• Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

Home Worship for Palm Sunday (April 5, 2020)

Home Worship on Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday (Year A)

Watch the Livestream at www.Facebook.com/StMattSav

Sunday at 9:30 a.m. (or any time afterward)




Preface

I am posting this worship service online because we at St. Matthew's Church in Savannah are unable to gather together in person this week. The Governor of Georgia and President of the U.S.A. have declared states of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak. Public health officials recommend avoiding large gatherings of people to avoid spreading the illness to more vulnerable people. We are living under Shelter-at-Home orders from both the City of Savannah and the State of Georgia. Therefore, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia has ordered all parishes in our diocese to suspend in-person worship.

At 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, I will broadcast the following worship service using Facebook Live at www.Facebook.com/StMattSav. After the service concludes, you can re-watch it at any time.

Today’s service is a modified version of Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion. I invite you to go outside and find a leafy branch (whether it’s a palm or any other plant) and bring it inside to hold during our worship. If you are praying this without watching my video, I encourage you to assign characters from the Passion Gospel to other members of your household.

You may read these prayers together in church or at home, as individuals or in small groups, while watching the live stream video or at another time. You do not need a clergy person present to say these prayers. Page numbers from The Book of Common Prayer are listed in parentheses after each section heading using the abbreviation “BCP." The written text of my sermon is included below.

May God protect you from this virus and protect the most vulnerable among us. May we be God’s hands and feet of compassion and service to all in need during this time. Amen.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda



The Liturgy of the Palms


Opening Anthem (BCP, p. 270 / Hymn #153)

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.

Let us pray.

Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


A Reading from the Gospel according to St. Matthew (21:1-11)

When Jesus and his disciples 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." This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

"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. 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!"

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

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

The Blessing Over the Branches & Procession (BCP, p. 271 / Hymn #153)

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you, Almighty God, for the acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. On this day he entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph, and was proclaimed as King of kings by those who spread their garments and branches of palm along his way. Let these branches be for us signs of his victory, and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life; who lives and reigns in glory with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.


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

Let us go forth in peace.

In the name of Christ. Amen.

Processional: Hymn #154 – All Glory, Laud, and Honor

[REFRAIN]:

All glory, laud, and honor

to thee, Redeemer, King!

to whom the lips of children

made sweet hosannas ring.

1. Thou art the King of Israel,

thou David's royal Son,

who in the Lord's Name comest,

the King and Blessed One.

2. The company of angels 

are praising thee on high;

and we with all creation

in chorus make reply.

3. The people of the Hebrews

with palms before thee went;

our praise and prayer and anthems

before thee we present.

4. To thee before thy passion

they sang their hymns of praise;

to thee, now high exalted,

our melody we raise.

5. Thou didst accept their praises;

accept the prayers we bring,

who in all good delightest,

thou good and gracious King.

The Liturgy of the Word: Sunday of the Passion

The Collect of the Day (BCP, pp. 272)

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him 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 also 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.

A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (50:4-9a)

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 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. 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?

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Psalm 31:9-16 (BCP, p. 623)

9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; * my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.

10 For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; * my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.

11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance; * when they see me in the street they avoid me.

12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; * I am as useless as a broken pot.

13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; * they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life.

14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. * I have said, "You are my God.

15 My times are in your hand; * rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.

16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, * and in your loving-kindness save me."

A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians (2:5-11)

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 name, 

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,  in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 

and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Sequence: LEV #136 – I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

1. I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

No turning back, No turning back

2. Though no one join me, still I will follow

Though no one join me, still I will follow

Though no one join me, still I will follow

No turning back, No turning back

3. The world behind me, the cross before me

The world behind me, the cross before me

The world behind me, the cross before me

No turning back, No turning back

The Passion Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew (26:14-27:66)

NARRATOR: One of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said,


JUDAS: "What will you give me if I betray Jesus to you?"


NARRATOR: They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying,


DISCIPLES: "Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?"


NARRATOR: He said,


JESUS: "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'"


NARRATOR: So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said,


JESUS: "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me."


