Palm / Passion Sunday
Updated: Mar 18
Liturgy of the Palms
Liturgy of the Passion
You can find a YouTube playlist here with many of the songs suggested below.
After the solemnity of Lent, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem offers us a moment of celebration before the rest of Holy Week. The Gospel reading is calling out for us to sing “Hosanna” and you could even do this during your Call to Worship to heighten the feeling of the crowd shouting. When they heard that Jesus was coming (MV 128) could be an entirely musical Call to Worship as it works as a simple call and response. You could also use short responses such as the Blessed is the one and Hosannas from the Puerto Rican Santo, santo, santo (STF 766 / WGRG), the chorus from Give me oil in my lamp (MP 167) or the South African Sanna sannanina (GSW 9). While the English text of the latter is the full Sanctus, the original is simply a variation on Hosanna.
Many churches would often have a procession while waving palm branches and some traditional hymns for this are All glory, laud, and honour (CH 364 / MP 9) and Hosanna, loud hosanna (CH 367). Here comes Jesus on a donkey (CH 369) could be a fun alternative as it describes the scene as Jesus rides into Jerusalem and you can really build energy and excitement if you begin slowly and build up the tempo throughout the song. There are a few songs from the 80s which fit really well as gathering songs such as Make way, make way (CH 279 / MP 457) and Hosanna, hosanna (MP 242) although they may feel a bit dated now. More recent songs which could work are Hosanna (CCLI / MP 1185), Blessed be your name (MP 1036 / CCLI), Sing Hosanna (CCLI) or Hosanna (Praise Is Rising) (CCLI / MP 1221).
The psalm for the Liturgy of the Palms has a good metrical version in Oh, set ye open unto me (CH 78) while vv.1, 6-8 of Come, praise the Lord, for he is good (Grace / CCLI) sung to How can I keep from singing would give you the right verses. For a more upbeat version CH4 gives us a Trinitarian version of This is the day (CH 194 / PFAS 118K / link) but there is another version with v2 “Open to us the gates of God” and v3 “You are our God we will praise your name” which fits with these verses from the psalm. This is the day the Lord has made (PFAS 118D / Hope) looks tricky in 7/8 time but actually feels natural if learned by ear. Hail and Hosanna (PFAS 118B) would be a great responsorial setting to tie it into Palm Sunday and it would give a real lift to finish by singing it in a round.
The psalm for the Liturgy of the Passion doesn’t have many options for the particular verses but Be gracious to me, O my Lord (Grace) is an option for a metrical version while the two part chorus My times are in your hands (PFAS 31C) would work for singing it responsorially.
If you are making the Palm Sunday readings your main focus then you could use many of the songs suggested in the Gathering section. Come into the streets with me (CH 366) is a gentler song set to an English folk melody while Ride on, ride on, the time is right (CH 370), Travelling the Road to Freedom (WGRG), Man on a donkey, come to town (CCLI) to Morning Hymn and Hosanna (CCLI) all put the Palm Sunday story into the context of the wider Easter story.
If you are moving on to focus on the Passion Sunday readings then you will probably want to use a hymn which ties in with the events of Holy Week for those who won’t attend services again until Easter Sunday. There are many well known options to choose from here such as My song is love unknown (CH 399 / MP 478), I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship (MP 266), The power of the cross (MP 1217 / CCLI / Getty), From heaven you came helpless babe (CH 374 / MP 162), When I survey the wondrous cross (CH 392 / MP 755 / MP 1126) or a contemporary version of this with an added chorus The wonderful cross (CCLI). If you are looking for something new then What kind of King (Resound) would be a great song to introduce and could be used throughout the Easter season, while So much wrong and so much injustice (CH 572) is a beautiful song from the Middle East.
Ride on! ride on in majesty (CH 365 / MP 580) is a good song to close with as we start with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry but finish by looking towards the Crucifixion while Not on a war horse, but a humble donkey (link) (written to be sung to Finlandia) has a similar structure. Other songs which would set a good direction for moving into Holy Week could be How great thou art (CH 154 / MP 506), Meekness and majesty (CH 356 / MP 465), How deep the Father’s love for us (CH 549 / MP 988 / Townend) or What wondrous love is this (CH 395)