Thank you for connecting with us via this blogpost on Palm Sunday. The church all over the world celebrates Palm Sunday today. We remember that Jesus enters into Jerusalem. We also remember that this event starts the week of Holy Week.
Although we are not able to meet physically in the church building, let’s join Jesus today and follow him on the way to the cross as we engage with some material that we have put together. You can choose to follow today’s Sunday Together Service, our Sunday Xtra Service or our Holy Communion Service (click the respective links) and/or read the Reflection and prayers below. You will also find a few links at the end of this blogpost, which you might like to explore.
On Sunday morning at 10am, our Sunday Together Service, led by Thomas Dixon and Rachel Hesselwood will be made available online via our newly set up YouTube channel. At 6pm, a live-streamed Holy Communion Service, led by Henriette Howarth, will also be made available on the channel. After the live streaming, the video will remain on the channel so you can always catch up later on. We suggest you subscribe to the channel (it’s free) so that you get future notifications of new videos.
We greet the long awaited King,
who has come to set his people free.
We cry – Hosanna!
Won’t you save us and set us free
from all that threatens our lives.
Hosanna, set us free!
We shout – Hosanna!
You are our King, our Saviour.
We trust and hope in you,
we give our lives to serve, to pray and love.
Hosanna – praise King Jesus!
A Reflection by Thomas Dixon
I want to take you back to a far-flung time: Saturday 29th February 2020. It was mid-morning and I was in a rush; my eldest daughter, Grace, and I were waiting in Asda as the assistant inflated the helium balloons we’d be taking to her 14th birthday party that night. As he emerged from behind the door after an extended wait, we realised with horror that we’d bought a ‘3’ instead of a ‘1’. A few minutes later, having corrected our mistake, but too embarrassed to admit it, we walked through the car park, holding three massive balloons, as though we were on our way to a 431st birthday party…
So many parts of that story now seem as though they are from another world. Waiting around in a busy supermarket, very close to other people, with no one-way system in evidence; preparing for a party which would see 30 teenagers in close proximity to each other; and above all, finding something so trivial so very stressful!
In the space of a few weeks, everything has changed.
On Palm Sunday, we recall the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, riding in humility on a donkey, but hailed as a king by the crowds. As the hymn puts it:
Sometimes, they strew his way
And his sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King….
But the hosannas do not last:
Then ‘Crucify!’ is all their breath,
And for his death
They thirst and cry.
It’s traditional on Palm Sunday to recall, not only the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but also the pain and sorrow that followed so quickly. As we move towards Holy Week, we remember that, in the space of a few hours, everything changed.
There are a number of helpful theories which point us to the meaning of the events of Holy Week, the Cross, and the Resurrection. As we move through the next few days, we will meditate further on these. Today, as people living in a time of uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety, people for whom everything has changed, we remember that our God, taking on flesh in the person of Jesus, has walked that path too. The excitement of that first Palm Sunday was swiftly replaced by the anguish of the Garden of Gethsemane, the knowledge that his friends had betrayed and denied him, and the agony of the cross. The God to whom we pray in our fear and frustration loves us, knows us intimately, and understands our pain and our suffering.
And of course, we know the end of the story – that, on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. But it’s no bad thing, especially in our current situation, where an end to the suffering of coronavirus and the pain of isolation seem so far away, to ‘inhabit’ the events of Holy Week as they unfold over the next few days. It’s no bad thing to take some time to reflect on the God who loves us so much that he died for us, the God who has walked the way of pain and suffering before us, and continues to enfold us in his arms in our fear and loneliness.
And there is something else too. When Easter does finally arrive, it isn’t simply a return to business as usual. The world is transformed; when God raises Jesus, the powers of evil and death are defeated. God says ‘yes’ to the way of love, of peace, of forgiveness. Amidst our current suffering, we can already see signs of transformation in our communities, in our country and in our world: levels of pollution falling; neighbours talking to each other and helping each other for the first time; a genuine realisation of who our ‘key workers’ really are. As people who live in the light of the resurrection, let’s celebrate those signs of renewal, and let’s play our part, with God’s help, in building his kingdom here and now.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever. Amen.