The Last Week: A Service of Prayer, Scripture and Song for Holy Week
Although it can be used as it is presented here, you may wish to consider adding other elements: Holy Communion, sermon, choir and soloists, offering, even adapting it to a Sunday moring worship service for Palm/Passion Sunday. Be aware, however, that the service ends with Friday's crucifixion and Holy Saturday, saving the Easter celebration until the following Sunday morning.
It is ideal for incorporating a number of readers and participants, including children and youth, as well as visual elements such as candles.
The concluding hymn text and music (both public domain), "My Hope Is Built," are available here.
A Service of Prayer, Scripture, and Song
for Holy Week
+SONG: "O How He Loves You and Me," The Faith We Sing, no. 2108
SCRIPTURE: Mark 11:1-11
"Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed be the Son of David who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!" So the crowd shouted as Jesus and the disciples entered Jerusalem that very first Palm Sunday. It was a glorious parade of cheering crowds with palm branches flooding the narrow streets of Jerusalem that morning. It was a festival time for the followers of Jesus; for now, after three years, it looked as if he was going to set up his earthly kingdom. The disciples were exhilarated by the events of the day, but by late afternoon, they were weary as they walked with Jesus back to Bethany to spend the night with friends. Can you imagine what it must have been like that week ... the last week?
+SONG: "Sanctus," The Faith We Sing, no. 2257-b
SCRIPTURE: Mark 11:15-19
Monday morning, Jesus and his followers returned to Jerusalem. When they entered the Temple, Jesus was angered to see that it had become a marketplace. The noise of the merchants hawking their wares made it impossible to worship God. Tables of money crashed to the floor and crates of doves were broken open as Jesus very deliberately threw the money changers out of the Temple. Then he very calmly spoke to the people, "The Temple is not a den of thieves. The Temple should be a place of prayer for all people. My house should be a place to pray." Kyrie Eleison ... Lord, have mercy upon us.
SONG: "Lord, Have Mercy," The Faith We Sing, no. 2275
SCRIPTURE: John 12:20-26
That day, the lame and blind came to Jesus in the Temple, and he healed them. The scribes and Pharisees who had been disturbed by Jesus' actions on Sunday and Monday were now infuriated because of his popularity with the people. They began to talk seriously among themselves of how they might destroy him. And on Tuesday, they challenged his authority in the Temple. It was a day of continual questions with answers or stories that were so clear even a child could understand them. Perhaps it was a day when the disciples sensed the risk of discipleship, and perhaps the beginning of danger.
SONG: "O Jesus, I Have Promised," United Methodist Hymnal, no. 396
SCRIPTURE: John 13:21-32
Not only did Jesus make the scribes and Pharisees look foolish, but he finally spoke out openly against them. Sometime during the day the chief priests met together with the high priest, Caiaphas, to plan the killing of Jesus. Judas Iscariot met with them and agreed to deliver Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. On Wednesday, Jesus did not venture back into Jerusalem, but spent the entire day at the home of friends in Bethany. At dusk he walked out onto the roof of the house and watched the sun setting behind the Judean hills. Memories of childhood, youth, and growing up surely mingled with thoughts about tomorrow and the road he must walk. He "had been about his father's business" for 33 years, and his work was now almost done. His life had been lived filled with love — wondrous love — and now, in perfect, wondrous love, he was about to die.
+SONG: "What Wondrous Love Is This," United Methodist Hymnal, no. 292
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Thursday morning, Jesus sent two disciples into the city to arrange a place for them to observe the Passover. That evening while they were together in the Upper Room, the disciples began to argue among themselves, "Who will be the greatest?" "The one who serves others is the greatest," Jesus said. Then he took a basin and towel and washed their feet. Conversation at the table was full of questions. Over and over again, Jesus tried to explain, to comfort them. "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. If you shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. A little while and you behold me no more, and again a little while and you shall see me. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." During the evening, Judas fled, and all were made aware he would betray Jesus. Later in the evening, Jesus took the bread and wine and blest them saying, "This do in remembrance of me."
SONG: "In Remembrance of Me," The Faith We Sing, no. 2254
SCRIPTURE: John 18:1 — 19:42 (selected verses — or eliminate this scripture entirely since the reading which follows is a summary)
Friday morning, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to the Mount of Olives. Jesus asked the disciples to pray. Then he went a short distance from them, knelt down, and prayed. "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." When Jesus returned to the disciples, he found them sleeping. "Why do you sleep? Rise, and pray!" While he was speaking, Judas came, bringing the authorities to arrest Jesus. Simon Peter drew a sword and cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant. Then Jesus said to Peter, "Put up your sword ... The cup which my father has given me, shall I not drink it?" Then they led Jesus away and the disciples fled. The religious authorities accused Jesus of blasphemy because he claimed to be the Son of God. In the crowd during the trial, a young woman saw Peter and asked if he were a follower of Jesus. Peter denied ever having seen Jesus. Others asked Peter if he was a follower of Jesus, but each time he denied knowing Jesus. Next, Jesus stood trial before the civil authorities, Pilate and Herod. Although Pilate found no fault in Jesus, he was pressured by the crowd's cries of "Crucify him! Crucify him!" They placed a crown of thorns upon his head, a purple robe around him, then forced him to carry the cross up the hill of Calvary. It was a day of shame ... a day of pain ... a day of intense suffering ... it was an awful and terrifying day when evil and horror seemingly caused even God to forsake the world.
SONG: "Why Has God Forsaken Me," The Faith We Sing, no. 2110
SCRIPTURE: Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
Late Friday afternoon, Joseph of Arimathaea took the body of Jesus down from the cross. He wrapped it in linen and laid it in a tomb made of stone. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James prepared spices and ointment to anoint the body. The next morning, Pilate ordered a stone placed in front of the tomb and a guard to stand by. The disciples were stunned. Jesus was dead. The last week had been so confusing. On Sunday the crowds had cheered him, and on Friday they killed him. He said he would build a kingdom, but he was dead. Jesus was dead and his body was under the earth. All about the city of Jerusalem, the followers of Jesus quietly and privately mourned his death, and remembered all he had said and done, and gave thanks for how his life had given new hope to their own.
+SONG: "My Hope Is Built" (bulletin insert)
May Christ Jesus,
who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death —
even death upon a cross,
bless you and keep you this day and forever.