Friday, January 22, 2016

Year C - Palm-Passion Sunday (March 20, 2016)

The readings, except for the gospel, for this Sunday are the same in all three lectionary years.  Go to the links below to explore what has been posted for years A and B, then read on for additional ideas, particularly for the Year C gospels.

t  Go to  Palm/ Passion Sunday (Year A) to find
+ Directions for turning palm leaves into palm crosses or ashes
+ Using a royal crown and crown of thorns to explore Jesus kingship
+ A plan for many readers of all ages to read Matthew’s passion story
+ A book with which to explore the passion story from Peter’s perspective
+ An answer to the child’s question “Why did they hate Jesus so much?”

t  Go to Palm/Passion Sunday (Year B) to find
+ Directions for using a Jesus figure (if you have been using it throughout Lent)
+ A series of great art pictures of Jesus with which to review his story
+ A script for nine readers and props to match each story in Mark’s passion story

t  Also go to my book Sharing the Easter Faith With Children to find
+ Commentary on each Holy Week stories from the children’s point of view
+ Essays about how children respond to the Holy Week and Easter stories at each age
+ Scripts for two Palm Sunday calls to worship led by children.  One has children yelling set lines from several corners of the sanctuary.  The other has a group of children at the rear of the sanctuary answering a worship leader in the front and is based on Psalm 24.
+ and more.

t  First, a word about the palms distributed to children and other worshipers:  The single strips of greenery often distributed to the congregation are not palm branches.  They are at best leaves from palm branches or even sections of leaves.  Children handed one of them and told to wave their palm branches are puzzled.  For good reason, they cannot imagine people waving such a thing to welcome Jesus.  So, to help them join the crowd on Palm Sunday provide them with real palm branches.  (They can be ordered from the same distributors at not that much greater a price.) 

t  When you order palms consider ordering from Eco-Palms at  Eco-Palms are harvested in a sustainable manner and workers are paid a fair wage. Many denominations endorse them and your green-conscious children will be pleased!

t  Remember when selecting Palm Sunday songs that they are sung only one Sunday a year.  That is a special challenge for young readers and all singers if they are to sing them as they carry palms in a parade.  The traditional Palm Sunday hymns are especially hard for children to sing.  “All Glory Laud and Honor,” “Hosanna, Loud, Hosanna,” and “Ride On Ride On in Majesty” have simple messages but they are filled with words children seldom hear today.  Better choices for children:

“Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” may be the easiest for children to sing – even if they do not already know it.  The words are simple and focus on children and the Palm Sunday story.

“Filled With Excitement,” a Mexican hymn with a chorus that invites singers to join in repeated hosannas.  Add drums for a real parade feel.

The Methodist hymnal includes a version of “Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart” that adapts the usual chorus to “Hosanna! Hosanna! Rejoice, give thanks, and sing!”  It is another opportunity for young readers to join in singing the hosannas even if they can’t catch the verses.

Thomas Troeger updates the language of the old standbys with “A Cheering, Chanting Dizzy Crowd.”  Before singing it explain that a winding sheet is a big piece of cloth in which bodies were wrapped before burial.

If you are focusing on the kingship of Jesus, sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” with its repeated “crown him Lord of all!”  Before singing it briefly point out all the big king words and word pictures in it (power, we and the angels fall at his feet, royal diadem = a crown, hail = greeting for a king, ascribe majesty = call him king).  Then, knowing that younger readers will not be able to keep up with those words, invite them to join in all the “crown him Lord of all”s.

“The King of Glory Comes, The Nation Rejoices” or just its refrain might come closest to capturing the feel of the original parade.  The words are also simple enough that all can sing them repeatedly as they process with palm branches.

If you have been pursuing a love theme…

t  Use the pictures in a children’s storybook about the events of Holy Week to tell the story in your own words putting the focus on Jesus’ continuing to love people throughout the events of the week.  Make the following points…

On Palm Sunday Jesus enjoyed the parade people singing their love for God, but he was sad when he got to the Temple and found it filled with people selling things instead of praying.  That is love – both happy and sad love!

Jesus worried all week as people asked him tricky questions.  He knew they were out to get him.

On Thursday, Jesus ate with his disciples.  He knew it would be his last meal with them.  When no one washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus did the job.  He even washed the feet of Judas who would turn him in to the soldiers and Peter who would pretend he did not even know Jesus later that night. That is love!

