Service for Sunday 5th April 2020 (Palm Sunday)

This weeks service has been prepared by Rev. Arthur Cowburn

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Loving God, at this time,
We remember that going up to Jerusalem
Cost Jesus his very life.
So we come before you,
Conscious of the way religious words
And holy phrases
So easily slip from our lazy lips
And our hardened hearts.
What do we really know
Of your mountainous truth,
Your rock-hard integrity,
The depth of your suffering
for love of us all?
Forgive us for the shallowness
Of our faith,
And the timidity of our following:
Forgive us for the ready excuses
We make for going our own way
And claiming it as yours.

Turn us round again, we pray,
By your Holy Spirit,
Active within us and among us.
Show us how to be open again
To your faithfulness
And to your freedom
That we may live
New lives
And be again bearers
Of the seeds of the Kingdom
Of Jesus.

John Harvey (from Eggs & Ashes)

Matthew 21: 1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”. The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”. The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

What sort of Kingdom?

We often speak of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as “The triumphal entry”. Matthew tells us that a very large crowd gathered, the other Gospels aren’t quite so clear on numbers, there is shouting and waving of palm branches, cloaks are laid on the road, and then comes Jesus, riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Many who were there would have immediately seen this as a declaration of kingship following from the prophecy of Zechariah, but also as a sign of a kingdom that would bring about peace.

Many historians believe that this episode of Jesus’s ministry was very carefully timed and that at possibly the same moment another procession was entering Jerusalem from the opposite side as the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate arrived to oversee what was happening at Passover. He would have arrived on a warhorse with chariots, soldiers and all the paraphernalia that went with being a Roman Governor. All designed to impress the power of the Roman State on those who witnessed it.

If that is the case, I think the term Triumphal Entry is something of a misnomer. Anything triumphal was happening on the other side of the city. And, despite all that it has tried to show otherwise over the years, Christianity is not a triumphalist religion but rather one that seeks to spread a message of peace, hope and love. The events of Holy Week show that Jesus can only triumph in a different way to that which the world expects.

It is very difficult to predict what the world or society will look like when we reach the end of the current crisis. What lessons will we learn from it? The virus itself seems to be indiscriminate, having infected the Prime Minister and Prince of Wales alongside thousands of people whose names we will never know. Politicians still manage to play something of the blame game even whilst they are trying to put on a united front, both internally and across national borders. Structures that we’ve built our lives upon, including The Church, suddenly seem incredibly vulnerable and the plans that we’ve sent ages making may or may not come to fruition. Boundaries have had to be erected and we’ve learnt to dance round people to ensure a 2-metre gap. Globalisation has become a problem rather than a dream of the world working together.

Can the world use this space to decide on what is valuable and important? Can we as a church come to see what is most important to us? Do we want to be dazzled by power and wealth or do we want to ask how we can spread the peace, hope and love that comes from a Servant King?

Give thanks for

  • Freedom to join in worship even if it is a different way to that which we would like.
  • Modern technology allowing us to keep connected
  • Families, friends and all who love us

Pray for

  • The Governments of the world as they seek to resolve this crisis
  • For all Doctors, nurses and other health staff in day to day contact with those infected.
  • For all those providing us with essential services under difficult circumstances.
  • For those suffering from Covid-19, those suffering from other illnesses whose treatment has been affected by the crisis, those anxious about what might happen if their treatment is delayed.
  • For all facing increased family pressures, for children and young people unable to let off steam in usual ways, for those desperately missing the touch of a loved one.
  • For those who mourn but who must do it alone rather than surrounded by family and friends.

The Lord’s Prayer