Drama for Palm Sunday
Our Palm Sunday drama first started about 12 years ago, when we decided to include a procession with a donkey into our usual service. It has changed and developed over the years but the basic format remains the same.
The congregation gathers with the donkey outside the local school. (Some years we do this at another church in our rural partnership where we gather at the village pond.)
We encourage as many people as possible (and especially the children) to come dressed as the people of Jerusalem. The service begins with a prayer and the blessing of the palms. Then the narrator sets the scene:
"Jesus' message was always one of peace, love, reconciliation and forgiveness. He was moved to his passion and death by a consuming love for all mankind. In his humanity, he shrank from the horror of the death that awaited him, yet, always obedient to the will of his Father in heaven, he submitted, so that we might be free..."
The narration then takes up the story of the disciples being sent to find the colt. A group of adults and children take on the role of the disciples and go off to argue with the donkey's owner about Jesus' need for a donkey: "The Lord has need of them."
The donkey is led to the head of the procession and the congregation makes its way up the High Street to the church. We wave branches and sing either "We have a king who rides on a donkey" or "Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning" and shout "Hosanna to the Son of David." The procession does tend to get quite spaced out and we donít always seem to be singing the same thing at the same time. When we reach the gates to the church the procession pauses and sings "Majesty". This is partly to emphasise the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and partly to give the children time to get into position for the next scene.
Jesus in the temple
We have a couple of tables, piles of coins and scales for the money changers. The children have doves and placards to wave.
"Honest Joe. Change your money here. Best rates in Jerusalem."
"Cheapest doves in town. Two for the price of five."
At a given signal they shout out their wares. (It helps having some adult voices to lead the shouting.)
Then they fall silent and Jesus charges into the temple overturning the tables and scattering the coins: "My house shall be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves." (One year we released a flock of homing pigeons at this point.) The traders run off out of sight behind the church.
The mood of the crowd changes. Some are now openly hostile "Dead loss. Complete dead loss. The Romans must be laughing all the way to the forum." "He's a blasphemer." "He's got to go, and go now."
The Pharisees send in their spy who tries to trick Jesus: "Master... we know that you are an honest man, a man of integrity, a man who is not swayed by public opinion..." But Jesus refuses to be tricked: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's."
The scene ends with Judas coming to centre stage: "I am Judas. I am one of the twelve... What will you pay me if I deliver him to you..."
After Judas has counted out his thirty pieces of silver, the congregation sing two verses of "The servant king" and then make their way to the far side of the church.
When their role as temple traders is over the children go round to the back of the church, where they dress up in long cloaks and arm themselves with a variety of swords and sticks. They are now the temple guard; and when they are ready they take themselves off to hide behind the trees in the churchyard.
Jesus and his three disciples enter. We used to have children acting the parts of the disciples but found it gave the scene a rather twee quality, so now we have adults in the roles. Jesus asks his disciples to pray with him, but they fall asleep leaving him to pray on his own.
"Father if this cup may not be taken away and I must drink it, then give me courage. Your will be done, in all things, not mine."
As his prayer finishes, Judas enters and betrays him with a kiss. The children rush on in their role as the temple guard.
"Who is it that you want?"
"Jesus of Nazareth!"
The temple guard take Jesus away out of sight, and the congregation make their way into the church.
Inside the church
The children go to our side chapel where the children's leader talks briefly about the events of Good Friday. They then decorate or make a cross. We have only introduced this in the last couple of years; but it gives the adults a chance to hear the Passion narratives which are read by the choir from the dramatised Bible. The children are quiet and if they want to, they are able to listen as well. The service finishes with the prayer and a final hymn where the children return and hold up their crosses.
Excerpts from the script for Palm Sunday are used courtesy of Tony White.