace United Church began meeting in June 2003 to plan worship services for Lent 2004 (for more on pods see RW 75). The theme for the season was “Covenants.”

Five of the groups chose one of the covenants God makes with God’s people: Noah, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Jesus. One group worked on Good Friday; one on Easter. We held a “Resource Day” where invited presenters helped us engage the Scriptures and consider creative ways of presenting them. Each group was also given some background materials relating to the Scriptures. The groups created visual art based on their particular Scripture and also helped create parts of the liturgy.

The members of the GraceWorks pod who crafted the following worship service are Anne Ward, Lori Armstrong, Bev Walkling, Karen Motherwell, and Erma Baird. The whole series is available at http://www.graceworks.ca/lent2004.htm.

We Gather to Worship

Prelude: “Ride on, King Jesus” (traditional)

Call to Worship

“Ride on, King Jesus” (words and music by Steve Bell)

[Soloist sings stanzas to beat of drum; organist and congregation join on chorus as children bring palm branches forward. Blessing offered before last stanza. Children and youth go to hear God’s Word as last stanza is sung; congregation stands to sing chorus, then proceeds to sing hymn.]

Hymn: “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” CH 297, PH 89, PsH 378, WR 267

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

We praise and bless you, ever-living God, for the acts of love and faithfulness by which you redeem the world through Jesus Christ our Lord. God our hope, today we joyfully acclaim Jesus, our Messiah and King.

Even as the hosannas echo in our ears, we acknowledge before you the times we have been reluctant to walk in your way. We confess that we have resisted your call to live in community as servants of one another. Our hearts and our wills need your cleansing and restoration.

O King of glory, form in us the humility and patience, the kindness and suffering love that reflect your glory. Then shall the world know that you are our God and we are your people. Through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of God’s Grace

Our hope is in Christ alone. He calls us to himself, healing our brokenness and making us whole. We turn to him and he saves us by his grace. Thanks be to God.

Anthem: “He Comes in the Name of the Lord” (words and music by Mary Kay Beall)

The Word Proclaimed

Responsive Reading (from Psalm 133; Ephesians 4:1-13)

How good and pleasant it is when we live in unity.

It is like precious oil poured on the head,

running down on Aaron’s beard,

down upon the collar of his robes.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

We will be humble, gentle, and patient. We will keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.

We have been given grace to prepare for works of service so the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in faith.

How good and pleasant it is when we live in unity.

Song: “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” CH 295

Reflections on John 13:1-17, 34-35

Reader 1: John 13:1

Reader 2: There are many places throughout the Bible where the word “love” is used. It is a word we hear on a daily basis, and a word that is defined in many different ways by many different people. All too often we think of it as being an emotion and forget that love is an action verb. In this chapter of John, we hear of the practice of foot washing. At the time of the Passover meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. This was highly unusual. Typically a lowly servant would do the washing, not the host of the meal. Jesus was showing them one more physical demonstration of his love that he hoped they would learn to emulate.

Why was this act of love so important? In this act (as in others) Jesus demonstrated that love puts others ahead of oneself. In love and humility, he washed the disciples’ feet. Picture your own feet. . . . Are they rough and imperfect? Imagine it is the end of a long hard day. You have been walking. Your feet ache; they’re hot and sweaty, caked in dirt. And now you come before Christ to share in a feast, and he bends down and washes your feet.

Reader 1: John 13:2-5

[After this Scripture passage is read, water is taken from the baptismal font and used to wash a member’s feet.]

Reader 1: John 13:6-8

Reader 3: We want to understand Jesus and his ways, yet we also want to be in control. Jesus said, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

We resist Jesus when he takes us out of our comfort zone. We usually feel most vulnerable and powerless when we are uncertain. These are emotions most of us try to avoid. Jesus is asking us to trust that he knows what is best.

Peter’s first reaction to Jesus washing his feet was to say no. Peter didn’t like Jesus taking the role of a servant. He saw him as a teacher, a preacher, someone he admired and respected, not someone who should do the work of a servant.

Peter felt unworthy of having Jesus wash his feet. He probably would have been more comfortable if the roles had been reversed, if Peter had been asked to wash Jesus’ feet. But Jesus doesn’t work that way. He isn’t concerned with what we are most comfortable with. He is concerned about what is right and what is best for us.

Jesus said, “Unless you let me wash your feet, you will have no part with me.” In order for us to have a part with Jesus, we must yield to him. We must follow his example of humility and love. We can trust his love for us.

Reader 1: John 13:9-10

Reader 4: At first, Peter was opposed to Jesus washing his feet; now he asks Jesus to wash more than his feet. Jesus refuses his request, saying that a bath is unnecessary.

These verses remind us of baptism cleansing the whole body.

However, the power of the water is not the primary focus of these verses. Jesus is entering into relationship with Peter just as he wants his disciples to enter into relationship with him and with one another.

As Christians we have made a covenant with Christ to enter into relationship with him and with one another. We commit not only to the sacrifice of service, but also to receiving service from others.

Reader 1: John 13:12-14

[During this Scripture reading, the minister washes a reader’s feet.]

Reader 5: Jesus taught that washing one another’s feet is an act we are to imitate but also receive or yield to. In kneeling before Peter and his disciples, our Lord assumes the role of humble servant. He asks only that they place themselves in his hands in trust and love.

