Passion service - by James Archer
This is a complete service taking everyone on a journey through Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. Feel free to amend to reflect your church's choice of music and styles. Estimated timings are as follows:
5 Welcome, notices, banns
3 Scene 1 - Sunday procession
3 Praise song – Make way – with offertory
3 Praise song – Hosanna
1 Scene 1 continued
1 Scene 2 offstage – Evicting the moneychangers
3 Scene 3 – SCAT-O-NINE-TAILS
4 Scene 4 – For the Good of the Team (Riding Lights)
3 Scene 5 - Wrap-up
3 Song – Beauty for brokenness
4 Scene 6 – Footwashing
3 Song – The Servant King
5 Prayers – focus on Tear Fund
4 Scene 7 - Bread and wine
1 Reminder about Holy Communion and prayer
3 Song – Take, eat, this is my body
3 Scene 8 – To the cross
3 Solo song – Were you there?
5 Confession – nails, bucket and cross
3 Song – When I survey the wondrous cross
Cast: Kirstie Wark, presenter of the World at One television news show, based in the studio in London; Orla Guerin, television foreign affairs correspondent on the streets of Jerusalem; Jesus, always off-stage; crowds, which at times become the congregation, including for songs; Phil, a newspaper vendor selling the Evening Standard on the streets of Jerusalem; two of his customers; Eli, a priest; Pilate, the chairman of Jerusalem United Football Club; Caiaphas, the manager of Jerusalem United Football Club; leader; narrator; priest; confessor (these last four could be the same or several people).
Props needed: whip, robust table that is light enough to be overturned, large pile of coins, flipchart or projector/screen, newsstand, newspapers, towel, basin of water, loaf of bread, bottle of wine, nails, sheets of paper, metal bucket, self-standing cross. The music should happen unannounced, but the audience are expected to join in as they would in any other service, so need to have access to the words.
Leader Good morning and welcome to our all-age service this Palm Sunday. Through the service, we will be on the streets of Jerusalem watching events unfold during Passover week, AD29. [Notices and banns] And now its time for The World at One with Kirstie Wark. (Return to seat)
Kirstie Good morning and welcome to The World at One. This week, we focus on Jerusalem in the run-up to Passover. The excitement is building as the Jewish people prepare to celebrate the old story of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Every year, Jerusalem is a religious hothouse, with rumours flying about the coming of Messiah, the promised saviour, who, it is believed, will free the people of God from foreign occupation and set up a lasting Jewish kingdom. This year, the rumours centre on Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle-worker from Galilee, who has drawn large crowds with his miracles and homely teaching. But he has offended the religious authorities by refusing to support their traditions.
Let’s go over to Orla Guerin, who is on the streets mingling with the crowds. Orla, what is going on down there?
Orla (Music starts quietly during this speech and builds to take over seamlessly at the end) Thank you, Kirstie. The sensational news is that Jesus has just entered the city from Bethany, riding on a donkey. The crowds are going absolutely wild as he climbs the hill towards the castle and the temple. They’re tearing down branches from the trees that line his path to show their support, and they obviously believe he’s about to overthrow the Romans, even though he doesn’t exactly look like a revolutionary and is completely unarmed. Listen to the crowds – they’re proclaiming him their King!
Song Make way, make way for Christ the King
Song Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
Orla He’s almost reached the top of the hill now, and he’s about to turn right to lead the crowds into the castle. They’re right behind him. We’re watching history unfold before our eyes, and any moment he will come face to face with the soldiers. No-one can predict what will happen next……. He’s stepping down off the donkey now….. Hey! What’s going on? He’s turned left into the temple! He must have lost his nerve! The crowd are looking around at one another, wondering what’s going on. You can almost hear the disappointment. They really did think he was going to take on the Roman army! I wonder what the priests in the temple will make of him?
(This scene all happens off-stage. Because the audience do not have any visual clues, the sounds need to be repeated or continued for longer than feels natural so that they work out what is going on. Props needed are a whip, a robust table and a large pile of coins. It is recommended to have two separate piles of coins – about £3 of coppers each, being tipped out of a basket onto something they tinkle off. A microphone is needed and should be carefully positioned to get the quieter sounds across, in particular the tinkling of coin and the banging of the table. Jesus speaks at great volume. Orla listens from her position on stage and looks towards where the sounds are coming from.)
Jesus (Sound of whip hitting table repeated throughout) Out! Get out! All of you! Now! Out! Out! Out! (Sound of the table being thrown to the ground and the coins being knocked over) It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer”, but you have made it a den of thieves. Get out!
Orla I’d better go and see what is going on (exit).
(A newspaper vendor’s stand on the streets of Jerusalem – have the banners on the projector/screen or use a flipchart. Enter Phil, as the projector goes on or who uncovers the flip chart showing a headline “SCAT-O-9-TAILS” and another “Jesus whips the fat cats”.)
Phil Standard, Standard. Read all about it. Standard. (To first buyer) There you are, sir. Thank you very much. Serves ’em right, doesn’t it, ripping us off like that? (To second buyer) That will be 30p, sir. I’d have loved to have seen him lay into them. There you are, sir. (To third buyer, Eli) Good evening, reverend. Did you see him in action, sir?
Eli How dared he!? Who gave him the right to change the rules in the house of God? Only God and his priests can do that!
Phil So what are you going to do about him, sir?
Eli I challenged him to prove his authority to boss us around.
Phil And what did he say, sir?