NARRATOR: And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another,


DISCIPLES: "Surely not I, Lord?"


NARRATOR: He answered,


JESUS: "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born."


NARRATOR: Judas, who betrayed him, said,


JUDAS: "Surely not I, Rabbi?"


NARRATOR: He replied,


JESUS: "You have said so."


NARRATOR: While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said,


JESUS: "Take, eat; this is my body."


NARRATOR: Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying,


JESUS: "Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."


NARRATOR: When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them,


JESUS: "You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

`I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'

But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee."


NARRATOR: Peter said to him,


PETER: "Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you."


NARRATOR: Jesus said to him,


JESUS: "Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times."


NARRATOR: Peter said to him,


PETER: "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you."


NARRATOR: And so said all the disciples.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples,


JESUS: "Sit here while I go over there and pray."


NARRATOR: He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them,


JESUS: "I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me."


NARRATOR: And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed,


JESUS: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want."


NARRATOR: Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter,


JESUS: "So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."


NARRATOR: Again he went away for the second time and prayed,


JESUS: "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done."


NARRATOR: Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them,


JESUS: "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand."


NARRATOR: While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying,


JUDAS: "The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him."


NARRATOR: At once he came up to Jesus and said,


JUDAS: "Greetings, Rabbi!"


NARRATOR: and kissed him. Jesus said to him,


JESUS: "Friend, do what you are here to do."


NARRATOR: Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him,


JESUS: "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?"


NARRATOR: At that hour Jesus said to the crowds,


JESUS: "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled."


NARRATOR: Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said,


ACCUSERS: "This fellow said, `I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'"


NARRATOR: The high priest stood up and said,


HIGH PRIEST: "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?"


NARRATOR: But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him,


HIGH PRIEST: "I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God."


NARRATOR: Jesus said to him,


JESUS: "You have said so. But I tell you,

From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."


NARRATOR: Then the high priest tore his clothes and said,


HIGH PRIEST: "He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?"


NARRATOR: They answered,


CHIEF PRIESTS: "He deserves death."


NARRATOR: Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying,


CHIEF PRIESTS: "Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?"


NARRATOR: Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said,


SERVANT GIRL: "You also were with Jesus the Galilean."


NARRATOR: But he denied it before all of them, saying,


PETER: "I do not know what you are talking about."


NARRATOR: When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders,


SERVANT GIRL: This man was with Jesus of Nazareth."


NARRATOR: Again he denied it with an oath,


PETER: "I do not know the man."


NARRATOR: After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter,


BYSTANDER: Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you."


NARRATOR: Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath,


PETER: "I do not know the man!"


NARRATOR: At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said:


JESUS: "Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times."


NARRATOR: And he went out and wept bitterly.

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said,


JUDAS: "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood."


NARRATOR: But they said,


CHIEF PRIESTS: "What is that to us? See to it yourself."


NARRATOR: Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said,


CHIEF PRIESTS: "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money."


NARRATOR: After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter's field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord commanded me."

Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him,


PILATE: "Are you the King of the Jews?"


NARRATOR: Jesus said,


JESUS: "You say so."


NARRATOR: But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him,


PILATE: "Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?"


NARRATOR: But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them,


PILATE: "Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?"


NARRATOR: For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him,


PILATE’S WIFE: "Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him."


NARRATOR: Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them,


PILATE: "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?"


NARRATOR: And they said,


CONGREGATION: "Barabbas."


NARRATOR: Pilate said to them,


PILATE: "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?"


NARRATOR: All of them said,


CONGREGATION: "Let him be crucified!"


NARRATOR: Then he asked,


PILATE: "Why, what evil has he done?"


NARRATOR: But they shouted all the more,


CONGREGATION: "Let him be crucified!"


NARRATOR: So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying,


PILATE: "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves."


NARRATOR: Then the people as a whole answered,


CONGREGATION: "His blood be on us and on our children!"


NARRATOR: So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying,


SOLDIERS: "Hail, King of the Jews!"


NARRATOR: They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.


[At the mention of Golgotha, the congregation should stand and remain standing for the remainder of the reading.]