On Friday, Jesus endured whipping and being nailed to a cross.  He forgave the soldiers who did the job.  He endured the crowds who teased him as he died and forgave them.  He watched his mother watch him die on the cross and asked John to take care of her.  That is love! 

By the time he died on Friday, his heart was broken by his enemies, by the crowds, and even by his friends.  But Jesus kept on loving them all.  That is love – God’s love!

t  After exploring the Holy week stories, display a large red valentine heart that has been cut into two jagged pieces and held together by a big band-aid (or piece of wide masking tape cut to look like a band-aid) with a red heart drawn on it. 

If you have been exploring the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer…

Today’s phrase is “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.”

t  “Thine” is an old word for “yours” that children will not understand unless you define it for them.  In the process rephrase this line, “all the power and glory in the world belong to you, God.”   

t  Make a word poster for each key word in this phrase.  Kingdom features the word under a big crown.  Power is printed in big black letters like the POWER in a comic book.  Glory is printed in gold glitter pen.  To explore the meaning of the phrase, present and discuss each poster in sequence.  Then produce pictures of events in Holy Week - Palm Sunday parade, Last Supper, Crucifixion, etc.  (Find pictures in church school picture files or in great art collections on line.  Challenge children/all worshipers to match the pictures to the word posters.  Ponder together the fact that there are no obvious to us matches.  During Holy Week Jesus changed our ideas about kingdom, power, and glory look like.  Walk through the pictures using the three words to describe what Jesus was showing us about these.  Finally, put into your own words what we are saying when we pray this line of the Lord’s Prayer.  (This could be a rather complex children’s sermon aimed at older children or it could be the beginning of the real sermon on power.)


t  When children think of power and glory, they often think of super hero/ines.  Explore the difference in Jesus’ ideas about power and those of these characters.  Display pictures of several super hero/ines – Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.  Identify their efforts to “save the world” from different bad guys and the special powers they use to do this.  Then, present a picture of Jesus on the cross.  Ask what Jesus was doing here and how he was doing it.  Identify forgiveness as Jesus’ super power.  Name some of the people he forgave during Holy Week (Peter, the soldiers who whipped and killed him, the people who teased him while he was dying, and us).    Then, either

ponder Jesus’ insistence that forgiving is more powerful than fighting or leaping tall buildings – not as cool, but way more powerful. 

insist that while we do not have the powers of the superheroes, every one of us has the power to forgive.   We can use that power to save the world and the people around us every day. 

If you feel brave enough to face down some adults, name some adult superheroes like James Bond who win the day with violence and explore the fact that fighting violence with violence is not Jesus’ way.

t  After exploring the meaning of Jesus’ power and glory during Holy Week, have the congregation pray the phrase in response to a series of situations in the world and in our lives.  For example,

When friends have said words that hurt and we want to hurt back…

When we are facing a bully at school or work…

When our nation is being bullied by other nations and people…

When people are taking unfair advantage of others…

When we want to use our power to get what we want even when it hurts others…

Looking Ahead into Holy Week…

t  Many children and their families find Lent just too long to follow.  They are just now tuning in.  To help them make Holy Week into a Jesus Week in their homes check out  Celebrating Jesus Week.

t  Challenge households to read part of Luke’s story of the events of Holy Week each day this week.  Provide a bookmark with readings.  The Bible readings below are chosen with families with children in mind, but would be appropriate for all-adult households.  The second set of readings are one page stories from Desmond Tutu’s Children of God Storybook Bible that is widely available in bookstores and a good book to encourage families with children to have and read in their homes.

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The Holy Week Story

Sunday         Luke 22:24-27        Who is the greatest?

Monday       Luke 22:7-20          The Last Supper

Tuesday       Luke 22:47-53        Jesus is arrested

Wednesday Luke 22:54-62        Peter denies Jesus

Thursday      Luke 23:13-25        Pilate condemns Jesus

Friday           Luke 23:33-49        Jesus is Crucified

Saturday      Luke 23:50-56        Jesus is Buried

Easter           Luke 24:1-12          The Tomb is Empty

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Holy Week Stories from
Children of God Storybook Bible

Palm Sunday:         “An Angel Appears to Mary”
What kind of king were they expecting?
Monday:                 “The Law of Love”

Tuesday:                 “A Woman’s Love for Jesus”

Wednesday:           “Jesus Becomes A Servant?”

