Palm Sunday

I have not posted on this blog for quite some time, however in this time of COV ID 19 restrictions, as out churches are not able to meet,  I am going to try to resurrect it as a place to post reflections and communications.

Today is Palm Sunday and the following is from the email and accompanying worship resources that I have shared for our “Worship at Home today”:

Good morning!
I hope that you are all in good spirits and keeping safe and well.
You can also watch Phil Summers’ excellent reading of the gospel here Gospel Reading by Phil Summers
 Holy Week begins today, but it will be a strange Holy Week with no Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday services and no celebration of Holy Communion on Easter Sunday (our Conference has previously said that Holy Communion over social media is not allowed). However we can celebrate Easter in other ways. One way is to join in with the Churches Together in England initiative “Sing Resurrection”.
They are asking that at 10am on Easter Sunday, we all go outside and sing two popular and well-known hymns: Christ is Risen Today and Thine be the Glory. They have been chosen as they are “cheerful, confident and joyful acclamations of resurrection and will be uplifting for other people to hear on Easter morning”. You can read more and print off a copy of the words here CTBI Sing Resurrection
I hope that you will all join in this and maybe all our neighbours will come and join in as well!
Today, Remember also to share in the service on BBC local radio at 8am and also the service on BBC 1 from Hereford Cathedral at 10.45am (this service features the Dean of Hereford leading a service in the Cathedral, interspersed with pre-recorded hymns from previous Songs of Praise programmes – so if the Cathedral looks full during the hymns it probably was 3 years ago!).
I have attached a picture of the Lenten cross at Hucclecote on which I have placed three palm crosses (I’m sorry I haven’t been able to do the same at Lonsdale Road).
The latest guidance issued this week, to comply with the government restrictions and in line with other denominations, is that our churches are closed to all (including for funerals). The only exception is for one designated person to visit weekly to check o the building and the Minister as it is considered their normal place of work! So please follow the government guidelines, stay at home, stay safe and help the nhs and other frontline workers who are are doing such a good job in difficult circumstances. Continue to pray for them and for each other. We are continuing to light our candle in the window and we invite you to do the same.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and always.

Our Lent Cross Liturgy for the Sixth Sunday in Lent – Palm Sunday

On this sixth Sunday in Lent we attach palms to the Lenten Cross. What kind of King is this?

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Matthew 21:8-11

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.’

Prayer:

In this most holy of weeks help us to stay close to Jesus that we may recognise the unfolding work of God. Amen.

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The following is from The Methodist Church Ministries, Vocations and Worship, prayers by Rev John Staton Service sheets

Opening Sentences.

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.

Hymn: 

1   All glory, laud, and honour

to thee, Redeemer, King,

to whom the lips of children

made sweet hosannas ring!

Thou art the King of Israel,

thou David’s royal Son,

who in the Lord’s name comest,

the King and Blessèd One.

 2   The company of angels

are praising thee on high,

and mortal men and all things

created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews

with palms before thee went;

our praise and prayer and anthems

before thee we present.

 3   To thee before thy Passion

they sang their hymns of praise;

to thee now high exalted

our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;

accept the prayers we bring,

who in all good delightest,

thou good and gracious King.

 4   All glory, laud, and honour

to thee, Redeemer, King,

to whom the lips of children

made sweet hosannas ring!

Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to it here:

Glory Laud and honour

Let us pray together

God our Father, we thank you that you sent your Son Jesus to be our King and Saviour. We thank you that he came to his people in triumph, but also in humility, and was willing to die so that all who believe in him may be forgiven, may become your people, and may share in eternal life. Forgive us for the times we have refused to believe, for the times when we have not listened, and the times when we have been unwilling to follow him on the way, and work in us by your Holy Spirit to make us the people you want us to be.. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1: 9)

Philippians 2: 5-11

Today’s Gospel Reading: 

Matthew 21: 1-11

21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the amount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 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. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately. ” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “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.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 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!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” 

Rev Phil Summers reads Matthew 21:1-11

Reflection

Palm Sunday  Matthew 21 1-11, Isaiah 50 4-9   Philippians 2 5-11

Jesus is King

I wonder what first impressions were created when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey that day? What impression was created in the minds of those who had heard about Jesus. Heard tell of  his teachings and his actions and had come out to greet him? What did they expect of this man who had spoken about the Kingdom of God and declared that it was now here? What did they expect him to be: a leader, a prophet, or a King in royal splendour?

Their actions and words bear witness to their expectations of his Kingship: they spread their clothes on the ground before him just as they had done when Jehu was anointed King by Elisha the prophet (2 Kings 9:13) in ancient times. They spread in his path branches cut from the trees, just as they did when they rededicated the Temple in the time of the Maccabees (2 Macc 10:7) That had taken place at the time of the festival of Tabernacles and we see that festival atmosphere reflected in the actions that accompany Jesus’ entry into to Jerusalem. The people shout “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” reflecting their belief that Jesus was from God, a Saviour for the people, the expected Messiah.

No doubt the great excitement stemmed from a belief that Jesus’ ministry was, at last, about to come to fruition. The disciples share in the excitement and expectation of the amazing things they believe are about to happen. The excitement reaches a crescendo as the feelings of apprehension build. They are about to witness a turning point in history. God is about to bring forth a new order of things. 

But their hopes appear to be dashed and the peak of emotion and excitement wanes quickly as Jesus fails to meet their expectations. His humble arrival on a donkey although royally greeted, is a contrast to what was expected. Jesus comes as King but not in command of a great army. Jesus comes to claim his crown, but it will be a crown of thorns not of gold and jewels. He comes in obedience to God and he has already told his disciples that he must suffer before he can be raised up in glory. It is in humility rather than glory that he enters his capital.

