Palm Sunday Service on 5th April 2020

I have chosen two hymns and given the links to Youtube, together with a short reading to listen to. You can copy and paste the link into your browser. You MIGHT have to wait or ‘skip trailer’ or X to close an advert.

You might like to have a small stone (from your garden?) and a small bowl of water ready with some kitchen paper underneath it for the prayers later on.

Gathering our hearts and minds together before God (Psalm 86:6-7)

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you,
for you will answer me.

We come before God with the challenging balance of crying to God “how long, O Lord”, and also putting our faith in the God whose everlasting arms will uphold us, even though that can feel far away and even though those arms hold us in different ways and at different times.

This is Palm Sunday, when we remember that Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, though he knew he would meet there the shadow of the cross – his passion is just ahead of him, as is his weeping in the garden and giving his Abba, Father God, all his pain and anxiety.

Hymn: Listen our join in (the words appear on the screen) All glory laud and honour

Prayers
We call you ‘Father’ because Jesus bid us say “Abba”, daddy, and we draw near to you now, knowing that you welcome our approach as a loving parent welcomes a beloved child into their arms.

Our Father
ours, not just mine, we pray these words together with all the company of heaven and with the church world wide.

Who art in heaven,
not a place where we can find you on a map, we know, but a sort of being that you have shown us is complete love and complete inclusion, where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us and of which his love gives us a foretaste.

Hallowed be thy name,
we would honour you, and name you as this perfect parent, but also as our creator and sustainer, our redeemer and master, our comforter and inspirer.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
what you want; as Jesus himself prayed in the darkest of times, ‘not my will, but yours, be done’. Thy will be done even if we cannot see the way, nor understand how your kingdom is breaking into this world, especially in these difficult days.

On earth as it is in heaven
that place of perfect love, may it begin now, may the love with which you so-loved the whole world be something that spreads out from us, your church, to one another and beyond.

Give us this day our daily bread
not luxuries, not panic-bought rooms full of plenty, but what we need so that others might find what they also need.

Forgive us our sins
You alone know what lies upon our hearts, the burdens of our souls, the things that make us ashamed – we lay them down before you now, in a few moments of silence.

[take the silence you need – about 30 seconds maybe]

… as we forgive those who sin against us
can be hard, especially if that person does not say ‘sorry’ to us. But help us not to feel bitter; help us to respond to any overture of apology.

Lead us not into temptation,
what does temptation mean in these days of isolation? Guide us, our God, that we might see where the right path opens before us.

But deliver us from evil,
all of us want and need to have this awful time end, but we cannot see how it will happen. We give this to you, and trust in you for all that lies ahead.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
Yours
not ours
not any ideology or philosophy.
help us to trust in you – help us to let go and let God.

For ever and ever,
for ever and for ever and for ever, you are our God, and we are your children.
Amen

Reading : Matthew 21:1-11
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.’

Reflection
We’re coming into Holy Week, the days of Jesus’ life when he walked through in the shadow of the approaching cross. Here it seems to start off so well!

There is some powerful symbolism of Jesus’ humility here. The folk around him would have witnessed the parades of Roman soldiers, with the centurions on their great horses, with the ranks of ordered soldiers marching behind. The Romans themselves would have seen an even grander spectacle of Caesar entering Rome in all his glory and pomp and circumstance.

Here, instead, is the rag-bag bunch of people, waving palm branches and taking off their cloaks to get trampled into the dust … not very orderly at all, but welcoming Jesus like a conquering hero even if rather an odd one, on this donkey.

What power is it that Jesus claims here? It’s certainly not either military or political power – rather it is the power that comes from loving all the way through fear and pain to death, and through death. Love is, surely, the only power that can win through death. And as we thought about last week, it is only love (“essential love” as Lee called it) that will bring us through this very difficult time.

Sometimes it’s suggested that the crowds who welcomed Jesus on this day were awfully fickle, because just five days later they are baying for his blood and shouting ‘crucify’. Actually, they couldn’t possibly have been the same crowds because these ordinary folk who were celebrating the Jesus who had become one of them – teaching and healing and showing God’s mercy and forgiveness – these ordinary folk would never have been allowed into the courtyard of Pilate’s house on the Friday. It’s the ordinary folk, the humble folk, who truly welcome and accept Jesus and as we celebrate this Palm Sunday, we too can welcome Jesus into our ordinary everyday lives and into our city – which are very far from ordinary at the moment.

The Friday crowds are a rent-a-mob, whipped up to shout what the ruling elite want them to shout. These Sunday crowds, if they have a fault, it is that they fell away and didn’t follow Jesus when the going got tough, just as the first disciples fell away.

So let us, as disciples today, reflect on how we can walk this coming week, watching Jesus getting nearer to ‘Good’ Friday. He’ll face challengers and questioners and the darkness is swirling around him ever closer. In the days when we feel we’re facing the darkest of challenges, this is so hard, isn’t it? Yet, here is Jesus, facing the worst of what humankind can do to him and he has walked this way before us – and he will walk this way with us now, and we can walk with him, and weep with him, and pray to God to ‘take this from us’ with him.

We have the privilege not only of gazing on the cross, but of knowing what we will be celebrating next week – we can see the light through the cross even whilst life is at its darkest.

God, help us to keep our eyes fixed on that light and watch it come closer.

LISTEN TO THIS READING of Psalm 23

Prayers
If you have a bowl of water and a stone – have them ready now.

O God, our God,
‘we turn to you O God of every nation’
in this time of struggle which knows no geographical boundaries
and is no respecter of rank or wealth.
We bear this burden together
all of us
your people.

If we try to think of the numbers of people who have died or become seriously ill,
Lord, we feel overwhelmed and trust that you hold them all in your eternal love.
It’s impossible to look too far into the future because so much is unknown,
Lord, we feel afraid.
Perhaps for the first time we are learning what it’s really like to rely upon you for our ‘daily bread’,
Lord, we feel humbled by this reality.

O God, you told us to come to you with our weariness and our burdens
and we would lay these down now.

[drop your stone into the bowl of water so that ripples flow out from it, maybe even let the water splash out a little]

May the ripples of your peace wash over us, and over all those who call upon you for their comfort today and in the days to come.

May the splashes be a mark of tears of concern for our neighbours, our communities, our nation, the world – reaching out as your own love reaches out.

[take a few moments to pray for yourself – then name your family members to God – then your closest friends – for the other church members – especially anyone who has had hospital treatment or is anticipating it, that healing might come]

May your wisdom reach out into the minds of those making the hardest decisions. Make them courageous, merciful and just.

May your inspiration reach out into the hands of those working ‘on the front line’ of vital services. Make them to know how much they are appreciated and prayed for and uphold them in their weariness and in their fears.

O God, you have loved this whole world so much, love us all now and help us to feel held by you, known by you with all our concerns, loved by you to the uttermost.

These prayers we offer in the name of Jesus, who walked through the valley of the shadow of death for our sakes. Amen

Hymn: Listen or join in Meekness and Majesty

Blessing (an ancient Celtic blessing)

God to enfold me,  God to surround me,  God in my speaking,  God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,  God in my waking,  God in my watching,  God in my hoping.

God in my life,  God in my lips,  God in my soul,  God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,  God in my slumber,  God in mine ever-living soul,  God in mine eternity.
(Ancient Celtic oral tradition – Carmina Gadelica)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest and remain with us and with those whom we love this day and always Amen

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