All the texts for Palm-Passion Sunday except the gospels are the same for all three years of the RCL. So, go to Year A Passion-Palm Sunday for general ideas about celebrating the day with children in the sanctuary and the following specific suggestions.
Choosing and using palm Leaves
This year I add a link to ecopalms.org where you can order sustainably grown fair trade palms. They cost a wee bit more, but it seems the only way to celebrate on Palm Sunday
Using two crowns to explore the kind of king Jesus was and is
Movement directions for Philippians 2:5-11
A script for reading Psalm 118
Introduction to a storybook that could be used in part in Passion services.
Introduction to a storybook that could be used in part in Passion services.
Since Year A Palm Passion Sunday got far and away the most traffic of any post to date, I assume some of you have not seen my reference to Sharing the Easter Faith with Children in other posts and mention it once again. It includes detailed information about how children understand the story of Holy Week, commentary on the Holy Week texts from children’s point of view, and lots of detailed plans for celebrating each of the days of Holy Week with children.
Challenge households to read part of Mark’s story of the events of Holy Week each day this week. Provide a bookmark with readings. The readings below are chosen with families with children in mind, but would be appropriate for all-adult households.
Sunday Mark 11:15-19 Jesus Attacks in the Temple
Monday Mark 12:28-34 The Greatest Command
Tuesday Mark 14:12-25 The Last Supper
Wednesday Mark 14:43-50 Jesus is Arrested
Thursday Mark 15:1-15 Pilate condemns Jesus
Friday Mark 15:21-39 Jesus is Crucified
Saturday Mark 15:42-47 Jesus’ Body is Buried
Easter Mark 16:1-8 The Tomb is Empty
If it is spring break in public schools and many families will be traveling and so miss Holy Week services, encourage them to take their bookmarks with them and to take a picture of themselves reading the Bible together at the beach, in the mountains, in their den at home, or wherever they spend Holy Week. Post their photographs on a bulletin board titled something like “First Church families read THE STORY during Holy Week.” This is one way to resource families to do home worship and to encourage them to pay some attention to the Holy Week story even if they do not come to the church during the week.
To continue your emphasis on crosses this Lent, follow the directions to make a palm cross ( go to Making Palm Crosses) while you review the amazing fact that the same people who had waved palms to welcome Jesus on Sunday called for him to be crucified on Friday. For children it boils down to loyalty. Good friends stay your good friends wherever you go and whatever happens. On Palm Sunday we remind ourselves to be good friends to Jesus every day and everywhere we go.
Some congregations have projected the directions and invited people to fold palm crosses during worship. Many people, however, find it difficult to follow the directions. So try it before you project it.
|Order air-trade produced nail crosses from
If you are more focused on Passion Sunday and do not plan to use nail crosses on Good Friday, feature nail crosses today. Use one to introduce the Passion readings. Point out why these crosses are made with nails. Speak briefly of how terrible the stories that we will hear this morning are. There is a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of very real, very bad pain. Admit that it is hard to listen to the stories. But, insist that they are important stories to hear. Finally, promise that Jesus’ story does not end where we stop reading today. The very best story won’t be read until next Sunday. We have to wait for it. But, we know it is coming. That helps us live with the sad stories this week.
This is another gospel in which there is no mention of the parade involving children. It was an adult inspired and led event. I’m sure children got into the act, but they were joining the adults. That is more reason to make palm processionals intergenerational. Gather as many of the congregation as are willing in the hall or some other convenient place for the call to worship. Then process into the sanctuary together waving palms and singing. When they participate with their parents and leaders of the church, children know that this is one very important parade. To keep the music going strong choose a short familiar chorus (“Prepare the Way of the Lord!”) that worshippers can sing repeatedly rather than a Palm Sunday hymn whose words they probably do not know by heart and thus cannot sing as they walk up the aisle with their palm branch.
Speaking of Palm Sunday hymns: there are not many of them and they are sung only one Sunday a year. They lack the easy to join in on “alleluia” choruses of the Easter hymns and their language is difficult for children. Unless the children learn them in choir, I wouldn’t expect children to sing them in worship with much enthusiasm. There are clearer ways to rehearse the story.