The emotions begin to subside over the next few days as Jesus continues to fail to meet expectations.  Disappointed, Judas is driven to try and force Jesus’ hand and so he betrays Jesus to the authorities probably believing to the last that Jesus will be forced to reveal his power and use it to over throw the establishment. But Jesus moves from adulation to rejection as he faces the crowd again. But now it is in very different mood as it urges Pilate to crucify him.

This is a story of a roller coaster of emotion, a build up of apprehension based on a perceived expectation of something great to come, on that first impression of what Jesus was about and on an incomplete understanding of his mission and purpose. A build up that reaches a peak only to be followed by a dive into misery and dejection as that expectation fails.  As such it can be seen as a metaphor for many aspects life. 

I’m sure we can all think of times in our lives when we have built up our hopes with great excitement; only for them to come crashing down with unfulfilled expectations, by unexpected outcomes or circumstances: The fairytale wedding that ends in divorce, the promising career prospects spoiled by unforeseen circumstances. The move to the dream house, which turns out to have rising damp and neighbours from hell. 

Just a couple of examples which serve to illustrate the wave like pattern of life for many. These are part of the ups and downs of life. But how are we able to deal with the emotional highs and lows of life? They are not always within our control either physically or emotionally because they happen inevitably as a result of our interaction with the world. 

At the present time as our lives have been interrupted by the spread of the Coronavirus, and by the actions taken to try and slow and stop it, we all face such roller coasters of emotion.  There is our natural anxiety over the situation and uncertainty of the future. There is our fear of losing our lives and those of our loved ones as we hear daily rises in the number of deaths. There is our disappointment at cancelled plans and holidays. 

I wonder how Jesus felt on that day as he rode into Jerusalem amid all the outward displays of excitement? He is aware of the crowds’ enthusiasm at his arrival, but he is also very aware of what must come, that the day of his ultimate suffering is drawing painfully near, that things will get much worse before they get better. He knows that this welcome will not last and that soon these same people will reject him and put him to death. He would have felt the same anxieties and fears as we do..

In continuing on his path regardless, Jesus sets an example of faith and obedience. The “Servant Song” of Isaiah 50 4-9 points us towards the Good Friday experience. The theme is of obedience to God even in the face of suffering and humility. Even when things seem to be as low as they can get, there is cause for hope because God is there alongside us. Isaiah says:

“The Lord God is my helper, therefore no insult can wound me. I know that I shall not be put to shame; therefore I have set my face like flint. One who will clear my name is at my side…The Lord God is my helper”. 

The prophet tells us that God will always be alongside those who suffer. It was the strength of God that enabled Christ to remain obedient to him, and it is his humility in accepting the will of God that ultimately leads from crucifixion to resurrection glory and salvation for us all. Through death and out the other side.

The theme is taken up again in Philippians 2 5-11:

 “Take heart amongst yourselves what you find in Christ Jesus: He was in the form of God yet he laid no claim to equality with God but made himself nothing, assuming the form of a slave.” 

So  although Christ was equal with God and had God’s power at his disposal he chose to put aside equality with God for our sake. He accepts the pain and the suffering which leads him to cry out to God in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his arrest as he prays to God to take “this cup” from him and on the cross as he cries out “Why have you forsaken me”. But ultimately he knows and accepts that it is God’s will that must prevail. He chooses the weakness of the human condition, he chooses the course of action that will lead to rejection, suffering and death. So here we have the paradox that in choosing to be obedient to God’s will, in being brought low he will be raised up by God and glorified.

And in doing so, through this act of perfect love and grace, he offers salvation to all humankind, going to the cross in order that we can have a pathway to eternal life through him. If his love for us is so great that he is willing to suffer and die for us then we can have absolute confidence that he will be there beside us as we traverse the waves of life, both in the celebrations and in the desperations. We cannot control the ups and downs of life but we can be sure that God will always be there alongside us as we live through them, and he will give us strength when we feel we have nothing left.

Today, on Palm Sunday, as we remember how Jesus was first recognised on earth as King, Saviour and Messiah so we celebrate this high point in his journey. But we are also aware of the cross standing on the horizon and of what it represents.  In our current situation, we can celebrate today the coming of Jesus. But we know, because we have been told, that the virus has not yet done its worst. We also know that we can place our trust in the hope that God offers us because he has been through and shared our suffering himself. We know that he will always be there for us and will not forsake us if we place our trust in him.

Trust Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen

Andrew Biggs 5/4/2020

A time of prayer

We stand with Christ in his suffering.

For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For Christian people, that through suffering of disunity there may grow a rich union in Christ, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who make laws, interpret them, and administer them, that our common life may be ordered in justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who have the courage and honesty to work openly for justice and peace, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those in the darkness and agony of isolation, that they may find support and encouragement,

let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who, weighed down with hardship, failure, or sorrow, feel that God is far from them, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy

Holy God, holy and strong

Holy and immortal, have mercy upon us. In Jesus’ name.  AMEN

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father ……

Hymn: Listen to You laid aside your majesty

SOF 633 Copyright © 1985 Thankyou Music.

YOU LAID ASIDE YOUR MAJESTY, 

Gave up everything for me, 

Suffered at the hands of those You had created. 

You took all my guilt and shame, 

When You died and rose again; 

Now today You reign, 

In heaven and earth exalted.

I really want to worship You, my Lord, 

You have won my heart 

And I am Yours for ever and ever; 

I will love You. 

You are the only one who died for me, 

Gave Your life to set me free, 

So I lift my voice to You in adoration. 

A prayer of blessing

Christ crucified draw us to himself that we may find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven and the blessing of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be upon us and remain with us always.

Published by andrewpbiggs

Methodist minister currently serving the Gloucestershire Circuit. Married to Julie. Enjoy reading and playing the guitar badly.

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