Maundy Thursday: “Jesus Shares His Last Meal with his Friends”

Good Friday:          “The Trial and Death of Jesus”

Saturday:                “The Trial and Death of Jesus” again
                            Because nobody could believe what happened

Easter:                     “Jesus Is Alive!”

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t  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.

t  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.”

The Texts for Year C

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

t  This psalm of praises echoes the parade into Jerusalem and makes most sense to children when used by today’s worshipers to join the praising.  Go to Palm/Passion Sunday (Year A) and scroll down to Psalm 118 for a script in which readers scattered throughout the sanctuary yell one verse each.  Or, simply use verse 24 “this is the day the Lord has made…” as a call to worship. 

Isaiah 50:4-9a and Psalm 31:9-16

On a day with so much story, both of these prayers will go past most children.  To those who do hear them, they are mainly prayers Jesus might have prayed as he faced the coming week.  One of them is probably enough for any service.

Philippians 2:5-11

t  Go to Palm/Passion Sunday (Year A) and scroll down to Philippians for a script including motions for this great hymn.  It could be used as a children’s time or the children could be invited forward to lead the congregation in moving through it as the Epistle for the day.

t  Children (like all of us) work hard to get their fair share of all the goodies.  They speak about it in terms of what is my fair share and justice, but underneath it is the drive to get what I think I deserve and what I want.  Jesus came from God and should have been treated royally.  He deserved that treatment.  Instead he ignored what was rightfully his and spent all his time and energy caring for others.  That is love!  Use this to explore the down and up theme of this hymn.

t  To explore kingships read Louis I, King of the Sheep, by Olivier Tallec.  It begins with a wind blowing a crown near a sheep who puts it on and begins imagining himself a king.  His ideas get more and more grandiose and end with sending away all the sheep that do not look like him.  Stop before the last page on which the wind blows the crown off the Louis’ head and he goes back to being just another sheep.  Enjoy all Louis’ ideas about the king he wants to be.  Then, read the hymn in Philippians about the kind of king Jesus chose to be.  Compare the two kings.

Luke 19:28-40

t  Though Luke doesn’t say anything about the presence of children in the parade, most worshipers will assume it.  That makes it a good passage to be read by an older child.  Because it is a rather long story, a good rehearsal in the sanctuary helps a child prepare to read it well.

To get into the mood and sound of this parade, read selected pages about loud times from The Loud Book, by Deborah Underwood.  If the children are close enough, show them the pictures.  But, also note that this is about sound and the pictures are not necessary.  Insist that the parade in today’s gospel was loud.  Challenge children to listen for Jesus response to people who wanted everyone to quiet down.  Then read the gospel rather loudly and hold the palm processional (sung loudly, of course).  My favorite pages from the book for Palm Sunday are “firetruck day at school loud”, “surprise loud”, “home run loud”, “applause loud”, “crowded pool loud”, “belly flop loud”, “good crash loud” (a bowling strike) and, of course, “parade in the park loud”.

t  A reminder about Palm Sunday processionals.  Though in Luke’s account, this parade was an adult inspired and led event – but one in which I’d bet some children joined!  To be accurate today’s palm processional should be inter-generational.  It is also true that children quickly feel “silly” walking down the aisle waving a palm branch while the congregation sings a song they do not know.  So, either plan for an inter-generational processional with all singing a repeated short song of praise they have just learned together or instruct a children’s choir or class to enter carrying their palm in a stylized way (held in one hand across their chest and over their shoulder).   Or, try the idea below that was left as a comment by “Allison in Pennsylvania” last year….

 “My church has “always done” a Palm Sunday parade with the kids during the first hymn which is usually, “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna, the Little Children Sang” (which I think the adults like better than the kids.)
So to liven things up, last year I made sure that the inside and outside aisle seats had palms (since not everyone takes a palm on their way in). And I put the robes we use at Christmas on the inside aisle too.  As the kids did a circuit around the outside of the sanctuary, people waved their palms at them as they went by and the waved back (minor sword fighting ensued, but they were moving so it didn’t last long).
As the kids prepared to come down the middle aisle, the grown-ups sitting on the end threw down the robes to cover the aisle and threw down the palm branches too.
It ended up being much more dramatic than usual, which I count as a blessing ! :0)  This year, I may not do it during the hymn but rather as part of reading the Scripture… so people can watch what is going on instead of burying their faces in the hymnal!”