NARRATOR: As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."

Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying,


BYSTANDERS: "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross."


NARRATOR: In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,


CHIEF PRIESTS: "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, `I am God's Son.'"


NARRATOR: The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice,


JESUS: "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?"


NARRATOR: that is,


JESUS: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"


NARRATOR: When some of the bystanders heard it, they said,


BYSTANDERS: "This man is calling for Elijah."


NARRATOR: At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said,


BYSTANDERS: "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him."


NARRATOR: Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said,


CENTURION: "Truly this man was God's Son!


NARRATOR: Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said,


CHIEF PRIESTS: "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, `After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, `He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first."

NARRATOR: Pilate said to them,

PILATE: "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can."

NARRATOR: So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

The Sermon

"Jesus and the Vulnerability of God" by Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

The last few weeks have been a really strange time for all of us. The word unprecedented doesn’t quite capture just how weird it is for everything to be forced to shut down by an extremely contagious and deadly virus. The novel coronavirus pandemic is forcing us as a collective human race to look at our own mortality and our own vulnerability. Many of us, especially those of us who are younger, prefer not to think about death and never to imagine that we could experience a debilitating illness. We imagine that we are in some sense invincible.

But the truth is that none of us is invincible. We are human beings, God’s creatures made with weak, mortal bodies that are susceptible to COVID-19 just as much as any number of other dangers and toils. We are and have always been vulnerable. But we rarely want to admit that. We rarely choose to stare our vulnerability in the face. But this pandemic and our “new normal” of sheltering in place and quarantining ourselves from others forces us to acknowledge that we are all at risk from this illness (not just the elderly and not just those with underlying conditions). We are all vulnerable and we always have been.

But the Good News, the Christian Gospel is that we are not alone in our vulnerability. God did not make us and abandon us. God chose to be with us, to live among us, to take on flesh and experience every trial and temptation. God, who is truly immortal and invincible, chose to be vulnerable. And more than any other Christian holiday, Palm Sunday and Holy Week are about the vulnerability of Jesus Christ.

Early in church history, there were many who debated who Jesus really was. Was he just a man? Was he God? Could he be both? If so, how? Most of these questions came up because of the Crucifixion: How can God become a human and how can God die? How can God be vulnerable? How can God suffer? How can God endure crucifixion, death, and even a descent into the land of the dead?

It would be much easier to believe that Jesus is God if he didn’t really get crucified and die. It would be easier to believe that Jesus only appeared to suffer and die. It’s much easier to believe that God is above ordinary human weakness, pain, mortality, and vulnerability.

But, we believe that isn’t true. Even though it’s harder or more scandalous, we believe that Jesus really is who he said he was and that he really did suffer and die on the cross. These questions led to the formation of our historic statements of faith like the Nicene Creed that we say together most Sundays. Jesus is “true God from true God,” he “was made man,” and “for our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried” (BCP, p. 358). Jesus is fully God and fully human; and as a full human he really did die.

We prefer to think of God as all-powerful, as almighty, as all-knowing. And God is all of those things. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of those traits during Holy Week. As Jesus journeyed toward suffering and death, St. Paul reminds us, “though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] 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” (Philippians 2:6-8).

This took an extreme amount of vulnerability. Jesus was not the way he was portrayed in movies like George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) or Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977). He was not just a stoic God-Man walking around speaking in parables and platitudes. Jesus was a real man with real feelings and real fears. He really ate and drank and joked and laughed and passed gas and had every human bodily function that you and I had. And he experienced real pain and suffering, sweating and bleeding and crying out in agony as he was beaten, tortured, and crucified to death.

And through it all, he was truly God. God so loved the world and so loved humanity that God took on a real human body, warts and all. God assumed our human nature in all its fullness and all its vulnerability so that we could be saved. God experienced the best and the worst of human life. And this week, we have to stare the worst side straight in the face. We have to come to grips that all human beings die and that Jesus died in one of the worst ways imaginable.

