Script for Palm Sunday

 

( Lisa walks to to the front of the altar. As she nears the altar, we hear four voices from the congregation, in quick succession)

 

MARK

Hosanna!

 

STACY

Hosanna!

 

STEVE

Hosanna!

 

ELISE

Hosanna!

 

Then 2-3 seconds of complete silence, at the end of which Lisa speaks.

 

LISA

On the outskirts of Jerusalem

the donkey waited.

Not especially brave or filled with understanding,

he stood and waited.

 

Tied to a tree as usual, he waited.

Then he let himself be led away.

Then he let the stranger mount.

 

Never had he seen such crowds!

And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.

Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.

 

I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,

as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

 

AP (from the back of the sanctuary)

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals one on his right and one on his left.

 

LISA

Yes. There is no question that is the place toward which this day points us. On this day, if we commit ourselves fully to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, we follow his footsteps all the way to the cross. We are invited to do more than observe this story. We enter into it, become part of it.

 

(During the following speech, people respond with “It is I” spoken softly as indicated by name)

 

Are we the soldier who drives the nails – just doing his job? (Steve) Or Mary the mother of Jesus, holding our losses in our arms?

(Ashley) Or Pilate, sick of the whole thing and wanting to wash our hands of the affair? (Jane) Are we Judas, angry with our teachers and wanting to find some way to benefit from our disappointment? (Mark) Or the beloved disciple who stood beneath the cross? (Mike)

Sometimes, might we be Jesus — willing to risk and lose everything to love without conditions? (Kip) Or an unnamed person in the human swarm of that day? (all)

 

Whatever may be our place in the story, we are called to be on the journey with Jesus. Because he was, is, and always will be with us on our journeys.

 

GERI

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

 

LISA

Those are words of the Prophet Isaiah. But Jesus gave those words life when he said, “Come to me, you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” He not only hears our cries, he invites them.

 

ASHLEY

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;

 

STACY

For my life is wasted with grief

my strength fails me because of affliction,

And my bones are consumed

 

MARK

I have become a reproach to my enemies and even to my neighbors.

I am forgotten like one who is dead.

 

ELISE

Fear is all around.

 

STEVE

But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord.

I have said, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand.

 

JANE

When the time for the Passover meal came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles with him. He said,

 

KIP

I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

 

ASHLEY

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble.

 

ELISE

My times are in your hand.

 

AP

Then Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying

 

KIP

This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

 

GERI

And he did the same with the cup, saying:

 

KIP

This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

 

MIKE — strong!

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

STACY

Who, though he was in the form of God

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited

but emptied himself

 

MARK

…. emptied himself

 

STEVE

…. emptied himself

 

GERI

…. taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness

 

ALL VOICES

…. Human likeness!!

 

ASHLEY

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death —

 

KIP

The Lord God has opened my ear,

and I was not rebellious,

I did not turn backward.

 

MIKE

Even death on a cross.

 

KIP

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble

 

JANE

He went to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.

He said to them

 

KIP

Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.

 

STACY

Then he withdrew from them, knelt down, and prayed

 

KIP

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.

 

GERI

The Lord God helps me.

It is the Lord God who helps me.

 

AP

Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground.

 

ELISE

When he got up from prayer he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief.

 

SEVERAL VOICES, repeating:

For my life is wasted with grief ….

 

KIP

Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.

 

LISA

Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.

 

Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe

the wind wound itself into a silver tree and didn’t move,

maybe

the lake far away, where once he walked as on a

blue pavement,

lay still and waited, wild awake.

 

Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not

keep that vigil, how they must have wept,

so utterly human, knowing this too

must be part of the story.

 

MIKE

Suddenly a crowd came and the one called Judas

 

ALL VOICES

Judas!

 

MIKE

Was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said

 

KIP

Judas, is it with a kiss that you betray the Son of Man?

 

ELISE

Then he said to the authorities,

 

JESUS

This is your hour and the power of darkness.

 

MARK

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble.

 

 

STEVE

They seized him and led him away to the high priest’s house.

But Peter was following

 

AP

at a distance.

 

ASHLEY

A servant girl stared at Peter and said, “This man was with him!”

 

AP

Woman, I do not know him!

 

GERI

A little later someone else said, “You also are one of them.”

 

AP

Man, I am not!

 

STACY

Later, another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him!”