If you will be reading the Passion using a variety of readers, choose an older child to read the Palm Sunday story from either Mark or John.
John’s account has no children and barely mentions the donkey. John is clearly focused on what kind of king Jesus is. Check out the directions in Year A Palm Sunday for using two crowns to talk about John’s points.
Mark 14:1- 15:47 or 15: 1-39 (40-47)
Many congregations devote the sermon time this day to reading the entire Passion story. For those who know the stories well, it is a powerful review. But those of any age who are less familiar with the stories find it very long and tend to tune out. Help them stay tuned in by breaking it up, using a variety of readers and adding little movement. Add a visual element by moving related props around the sanctuary as the stories are read. The readers could place the props or acolytes or a youth class could do it. Though children are capable of carrying the props, many adults would be uncomfortable seeing children carry these particular props. The children benefit from watching the props and hearing the stories.
Choose the readers carefully and hold a group rehearsal so all are comfortable with their assignments.
Reader 1 – older male to read about the religious leaders’ effort
to get rid of Jesus
to get rid of Jesus
Reader 2 – woman or older teenage girl to read about Mary of
Reader 3 – excellent, dramatic reader to read the Last Supper
and the Garden of Gethsemane stories
Reader 4 – young adult male to read about Peter
Reader 5 – older man to read about Pilate
Readers 6 and 7 – older teenage males to read the crucifixion as
Reader 8 – woman to read about women at the cross
Reader 9 – young adult male to read about Joseph of Arimathea
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Mark 14:1 – 15:47 Readers Script
Reader 1 sits near and reads from a lectern or music stand on one side of the sanctuary. Readers 2, 3, 4 and 8 sit near and read in turn from a lectern or music stand on the other side of the sanctuary. Readers 5,6,and 7 enter from the rear of the sanctuary and leave after their scene. Reader 8 is seated in the congregation near the front where he can easily get out and come to the front to read. Acolytes or prop carriers come up the central aisle bearing their props, then leave by the side aisle.
Reader 1: It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
Reader 2: (Acolyte carries a burning scented candle up the central aisle and out the side OR, if incense is part of your tradition, acolyte comes up central aisle swinging the censer and leaves while the story is read.) While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Reader 1: Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. (Acolyte drops a bag of money on the Table)
Reader 3: (Acolyte brings in a loaf and chalice to set on the Table OR appropriate worship leaders set the Table for the Sacrament later in the service) On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For 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.”
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Reader 4: When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. (Acolyte places a large rooster statue – maybe pottery, a piñata, or a colorful small banner on a stand - near the front)
Reader 3: They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Reader 1: (Acolyte brings in a sword or club, shows it to the congregation and leans it against the Table) Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled.
Reader 4: Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
Reader 1: Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and
‘you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power,’
and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’ ”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. ( Acolyte carries wooden gavel to the Table and bangs on it like a judge pronouncing sentence) Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.
Reader 4: While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Acolyte carries the rooster out the central aisle.)
Once the rooster is out, Readers 5, 6, and 7 march together up the central aisle. Reader 5 turns to face the congregation at the center of the front. Readers 6 and7 stand to either side of him with authority. All carry black folders from which they read.
Reader 5 : As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. (Pilate readers walks out the central aisle.)
Reader 6: (Acolyte carries a crown of thorns up the central aisle holding it high, then places it on the Table.) Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
Reader 7: They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.
Reader 6: Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
Reader 7: It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
Reader 6 : And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
Reader 7: When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
Reader 8: (Taking place in the lectern) There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
Reader 9: (Coming up from the congregation to stand where Pilate reader stood) When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
Depending on what happens next in worship all readers exit and props are removed or readers exit but the props remain in place.
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Looking Ahead into Holy Week…
As you make announcements about Holy Week services and if you really do want children to attend them, tell them and their parents so very directly. Give them a hint about one thing that will be particularly interesting or important for the children as well as for the adults. For example, “On Thursday evening we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the night Jesus invented it. We will hear the story of how it came to be. This is a night for children and parents and grandparents, for kids and teenagers and adults, for all Christians who love and follow Jesus.”