Eli He said, “That’s easy. If you blow this place up, I’ll rebuild it inside three days.” (Gasps and shakes head in horror)
Phil (Laughing) Ask a silly question, get a silly answer. He’s far too clever for you lot. There you are, sir. (Eli walks off in a huff without taking the offered paper. Phil shrugs, packs up his stall/flipchart, and walks off, saying,) And from then on, no-one dared to ask him any more questions.
[This sketch is called “For the Good of the Team” and is by Nigel Forde of Riding Lights. It is on page 55 of “Lightning Sketches” (ISBN 0-340-26710-0) and may only be performed under licence. Pilate and Caiaphas are the owner and manager of a football team respectively. Caiaphas is talking about the brilliant footballer who does not play by the rules and is a threat to everyone else, including Caiaphas and Pilate. It ends up with them agreeing to suspend him.]
Kirstie Events in Jerusalem are moving towards a climax, as millions of Jews prepare to celebrate the Passover feast tonight. Tensions are running high as Jesus of Nazareth continues to take on the religious authorities, calling them hypocrites and warning them of God’s judgment. Orla, is he getting the upper hand in this stand-off?
Orla Well, it’s very difficult to tell, Kirstie. He certainly knows how to offend - he described them yesterday as white-washed graves which look lovely but stink inside. The crowds loved that one.
Kirstie What is the mood among the crowds, Orla? Surely that must determine the outcome?
Orla I think they could swing either way. They like Jesus, but he baffles them. Just when he gets in a position to take charge, he seems to back down. They are afraid of the Roman soldiers and nervous of being thrown out by the priests.
Kirstie Thank you, Orla, and we’ll have more of that story as it unfolds.
Song Beauty for Brokenness
Narrator That evening, Jesus and his friends gathered to celebrate the Passover meal. It had been a long, hot day; they were tired and their feet were dusty from the walk. Normally, their host would have arranged for a servant to give them a foot-bath, but the owner of the house was away and there were no servants. So Jesus (acted) went to the tap-room, put on an apron, filled a bucket with warm water and collected a towel. He knelt down before his friends in turn and washed their feet.
Now just imagine that the Queen was visiting our church for a meal. On arrival, she heads to the loo, which no-one has bothered to clean. So she gets out the brush, the bleach and a cloth, and cleans it. Or, after the meal, while everyone is letting their food settle, she heads into the kitchen and does the washing up. That would be similar to the behaviour of Jesus, the servant king.
Song The Servant King
Prayers – focus on Tear Fund
Priest That evening, at supper with his friends, Jesus took bread. He gave thanks to God, broke it (acted) and gave it to them, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper, he took the cup, blessed the wine (acted), and gave it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
After the close of this service, there will be an opportunity to join together around the Lord’s table for a short service of Holy Communion. There will also be a chance to ask someone to pray with you.
Song Take, eat, this is my body
Kirstie Good morning. The dramatic news today is that the unrest in Jerusalem has been crushed. Following a tip-off, Jesus of Nazareth was arrested by the religious authorities late last night, and his supporters have fled, abandoning him to his fate. After an extraordinary series of night-time trials, when he apparently claimed to be God, he has been condemned to death. Orla, what more can you tell us?
Orla Well, Kirstie, Jesus has just staggered past us, all battered and bruised, carrying his cross on the way to the place of execution, along with two other criminals, through the jeers of the crowd. The decisive moment came at breakfast time, when Pilate, the Roman governor, told the people to choose between Jesus and Barabbas, a notorious terrorist. Some loud-mouthed thugs swung the crowd against Jesus, and they turned on him, venting their anger and their frustration. The authorities have won convincingly and are now back in control.
Kirstie So what happens next?
Orla I am with the crowds heading up the hill to watch the fun. A public execution always seems to bring out the worst in us – some have brought eggs and tomatoes to throw at them. I can see them now, holding him down while they nail him to the cross.
Jesus (Offstage) Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.
Orla That’s amazing! How can he say that when he’s in such agony? They’re taunting him to prove he is God by climbing down from the cross – they’d get quite a shock if he did! ….. It’s getting very dark now, as if the skies are angry at what they see. He’s slipping away …..
Jesus (Offstage - loud) It is finished.
Song (solo first verse) Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Confessor Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross, or to stay there. He had the power to stop things at any time. But he didn’t, because he loved us, and he understood that, by paying the full penalty for our sins, he could free us from them. It was our sins, not the nails, that held him there.
We now have the opportunity to remember our sins, to bring them to the foot of the cross, and to thank him for what he has done for us.
We are now going to pass around some pieces of paper and some nails. The nails are sharp, so can I ask the grown-ups to make sure the young children don’t hurt themselves. (Paper and nails are passed around.)
Has everyone got them? Now, just feel the nail in your hand. Perhaps close your eyes if you are not watching a youngster. And think about the things you have done wrong. Imagine that someone is writing your name in large letters on your piece of paper, and then writing below it all the things you are ashamed of, the things you don’t want your friends or family to know. And then they use your nail to pin up that paper like a poster on the notice-board so that everyone can see it.
Now, I want you to imagine that you walk up to the board, take the nail out and pull the poster down. You screw up the paper so that no-one can read it – yes, screw it up. Now you walk forward in church, and bring the nail and the scrunched-up papers to the foot of the cross, and you drop them into the bucket there.
Leader (Once everyone has brought their paper and nails there, the leader lifts the bucket up onto the cross so that it hangs by its handle, and says) See all your sins on Jesus, the lamb of God killed for us.
Song When I survey the wondrous cross
Leader Lord Jesus Christ, you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant, and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation. Give us the mind to follow you and to proclaim you as Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
In the light of what he has done for us, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
All In the name of Christ, Amen.
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