Jesus shows us that God loves us enough to be like one of us in every way. God loves us enough to become a real, bodily human being and suffer death. So every time we suffer, every time we recognize our extreme vulnerability to the world around us, Jesus Christ can tell us with all sincerity, “I know. I’ve been there too.” God empathizes with all our weakness and vulnerability because the Word became flesh and Jesus the Word suffered and died on a cross.

Yes, Jesus suffered and died. It’s sad and it’s worth grieving over. But, here is the Good News of Palm Sunday: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one [Jesus] who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). God is with us in our vulnerability. God will stay with us during this time of crisis. God loves us enough to be with us in all our weakness. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.


The Nicene Creed (BCP, p. 358)

We believe in one God,     

the Father, the Almighty,     

maker of heaven and earth,     

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,     

the only Son of God,     

eternally begotten of the Father,     

God from God, Light from Light,     

true God from true God,     

begotten, not made,     

of one Being with the Father.     

Through him all things were made.     

For us and for our salvation         

he came down from heaven:     

by the power of the Holy Spirit         

he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,         

and was made man.     

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;         

he suffered death and was buried.         

On the third day he rose again             

in accordance with the Scriptures;         

he ascended into heaven             

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.     

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,         

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,     

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.     

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.     

He has spoken through the Prophets.     

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.     

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.     

We look for the resurrection of the dead,         

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Prayers of the People (Adapted from Prayers provided by the Diocese of Georgia)

United with Christians around the globe on this Palm Sunday, let us pray for the church, the earth, our troubled world, and all in need, responding to each petition with the words, "Your mercy is great."

Blessed are you, holy God, for the church. Gather all the baptized around your presence in the Word. Strengthen the body of your people even when we cannot assemble for worship. Grant Bishop Benhase, Bishop-elect Logue and all our deacons and priests faithfulness and creativity for their ministry in this time, and accompany those preparing for baptism.

Hear us, holy God.

Your mercy is great.

Blessed are you, bountiful God, for this good earth and for the flowering of springtime. Save dry lands from destructive droughts. Protect the waters from pollution. Allow in this time the planting of fields for food. Make us into care-givers of your plants and animals.

Hear us, bountiful God.

Your mercy is great.

Blessed are you, sovereign God, for our nation. Inspire all people to live in peace and concord. Grant wisdom and courage to heads of state and to legislators as they face the coronavirus. Lead our elected officials to champion the cause of the needy.

Hear us, sovereign God.

Your mercy is great.

Blessed are you, faithful God, for you accompany suffering humanity with love. Abide wherever the coronavirus has struck. Visit all who mourn their dead; all who have contracted the virus; those who are quarantined or stranded away from home; those who have lost their employment; those who fear the present and the future. Support physicians, nurses, and home health aides; medical researchers; and the World Health Organization.

Hear us, faithful God.

Your mercy is great.

Blessed are you, gracious God, for you care for the needy, especially all on our parish prayer list: Martha Avery, Zavier Bradley, Raleigh Bryant, Christine Brown, Mark Case, Genella Chamberlain, Annie Colbert, Lazola Cope, Alice Dailey, Brittany Dawson, Ruby Fernandez, Harry Frazier, Earl Golden, Gary Gordon, Loretta Harmond, Marva Harris, Enoch Henderson, Charles E. Hines, Kenneth Howard, Terri Howard, Dale Hundley, Jared Hundley, Tracy Hundley, Milinda James, Alvin Jenkins, Dana Jenkins, Frances T. Jones, Lori Jones, Robert L. Jones, Sr., Ronald Jones, Whitney Kennedy, Leonard Law, Jr., Ryan Lovett, Tammie Lovett, Craig Maxwell, Sada Maxwell, Carmelita Maynard, Viola Maynard, Bette Milledge, Hollie Moultrie, Patricia Murry, Russell Nails, Dorothy Neal, Glenzy Payne, Robert Payne, James Small, Gwendolyn Smith, Willie Stephens, Gisele Walton, Lori Ward, Gertrude Washington, Noel Wheeler, and Dean Williams. We beg you to feed the hungry, protect the refugee, embrace the distressed, house the homeless, nurse the sick, and comfort the dying.