t  For a different palm processional, save the palm processional until the end of worship when worshipers will have heard and explored the story together.  Just before the benediction give out the palms and send people out to declare God’s presence in the world.  Leave singing a palm Sunday hymn or some other praise chorus.  Encourage households to display their palms on their dining table or some other prominent place this week.

t  Year A suggests comparing a costume kings crown with a crown of thorns to talk about what kind of king Jesus is.  IF you have already used the crowns, today talk about kingship by comparing two pictures, one of a king or soldier riding a large horse and the other of Jesus riding the donkey.

Luke 22:14 – 23:56 or Luke 23:1-49

t  This very long Passion Narrative is filled with conversation between Jesus and both his friends and enemies.  Point this fact out to the congregation before reading it.  Then, to help children (and all listeners) keep up with the conversations and the action, use Rev. Jim Taylor’s reader’s theater script based on The Message.  Go to Rumors: Preaching Materials for March 28, 2010.    Or, use the script below which reworks his plan a little using the NRSV.

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The Passion Story
Luke 22:14 – 23:56

The Narrator and Jesus remain the same throughout the five scenes.  The Narrator probably reads from the lectern.  Other readers may read different parts in different scenes.  They read from scripts in black folders and stand as directed for each scene.  Provide chairs for those not in a given scene and/or times between the scenes.  At least one good rehearsal is essential.

SCENE ONE: The Last Supper

Jesus stands at the center behind the Table.  Three readers stand to his sides facing the congregation.  One reader reads Peter’s part and responds with the other disciples.  Other disciple readers read the “Disciples” lines in unison.

Narrator:  When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.  He said to them,

Jesus:  I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. 

Narrator:  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said,

Jesus:  Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.

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

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

Narrator:  And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying,

Jesus:  This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.  But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.  For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!

Narrator:  Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.  Pause.   A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.  But he said to them,

Jesus:  The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Pause.
Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.  

Narrator:  And Simon Peter said to him,

Peter:  Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!

Jesus:  I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.

Narrator:  Then he said to all of them,

Jesus:  When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?

Disciples:  No, not a thing. 

Jesus:  But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.  For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.

Disciples:  Lord, look, here are two swords.

Jesus:  It is enough.

SCENE TWO: The Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus stands center front in front of the Table surrounded by several disciples only one of whom reads the disciple line.  Several other readers come forward with their backs to the congregation as the crowd to confront the disciples.

Narrator:  He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.  When he reached the place, he said to them,

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

Narrator:  Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed,

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

Narrator:  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 down on the ground.  When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them,

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

Narrator:  While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, (a few readers silently rise from their seats and stand facing Jesus with their backs to the congregation) and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him,

Jesus:  Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man? 

Narrator:  When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked,

Disciple:  Lord, should we strike with the sword?

Narrator:  Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said,

Jesus:  No more of this!

Narrator:  And he touched his ear and healed him.  Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him,

Jesus:  Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!

SCENE THREE: At the Chief Priest’s House

Peter stands at the center surrounded by the Servant Girl and 2 men.  All read in place.

Narrator:  Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.  Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said,

Servant Girl:  This man also was with him. 

Narrator:  But he denied it, saying,

Peter:  Woman, I do not know him. 

Narrator:  A little later someone else, on seeing him, said,

Man 1:  You also are one of them.

Narrator:  But Peter said,

Peter:  Man, I am not! 

Narrator:  Then about an hour later still another kept insisting,

Man 2:  Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean. 

Narrator:   But Peter said,

Peter:  Man, I do not know what you are talking about!

Narrator:  At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed.  The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

SCENE FOUR: Jesus’ Trial

Jesus stands between 2 priests on one side and a soldier and Pilate on the other side.  When Herod’s line comes up the Herod reader steps forward to read from the side with Pilate and the soldier.

Narrator:  Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him,

Soldier:  Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?

Narrator:  They kept heaping many other insults on him.  Pause.   When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council.    They said,

Priest:   If you are the Messiah, tell us.

Jesus: 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. 

All of them asked,

Priest 1:  Are you, then, the Son of God?

Jesus:  You say that I am.

Priest 2:  What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!