By this action, Jesus gives a lesson on communal service. The act of foot washing is a self-revelation of Jesus, for he reveals his relationship with God and also with us whom he calls his own. The union of Jesus with God and us is his covenant to us.

It is only by accepting Jesus in the surprising roles of both loving host and intimate servant that we receive his love to the fullest. We are called to do as Jesus did, to model our love on a love whose ultimate expression is the gift of one’s life . . . a love that knows no restrictions, time, or boundaries. The closeness of this relationship with God, Jesus, and one another is beyond words. We are called to trust Jesus and to yield to him as he reveals his intimate, loving relationship or covenant with us.

Reader 1: John 13:15-17

Reader 6:We are all so blessed to have this purifying grace offered to us, for we know that only those who are spiritually washed by Christ have a part in him. Let us consider the blessings of foot washing:

  • It unites hearts in Christian fellowship and love.
  • It teaches humility and a willingness to serve others.
  • It rebukes selfishness and a desire to rule others.
  • It prepares our feet to take the gospel of peace to the world.

We are blessed with this same love that led Jesus to die for us.

Reader 1: John 13:34-35

Anthem: “And the Call Is to Community” (Michael Card, ©1994 Birdwing Music (a division of the Sparrow Corp.)

We Respond in Faith

Passing the Peace of Christ

We Offer Our Gifts and Ourselves

Offertory: “He Came Riding on a Donkey” (G. Light)

[The congregation is invited to use this time for personal reflection on the Word of God.]

Song: “Take My Life and Let It Be” CH 597, PN 391, PsH 288, SWM 226, SFL 74, TH 585, 586, WR 466

Celebration of Communion

Prayer of Consecration

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give God thanks and praise.

It is right to give God thanks and praise.

It is our joy and our peace, at all times and in all places to give thanks to you, holy Father, almighty and everlasting God, through Christ, our Lord.

We praise you for creating this world and all who live in it.

Covenanting God, we wander far from you and from your purposes for us. We cannot save ourselves. Therefore, we praise you for redeeming this world and your people by making covenant with us.

Through Noah you promised not to destroy us when we betrayed you but to save us through your suffering love.

Through Abraham and Sarah you made a people to carry your blessing into all the world.

Through Moses you gave your people your Law, that we might live as free children, beloved of God.

To David you promised to send a Savior who would dwell among us and establish your reign.

Through Jeremiah, you promised to write your truth upon our hearts.

In Jesus, all your covenant promises find fulfillment.

We acknowledge you, Christ Jesus, to be our Lord. Therefore, we join with your people of all ages and proclaim with joy:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Lord Jesus Christ, on the eve of your death

you washed the feet of your disciples

and gave yourself as food and drink.

Today we join with the church throughout the world,

seeking to obey your commandment

to love and serve each other

in a community of compassion and justice.

Now, in this meal you have given to us,

your death we proclaim.

your resurrection we declare.

your coming we await.

Glory be to you, O Lord.

Gracious God, send your Holy Spirit upon us, we pray. Unite us, by this bread and drink, with our Lord Jesus Christ and with each other, the members of his body.

Give us life at this sacred banquet

and joy in humble service.

Strengthen us for work in your kingdom that we may live in the power of Christ’s lordship until that day when we shall feast with him in heaven.

Savior Christ, whose compassion is beyond measure, hear the prayers we offer for those for whom we have special concern this day: [names]

Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory is yours, God most holy. Amen.

Choir anthems during communion

“Before I Take the Body of My Lord” ( Voices United, 462)

“How Beautiful” (Words and music: Twila Paris)

“Father, I Adore You” (Terrye Coelho, Maranatha! Music, 151)

We Are Sent Forth to Love and Serve God

Song: “An Upper Room” (Voices United , 130)

Response: Adapted from A Wee Worship Book , p. 79, 66 © 1999, GIA Publications

Song: “Go Now In Peace” (Don Besig and Nancy Price, Harold Flammer Music)

Postlude: “Sanna, Sannanina” (traditional South African)



Palm Sunday Responsive Reading

Based on Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 20

and Revelation 4

LS = left side of the congregation

RS = right side of the congregation

ALL = both sides

LS: Hosanna!

RS: Hosanna!

LS: Praise God for the Son of David.

RS: Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

LS: Praise God in highest heaven.

RS: Bless the coming kingdom of our Lord.

LS: Salvation comes from our God on the throne.

RS: Salvation comes from the Lamb.

LS: Peace in heaven.

RS: Glory to God in highest heaven.

All: Hosanna! Amen.

LS: Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving

RS: and honor and power and strength

All: belong to our God forever and forever. Amen.

LS: Hosanna!

RS: Hosanna!

LS: Praise God for the Son of David.

RS: Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

All: Praise God in highest heaven. Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!

—Phil Brondsema (brondsema@yahoo.com), Midland Reformed Church, Midland, Mich.


Communion Tablecloth: A New Commandment

For Palm Sunday, the pod group discerned the sacraments of baptism and communion in the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and giving them a new commandment (covenant) to “love one another as I have loved you.” This communion tablecloth is painted on a heavy canvas material and was created by Lynne Walkling.

Susan Woodhouse (woodhouse@ebtech.net) is a member of Grace United Church, Sarnia, Ontario; she is a candidate for ministry in the United Church of Canada and a watercolor artist. For more pictures and information on the pod process at Grace go to www.calvin.edu/worship and type "pods" in the search box.


Reformed Worship 82 © December 2006, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.