Thoughts and Worship for Palm Sunday – 5 April 2020

Here is a short act of worship you can use at home if you wish. It’s followed by a biblical reflection on one of the readings set for the day.

Alternatively please go to our Facebook page where we ‘ll stream an act of worship  at 10.30am every Sunday:  https://www.facebook.com/moorlandgroup/

 

A Short Act of Worship for Sunday 5 April 2020, Palm Sunday

 

Please sit wherever you feel most comfortable. You may find it helpful to light a candle or have a focus for your thoughts – a simple cross, a vase of flowers or a photograph of those you love – or even a photo of your church to remind you of all those with whom we’re united in prayer.  

 

Hosanna to the Son of David, the King of Israel.

 

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

 

True and humble king, hailed by the crowd as Messiah: Grant us the faith to know you and love you, that we may be found beside you on the way of the cross, which is the path of glory. Amen

 

God’s Word:

 

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

(Matthew 21: 1-11)

 

Take a few moments of silence to think about these words

 

On this Passion Sunday please again pray:

 

  • For all batting Coronavirus and other illnesses
  • For all who are scared about the future and those trying to cope with loneliness
  • For health workers – giving thanks for their skill and courage
  • For all who work to maintain the life of our society, in the emergency services, retail, farming and public service and for all who give of their time voluntarily.
  • For governments and all in authority that they may make the difficult decisions that they face wisely and well
  • For all those praying with us around the world
  • For the life of our own church and community – giving thanks for the amazing generosity and charity of ordinary people
  • And for all we love, especially for those from whom we’re separated at the moment

 

You may like to spend a few minutes in silence,

listen to a piece of music that you find helpful or inspiring

or slowly read through and reflect upon (or why not sing) this familiar Palm Sunday hymn:

 

All glory, laud, and honour to you, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

You are the King of Israel and David’s royal Son,
now in the Lord’s name coming, the King and Blessed One.

 

The company of angels is praising you on high;
and we with all creation in chorus make reply.

The people of the Hebrews with palms before you went;
our praise and prayer and anthems before you we present.

 

To you before your passion they sang their hymns of praise;
to you, now high exalted, our melody we raise.

As you received their praises, accept the prayers we bring,
for you delight in goodness, O good and gracious King!

 

 

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name …

 

(or)

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name …

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

You humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant,

And in obedience died on the cross for our salvation:

Give us the mind to follow you

And to proclaim you as Lord and King,

To the glory of God the father,

Amen

 

May Christ, who bore our sins in the cross, set us free to serve him with joy.

Amen.

 

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

Palm Sunday Reflection 2020

 

The Palm Sunday Gospel is such a familiar story. It’s told by Matthew like this:

 

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

 

Throughout his Gospel, Matthew is especially keen to show how the events of Jesus’s life are foretold by scripture.  Here we find him quoting Zechariah Chapter 9 flavoured with Isaiah 62 and then the words of the crowd who accompany him are from Psalm 118.

 

These quotations help to underline the first main point of the Palm Sunday story which is that while Jesus is a king, he is a king of peace. Those who first read Matthew would have known that kings might sometimes ride a donkey, but only when they came in peace – and never as a conquering warlord. There is a particularly striking example in the First Book of Kings when Solomon’s rides a donkey on his way to be anointed king in succession to David. Surely Matthew invites us to see Jesus in this tradition?

 

The image of Jesus as king of peace points to the great truth that is central to the whole Gospel that Jesus’s power subverts all the world’s notions of power. Love alone is his way.  And yet  although Jesus may be in best sense ‘meek’, his love does not allow him to avoid conflict. Remember that the very next story told by Matthew is of Jesus striding into the Temple and throwing over the tables of the money lenders.

 

But I want to reflect on a different aspect of the Palm Sunday story and look more closely at the crowd that accompanies him in his pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  This is a pilgrimage – crowds are gathering Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

 

Matthew makes clear that the crowd had been with him for a while. It seems pretty clear that these are the people who shout ‘hosanna’, who spread their cloaks on the road (a powerful sign, for our clothes represent us) and who cut branches from the trees – a spontaneous gesture not normally associated with Passover.  Some commentators speculate that they are an excited Galilean crowd, but whoever they are, they are not the inhabitants of Jerusalem itself – and they will not be the folk who shout ‘crucify’ a few days later.

 

The Palm Sunday acclamations happen outside the city. Matthews then continues the story:

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

 

In other words, the reaction of the Jerusalemites is one of one concern and maybe of trepidation. They don’t know who this man is and though he may be riding a donkey, they fear that he may spell trouble. Their reaction is, ‘who on earth is this?’

 

I have just finished reading the story of a more recent pilgrimage to Jerusalem, by Guy Stagg movingly, often grippingly told in his book, ‘The Crossway’. Stagg walked from Canterbury to Jerusalem in 2013. He did it not because he has a religious faith, he doesn’t, but in order to try and find healing. He had severe mental health problems and wanted to put them behind him.

 

It was a deeply challenging journey both psychologically and physically. He narrowly missed being caught by a huge terrorist bomb in Beirut, but many deeply personal encounters linger longer in the memory. His eventual arrival in Jerusalem, ten months after setting out, was an anti-climax:

 

As I roamed round I felt a growing sense of disappointment. I knew that thousands of pilgrims arrived in Jerusalem each week, yet I was hoping for some kind of welcome. My imagination had conjured up trumpets, banners, fireworks and parades, but the real city was too preoccupied to take notice, its focus fixed on the competing rounds of worship.

 

It would appear that things haven’t changed too much. And it also remains true that so many people are still just too busy with their own lives to pay any attention to Jesus.

 

When he began to reflect on his journey a little later, Stagg said this:

 

When I set off on pilgrimage I was bewitched by … stories of surrender and sacrifice. But in the course of my journey I was shown how sacrifice could mean something much smaller: the habit of kindness, or the discipline of humility, or the steady practice of patience. And looking back on the ten months, it was not the solitude I remembered, but the charity of so many strangers.

 

What, I wonder, did the pilgrims who shouted Hosanna remember? Was it way in which all seemed to go so horribly wrong and so quickly, or did other events linger longer in  memory; for example, just before they got to Jerusalem, when two blind men sitting by the roadside called out to Jesus for mercy? The crowd tried to shun them, but Jesus didn’t. He healed them and they too joined the crowd.

 

Of course we will remember the tumultuous events of the Holy Week, events which changed everything, especially if you look back at them with the eye of faith, but isn’t the story of Jesus also stuffed full of simple acts of kindness, examples of real humility and of inspiring patience? The story of Jesus is the story of the enduring worth of charity. As Saint Paul later said, ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

 

Charity – or love – as we shall be reminded this coming week, was shown most fully on the cross and in the wonder of resurrection, but charity in little acts can also change the world. That’s what we need right now – and that’s what in many ways we’re seeing in our communities: simple acts of kindness, examples of real humility and of inspiring patience abound.  The difficulties we face are real and daunting, but the human spirit, when warmed by God’s love is capable of so much more.

 

Our pilgrimage continues.