Narrator:  Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate.  They began to accuse him, saying,

Priest 1:  We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king. 

Narrator:  Then Pilate asked him,

Pilate:  Are you the king of the Jews?

Jesus:  You say so. 

Narrator:  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds,

Pilate:  I find no basis for an accusation against this man. 

Narrator:  But they were insistent and said,

Priest 2:  He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.

Narrator:  When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.  And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod (coming from a seat to stand on the side with Pilate and the soldier):  When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign.  He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer.  The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him.  Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate.   That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Narrator:  Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them,

Pilate:  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. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death.  I will therefore have him flogged and release him.

Narrator:  Then they all shouted out together, “

Both Priests:  Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us! 

Narrator:  This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.  Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting,

Both Priests:  Crucify, crucify him! 

Narrator: A third time he said to them

Pilate:  Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.

 Narrator:  But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted.  He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

SCENE FIVE: Jesus is crucified

Jesus stands at the center.  Criminals enter and take places on either side of Jesus. A crowd of 2 stand off to one side facing Jesus a level below Jesus if possible.  The soldiers stand on the other side of Jesus facing him.

Narrator:  As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.   A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.  But Jesus turned to them and said,

Jesus (looking to one side):  Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’   Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’  For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Narrator (criminals take places on either side of Jesus):  Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.  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.  Then Jesus said,

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

Narrator:  And they cast lots to divide his clothing.  And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying,

Crowd of Two (standing opposite the soldier and maybe below Jesus):  He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!

Narrator:  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying,

Soldiers in unison:  If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself! 

Narrator:  There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”   One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying,

Criminal 1:  Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us! 

Narrator:  But the other rebuked him, saying,

Criminal 2:  Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?   And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.   (Turning toward Jesus) Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 

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

Narrator:  It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.   Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said,

Jesus:  Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Narrator:  Having said this, he breathed his last.  When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said,

Soldier 1:  Certainly this man was innocent.

Narrator:   And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.  But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.  It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.  The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid.  Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.  On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Man enters from the side to lead Jesus out the central aisle.  Other readers leave quietly by side doors.

Narrator:  This is the Word of the Lord.

Congregation:  Thanks be to God.

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t  Trace the events of the week by reviewing crowd responses to the them.  With children or the whole congregation practice saying each one and talk briefly about its significance.

“Hosanna!”  The cheer with which the people welcomed Jesus on Sunday.

“Crucify him!”  The angry demand they made on Friday.

“Alleluia!”  Our shout on Easter morning at the empty tomb – today just practice whispering this one to remind yourselves of the surprise that is coming.

Don’t Forget to Peek Ahead to the Easter Surprise

Adult worshipers know that Easter follows this horrible story.  But, children, especially younger children may not.  Even if they have heard the Easter story, they may not place it after the Passion.  Older children who may be tuning into this reading of the full Passion story for the first time, often respond strongly.  So, it is important to end with a reminder that God has a wonderful surprise waiting.  Without this assurance children can leave quite alarmed by what they have heard.  So….

t  If you buried the Alleluia in a box, bring out the box, refer to what is in it, and invite the children to come next week to celebrate God’s wonderful surprise ending.

t  Invite the children up front just before the benediction.  Write the word “Alleluia!” in palms of their hands with a washable pen.  Whisper the word as you write it and remind the children that next Sunday we will say lots of loud happy alleluias as we celebrate wonderful, surprise ending to what feels like a very sad story today. 
t  Rev. Lynne Clements began a Palm Passion service with a children’s time in which she remembered reading chapter books with her parents at bedtime as she was growing up.  She recalled how hard it was to wait to hear the ending – even when they had read the book before and she knew the ending.  She then said that Holy Week is a story week and that some of chapters in that story are sad and scary.  She also promised that the ending is really, really good.  So, she encouraged the children to listen to and think about the chapters we would read today and during the week and to “be here, right in this room, next Sunday morning to hear and celebrate the incredible, wonderful ending of the story.”


  1. Following your thoughts about what is hardest for kids to understand about the Passion being why people would want to kill Jesus, I asked that question head-on in a children's sermon after a rehearsal of the Palm Sunday gospel reactions going from Hosanna to Crucify. Why didn't people continue to like Jesus after the Procession of Palms? One six-yr-old boy said, "Because he was changing the world." End of sermon! Wow. Our children are a continual amazement to me. What a blessing.


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