 

ALL VOICES, sequentially

I do not know what you are talking about!!

 

MIKE

Jesus turned and looked at Peter, who remembered Jesus’ words:

 

KIP

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

 

ELISE

And Peter wept bitterly.

 

AP

My life is wasted with grief

I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors.

ASHLEY

When day came, the chief priests and scribes brought him to their council.

 

STEVE

If you are the Messiah, tell us!

 

KIP

If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.

 

MIKE

Are you the Son of God?

 

KIP

You say that I am.

 

MARK

What further testimony to we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!

 

ELISE

Then they brought Jesus before Pilate.

 

MIKE

We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah …

 

STACY

… a King!

 

JANE

Are you the king of the Jews?

 

KIP

You say so.

 

JANE

I find no basis for an accusation against this man.

 

GERI

He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.

 

KIP

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

 

(derisive sounds from many voices)

 

MARK

When Pilate learned Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod.

 

STEVE

Herod hoped to see Jesus perform some sign, and questioned him at length, but Jesus gave him no answer.

 

ASHLEY

Herod mocked him, put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate, who called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people.

 

KIP

I gave my back to those who struck me;

I did not hide myself from insult and spitting.

 

JANE

You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people, and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. He has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore I will have him flogged and release him.

 

(uproar from many voices, with one voice topping them all)

MIKE

NO!! Away with this man! Release Barabbas for us!

 

JANE

Why? What evil has he done?

 

VOICES, repeatedly, howling viciously

Crucify him! Crucify! Crucify him!

 

(all action freezes)

 

LISA

Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been put in prison for murder and insurrection, and he handed Jesus over as they had wished.

 

AP

Two criminals were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

 

KIP

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

 

STACY

He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God,

his chosen one.

 

(the following three speeches from Isaiah are spoken mockingly, accompanied by derisive laughter)

 

MARK

The Lord God helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced

 

ELISE

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me!

 

STEVE

It is the Lord God who helps me;

Who will declare me guilty?

ASHLEY

If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.

 

MIKE

One of the criminals derided him.

 

AP

Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!

 

STACY

But the other said,

 

GERI

Do you not fear God? We have been condemned justly and are getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

 

KIP

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

 

MARK

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. The sun’s light failed, and the curtain of the temple was torn on two.

 

KIP

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!

 

(loud cry from Jesus, joined by all, and then a stoppage of breath followed by an audible exhalation)

 

LISA

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he said

 

STEVE

Certainly, this man was innocent.

 

(several voices echo “innocent” very softly)

 

 

 

 

ASHLEY

And when the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.

 

AP

But his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him stood at a distance, watching these things.

 

(as Lisa speaks the following poem, people peel off, slowly, one at a time, from the chancel area, and return to the congregation, remaining standing throughout the following poem)

 

LISA

Six hours outstretched in the sun, yes,

hot wood, the nails, blood trickling

into the eyes, yes  —

but the thieves on their neighbor crosses

survived till after the soldiers

had come to fracture their legs, or longer.

 

Why single out this agony?

Torture then, torture now,

the pain’s the same.

Hasn’t a child

dazed in the hospital ward they reserve

for the most abused, known worse?

The air we’re breathing, we share

with women and men who’ve held out

days and weeks on the rack.

 

But Julian of Norwich leapt

to the difference:

why among all the tortured

One only is “King of Grief.”

the oneing

with the Godhead opened him utterly

to the pain of all minds, all bodies

from first beginning

to last day. The great wonder is

that the human cells of his flesh and bone

didn’t explode.

Unique in agony, infinite strength

empowered him to endure

inside of history,

through those hours when he took to himself

the sum total of anguish:

seeing it

seeing it whole. Every sorrow and desolation He saw,

 

VOICE

My God …

 

VOICE

My God …

 

VOICE

Why have you forsaken me.

 

(singly, all readers repeat  “me”)

 

LISA

Every sorrow and desolation of the world he saw,

Every sorrow and desolation of ours he saw,

 

and sorrowed in kinship.

 

The scripture readings for Palm Sunday can be found here, but were not be read in the 9:00 & 11:00 am services because the presentation of the Passion Gospel includes selections compiled from all the appointed passages. Also included are excerpts from three poems: “The Poet Thinks About the Donkey” and Gethsemane” by Mary Oliver and “On a Theme From Julian’s Chapter XX” by Denise Levertov.