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Growing With Peter Series: Fumbles in the Garden - Matthew 26

A Palm Sunday service in a Lenten series focused on stepping into the drama of Christ's suffering and considering Peter's stumbling.

Theme of the Service

The central theme of this service will be that of stepping more intimately into the drama of the suffering of Christ. Two movements involve us in that drama - marking Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and then continuing our journey toward the cross during the rest of Holy Week. The bridge between these two will be the sermon which considers the behavior of Peter that involved many fumbles.


Prelude: "Partita on 'All Glory, Laud, and Honor' ", Burkhardt

Bell Processional: "Processional on 'All Glory, Laud, and Honor' ", Dobrinski

The Call to Worship

Hosanna to the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna, righteous Jesus, Lord of all.
Come and bring us your peace!
Hosanna, Spirit of God, who brings us life.
Come and bring the joy of salvation!

*Song: "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" PH 88, PsH 375/376, RL 279, SFL 161, TH 235, TWC 204

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Anthem: "Hosanna!", Gregor, arranged by Hopson

Song: "The King of Glory Comes" PsH 370, RN 267, SFL 156, TH 240, TWC 134

The Children's Moment

Offertory: "The King of Glory Comes", Burkhardt (organ)
or: "The King of Glory Comes", Honoré (bell)


The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession

Most holy and merciful Father,
We confess to you and to one another,
that we have sinned against you
in thought, word and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you
with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be,
so that we may delight in your will
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy name.
For the sake of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Assurance of God's Pardon:

Pastor: The Gospel of Christ speaks to us of the assurance we have of God's pardon.
Please rise for the reading of the Holy Gospel.
(worshipers rise; readings are by lay persons)

*The Reading of John 14:23-27

The Gospel of Christ.
Thanks be to God!

*Song of Testimony: "There Is a Redeemer" RN 232, SNC 145

*Passing the Peace:

Pastor: The peace of the Lord be with you.
People: And also with you!

(The worshipers pass the peace to each other saying, "the peace of the Lord to you", and then are seated.)

Our Commitment to Holy Living:

Since we have been saved by grace, how shall we live in relationship to Him who saved us?

We will have no other gods before Him; we will not make for ourselves any substitute gods; we will not abuse the name of the Lord, but speak it only in reverence and love; we will honor the Lord's day through worship, witness and fellowship with His people.

How shall we live in relationship with others?

We will honor our parents and hold the family in high esteem; we will not abuse, hate or injure our friends or neighbors by words, gestures or deeds; we will not commit adultery, but live holy disciplined lives; we will not steal; we will not lie; we will not grasp for what we do not have, nor reject others for having it.

How does Jesus summarize these commandments?

He says that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves, and by God's grace, we will do it!


The Reading of Scripture: Matthew 26:36-46
(see liturgy notes)

The Prayer for Illumination

Gracious Lord,
some of the stories from your Word
are so embarrassing and painful
that we'd rather not hear them or think about them,
for they remind us of our own weaknesses and failures.
But today enter Gethsemane with us
and open our minds and hearts
that we may see more than our weaknesses and failures,
but hear your warnings
and receive your encouragement. Amen.

(Growing with Peter - #6)

The Pastoral Prayer


Setting Our Sights on Good Friday

The Reading of Isaiah 53:1-3

Response: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)

The Reading of Isaiah 53:4-6

Response (see above)

The Reading of Isaiah 53:7-9

Response (see above)

Song of Devotion (tune Deo Gracias/Agincourt Hymn):

(Nails will be distributed to each worshiper. Please take one to assist you in your devotional preparation for our commemoration of the death of our Lord.)

O love, how deep, how broad, how high, beyond all thought and fantasy,
that God, the Son of God, should take our mortal form for mortals' sake.
Ride on, ride on in majesty as all the crowds "Hosanna!" cry;
through waving branches slowly ride, O Savior, to be crucified.
Ride on, ride on in majesty, in lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, your triumph now begin o'er captive death and conquered sin!
Ride on, ride on in majesty, in lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow your meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, your power and reign!
(from PH 83/90, PsH 364/382, RL 342/280, TH 155/237, TWC 193/205)


*The Benediction


All glory to our Lord and God for love so deep, so high, so broad-
the Trinity, whom we adore forever and forevermore.
(PH 83:5, PsH 364:6, RL 342:6, TH 155:5, TWC 193:6)

Postlude: "O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High", Burkhardt

* - you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

This sermon is intended to make it clear that we are moving into some of the most intense of Peter's experiences as a disciple. The next message reveals unimaginable words from his lips in denying his Lord. In this message, we suggest that you take a look at other events of his life that provide assistance in understanding (at least somewhat) what happened in his denials.

Major failures in our lives always have antecedents. A study of Peter's biography shows the same. We suggest that you review six of his previous failures:

he did not understand Christ's mission - Matthew 16:22
he was too ready to boast - Matthew 26:33-35
he was sleeping when he should have been watching - Matthew 26:40
he was too ready to strike at others - John 18:10,11
he allowed increased distance between Christ and himself - Matthew 26:46-56
he was too ready to associate with the enemy - Matthew 26:69

Throughout these events, which went at least partly unnoticed, Peter had been failing to obey a command of Christ: "watch!" (Matthew 26:38, 40, 41). You will do well in this sermon to focus much attention on the word "watch", what it means, what Christ intended, how Peter failed to watch, and the severe consequences of failing to watch.

