Few moments in Scripture have the cinematic feel of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It’s no wonder that for centuries and across traditions Christians have reenacted this on Palm Sunday and had planned to do so again this Sunday…at least until the emergence of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.
You want to encourage people to open their lives and let Jesus ride in, just like you do every year. But this year, there’s no way to gather together and spread out palms down the isles of your sanctuary.
So do this instead: create an online worship experience using songs, readings, and—most importantly—house plants!You want to encourage people to open their lives and let Jesus ride in, just like you do every year. But this year, there's no way to gather together and spread out palms down the isles of your sanctuary. What can you do instead? Click To Tweet
Organizing the Liturgy
Use the following steps to invite your congregations to share in House Plant Palm Sunday Liturgy:
- Set up a Zoom Meeting and invite your congregation
- Inform them that they’ll need a leaf from a houseplant
- Invite a few specific readers to participate
- Choose an “MC” in charge of explaining the service and muting/unmuting people as needed
- Create slides or a blog post of the readings. (A blog post allows people to use their phones as a modern day hymnal.)
For this Palm Sunday at home, any plant will work. But some are better than others. A large leaf is fun to wave on screen. You also want to consider how easy it is to pick up the plant. The last thing you want is people dropping their plants onto their computers or phones!
A Palm Sunday Zoom Liturgy
A possible liturgy you an use appears below; feel free to adapt or edit to fit your context:
MC: Welcome to Palm Sunday! Today we celebrate Jesus’ entry as King into Jerusalem. You’ll need to grab a houseplant to act as your palm. We’ll begin with a reading.
Reader 1: Mark 11:1-11
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.
Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted…
MC: Now’s your chance to join. We’ll unmute you, but if it’s too loud where you are, we recommend you use headphones or keep yourself muted.
Let’s read together and wave our house plant-palms as we do so!
(MC: Unmute the congregation)
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.
The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Save Your Leaves
In liturgical traditions, the ash of Ash Wednesday is made from the dried palm fronds of the year prior. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic acts as one long Ash Wednesday. After quarantine is over and the bodies are buried, we will need time and space to mourn. Encourage your congregants to keep and dry their houseplant “palm fronds.” When quarantine ends, you can keep them for Ash Wednesday 2021.
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