Palm Sunday Service
Good morning. We celebrate this service with a contribution from Revd. Derek Akker, whom many of you will know he has been a Locum at the Anglican Church Haarlem on several occasions. Revd. Derek Akker will lead us in worship through the next week, so please join us on all the forthcoming significant dates over these Easter period.
Reading for Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1-11
Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry;
O Savior meek, pursue your road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.
We won’t be gathering in church singing ‘Ride on, rider on in majesty’ this Palm Sunday. It’s going to be strange and unsettling and it will be different as we celebrate at home. We will be worship the best we can as we start Holy Week. There is one thing for certain, there will be no donkeys in the celebration, or will there?
I recall in my last parish, Palm Sunday started with a walk with our Catholic friends. We walked between our two churches with a donkey. It was a beautiful and obedient animal, at times far more obedient than some of the humans walking with us.
So on this, different, Palm Sunday let be bring the donkey back into the story with the words of:
’The Donkey’ by G K Chesterton’.
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
Of all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
The poem is told through the voice of the donkey and its of the sad existence. The donkey opens with the unsettling words of blood red moon and flying fish, the prelude to the birth of something ugly. The words have a bitter tone reinforcing the negative status of the donkey in the world.
The poem ends where the donkey with his long-ears, huge-head and screeching cry, carrying the Prince of Peace. An event leading towards Jesus’ unthinkable appointment with death. Jesus had his face towards the cross, where he would, defeat death by his own death.
The poem concludes with the donkey having the last word, a word of honour, finally being recognised by the people. As Christ rode him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, it was as if everyone loved donkeys now, because they were tied to this story and the events of Holy Week.
The story portrays the absurdity of Palm Sunday: just think, the Messiah, the King of Israel entered Jerusalem with no throne or army at his side, but on a donkey. This animal, a downtrodden beast, has hosted the majesty of the Christ.
There’s a wider point not just about Easter but human life as a whole: we’re invited to see in the lowly and unimpressive, glimpses of glory and dignity. All humanity is graced to be made in the image of God, all humanity is wonderfully made.
In a society still so locked into superficial judgements, there is a timely warning in the events of Palm Sunday. It’s God – not human judgements – who gives creatures their glorious dignity, our God often turns things upside down.
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 Blessed One.
The company of angels
are praising thee on high,
and we with all creation
in chorus make reply.
The people of the Hebrews
with psalms before thee went;
our prayer and praise and anthems
before thee we present.
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.
Prayer from our Intercessions team:
Heavenly Father, we pray to You in our deep need and sorrow at this time.
There cannot be a single reasonable human being who is not shocked by what is happening in the world, under siege as it were by an invisible diabolical enemy, an enemy, dare one say, of Biblical character, perhaps stirring up in us some image of Armageddon. From our human perspective this enemy seems to be no respecter of persons or race, rich or poor, intelligent or simple, believer or agnostic.
As Christians we believe and trust that everything has a purpose, that all things work together for those who love You, and that all will in time become clear.
But for now we can only join in the horror of the world at the escalating enormous toll of lives, at the mass of grief left behind. We wonder at the heroism of so many medical and care staff, giving their lives for others, and we give deepest thanks for those who have and are so selflessly sacrificing themselves.
Loving Heavenly Father, give us the courage and trust in You to face whatever is before us and the world the coming time with a confident heart, following that ultimate example of trust, the trust that Your Son had in You on the way to Calvary.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
Go in peace to love and service the Lord. In the name of Christ, Amen.