Hear us, gracious God.

Your mercy is great.

Blessed are you, loving God, that your Son knelt before us, your unworthy servants. Preserve our lives, comfort our anxiety, and receive now the petitions of our hearts. Remember Charlotte Blue (4/6); Duane Johnson (4/7); and Renitra Baker (4/9) on their birthdays, and Jonathan and Jackie Newton (4/6) on their wedding anniversary.

Hear us, loving God.

Your mercy is great.

Blessed are you, eternal God, for all who have died in the faith, and those whom we name before you here. At the end, bring us with them into your everlasting glory.

Hear us, eternal God. Your mercy is great.

Receive, merciful God, our prayers, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our glorious king and our suffering Savior, who died and rose that we might live with you, now and forever. Amen.

The Confession of Sin (BCP, p. 360)

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

[Silence may be kept.]

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

Announcements

  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bishop of Georgia has determined that our parishes should remain closed until at least Easter Day (April 12, 2020). Below is the worship schedule for Holy Week (via Facebook Live):

  1. Holy Monday (4/6): Evening Prayer @ 4:00 p.m.

  2. Holy Tuesday (4/7): Evening Prayer @ 4:00 p.m.

  3. Holy Wednesday (4/8): Evening Prayer @ 4:00 p.m.

  4. Maundy Thursday (4/9): Evening Prayer @ 4:00 p.m.; Maundy Thursday Liturgy @ 5:00 p.m.

  5. Good Friday (4/10): Stations of the Cross @ 12:00 noon; Fr. Arboleda available for Private Confession (by phone or video call) from 12:30-4:00; Evening Prayer @ 4:00 p.m.; Good Friday Liturgy and Emptying of the Tabernacle @ 5:00 p.m.

  6. Holy Saturday (4/11): Morning Prayer & Holy Saturday Liturgy @ 9:00 a.m.

  7. Easter Day (4/12): Sunrise Easter Vigil with Holy Communion. By the Bishop's express orders, unfortunately no Holy Communion can be offered due to concerns about coronavirus.


  1. April 8, 6 p.m. - Evening Prayer

  2. April 9, 7 p.m. - Maundy Thursday

  3. April 10, noon and 7 p.m.

  4. Good Friday Stations of the Cross - noon

  5. Good Friday Liturgy - 7 p.m.

  6. April 11, 8 p.m. - The Great Vigil of Easter

  7. April 12, 10 a.m. - Easter Sunday Eucharist

  • Many people are already feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, including the church. We still need your support to pay our staff, pay our bills, and provide for these online live streams. If you pledged a donation in 2020, please continue making those contributions. If you have not pledged, please consider donating to St. Matthew’s now and in the future. There are several ways to give, but the simplest are these: (1) Mail us a check or money order at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 1401 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd, Savannah, GA 31415; OR (2) Make a secure online gift to St. Matthew’s and/or automate future gifts at: https://onrealm.org/StMattSav/-/give/now; OR (3) Text “stmattsav” to 73256 to make a secure online donation through your phone.

The Offertory (BCP, p. 376)

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

Make a secure online gift to St. Matthew’s at: https://onrealm.org/StMattSav/-/give/now

Offertory: Hymn #474 – When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

1 When I survey the wondrous cross

where the young Prince of Glory died,

my richest gain I count but loss,

and pour contempt on all my pride.

2 Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

save in the cross of Christ, my God:

all the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to his blood.

3 See, from his head, his hands, his feet,

sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

or thorns compose so rich a crown?

4 Were the whole realm of nature mine,

that were an offering far too small;

love so amazing, so divine,

demands my soul, my life, my all.

The Lord’s Prayer (BCP, p. 364)

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

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.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those

who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever. Amen.

The Dismissal (BCP, p. 366)

Let us bow down before the Lord.


Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.


Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all evermore. Amen. (2 Corinthians 3:14).

Note: This service is reproduced from The Book of Common Prayer, 1979 (BCP), The Hymnal 1982 (Hymn), and Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal (LEV). The Scripture readings are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

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