The life application of this sermon is to be found in the importance of "watching" and can be developed very effectively once Peter's drama is set before us.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:

PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. The prelude music is composed by Michael Burkhardt and published by Morningstar MSM-10-306 [1990] (M-D). The variations of this partita are enjoyable to play and work on. Their character varies between movements - they range from somber to sprightly to triumphant. The piece is well worth the work needed to put together. The movements can also stand by themselves so you can learn and play at your own pace.
  2. The bell processional music by Cynthia Dobrinski is set for 3-5 octaves of handbells, organ, congregation and optional trumpet. The introduction involves no bell changes and much repetition which facilitates memorization. Consider having your bell choir lead the palm processional into the sanctuary. The rest of this piece can serve as accompaniment to the congregation's singing of the opening hymn.
  3. The choral anthem "Hosanna!" arranged by Hal Hopson is published by Flammer A6628 [1990] (E-M). This anthem can be sung by two choirs or by an adult and children's choir. The handbell choir can double the choir parts as an accompaniment and support. This anthem text based on Matthew 21:9 has its roots in Psalm 118:26. The musical setting is classic and festive in a majestic sense.
  4. Free accompaniments for the hymn "The King of Glory" can be found in "Five Psalm Improvisations" by Michael Burkhardt and published by Morningstar MSM-10-511 [1997] (M).
  5. The offertory music for organ is taken from "Five Psalm Improvisations" by Michael Burkhardt and published by Morningstar MSM-10-511 [1997] (M) - a wonderful piece with colorful registrations. An alternate suggestion written for 3-5 octave bell choir is arranged by Jeffrey Honoré and published by Concordia 97-6528 [1995] (M).
  6. The text of the closing hymn is a combination of the texts of "O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High" and "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty". Sing all the stanzas to the tune Deo Gracias/Agincourt Hymn. This song pulls together the themes of Christ's triumph and his sacrifice for us and our salvation. Free accompaniments for this melody can be found in John Eggert's "Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ vol. 2" CPH97-6851 [2000] or in Walter Pelz's concertato "Oh Love, How Deep" for choir and congregation, published by Concordia 97-5675 [1981].
  7. The postlude is taken from the final section of Michael Burkhardt's "Partita on 'Deo Gracias' ", published by Morningstar MSM-10-844 [1992] (M-D).

Liturgy Notes:

1. Some prefer to call this Palm Sunday and focus on the Triumphal Entry; others call it Passion Sunday. We have tried to combine both in this service and therefore have focused on the Triumphal Entry at the opening of the service, and then become forward-looking toward Good Friday at the close of the service.

2. The Children's Moment should direct their attention to the palms. Palms can be significant as a visual teaching tool. Explain why palms were used, what they meant, and perhaps distribute a palm to each child.

3. For this service we included another Scripture drama reading. Such a method of presenting the Scripture passage is a helpful way to communicate the drama in a situation. The script is provided below. Readers should rehearse together ahead of time so the reading is done with expression and is easy to follow. Excellent Scripture drama readings can be found in The Dramatized Old Testament (two volumes, 1994) and The Dramatized New Testament, ed. Michael Perry, Baker Book House (1993). The readings for this service are taken from the New Testament volume. This material is used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright 1994. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. Though these volumes are currently out of print, you may use these readings, but need to be aware that copyright restrictions exist. If you plan to use these in your worship, you will need to secure copyright permission for such use, by contacting Baker Book House, Permission Department, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, or fax your request to Baker Book House, Permission Department, at (616) 676-9573, or email at Permission is usually granted, without fee, for as many photocopies of each reading as there are parts for a worship service.

4. The pastoral prayer is placed immediately after the sermon. It's called the pastoral prayer not because the pastor is the only one who can lead it, but because it is intended to collect all the pastoral needs of the congregation and lay them before the Lord. Because of the nature of this service and sermon, we suggest that this prayer carefully includes the needs of those who have experienced failure of some sort (stumbling) and need to experience grace for recovery.

5. The conclusion of the service is intended to set the sights of all worshipers on Good Friday (or Maundy Thursday). What is labeled "Setting Our Sights on Good Friday" is intended to be a verbal bridge to point to the significance of Good Friday, and the importance of spending the next five days in personal reflection that will be healthy preparation for coming to the table of the Lord at that time (if your church observes it then, or on Maundy Thursday or Easter). The readings from Isaiah 53 will highlight the role of Christ as the Messiah who is our substitute.

We have usually distributed nails at this service as a tangible aid to meditation and remembrance. Though there are some years when we make the nails available at the door upon leaving worship, we prefer, as we suggest in this service, that they be distributed during the singing of a reflective hymn. We use offering plates or baskets, and pass them through the pews for each to take one. We purchase concrete nails (about 4") and encourage folks to keep them visible, or in their pocket, as a constant reminder during the week. You should note that such nails are usually very dirty when purchased, and will have to be cleaned before being distributed! Though they still remain somewhat dirty, that's OK because Christ's nails were undoubtedly dirty too!

Scripture Drama Reading

Readers Needed: Narrator


Narrator: Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them:

Jesus: Sit here while I go over there and pray.

Narrator: He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

Jesus: My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.

Narrator: Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed:

Jesus: My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.

Narrator: Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter:

Jesus: Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

Narrator: He went away a second time and prayed:

Jesus: My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.

Narrator: When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Pause)

Then he returned to the disciples [and said to them:]

Jesus: Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!

(Matthew 26:36-46)

The Dramatized New Testament, ed. M. Perry (Baker Book House, 1993). Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright © 1993. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company.