Palm Sunday Service APC 5th April 2020
Good morning everyone. Thank you for logging in to share in our time of prayers and reflection. I hope this new video format will help you to feel a little less isolated as we worship our God together…
Today marks the beginning of Holy Week. That’s not to say that the next seven days are any more special than the other 364 days of the year. It simply means that at this time of year, many Christian churches pause to reflect on Jesus’ final week on earth before his crucifixion.
Holy week begins by focusing on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem when Jewish crowds waved palm leaves to celebrate their belief that Jesus would become their new King. That’s why today is called ‘Palm Sunday’. Holy week will end on Friday as we remember the ‘Passion’ or death of Christ on the cross. We will be having some extra broadcast services during Holy week which you are very welcome to tune into. The theme for the week will be “The Five Senses of Holy Week”.
Tomorrow, we will be reflecting on the ‘sight’ of holy week as crowds in the temple watch amazed at Jesus overturning the desks of the people in charge of currency exchange in the temple.
On Tuesday we will be reflecting on the ‘smell’ of holy week as we think about the amazing incident when a close friend Mary, spontaneously pours a very expensive jar of perfume on Jesus’ head.
On Wednesday we will be reflecting on the ‘touch’ of holy week as we consider what lessons we can learn from the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
On Thursday we will be reflecting on the ‘taste’ of holy week as we sit around the table with Jesus and his disciples for the Last Supper.
On Friday, Good Friday, we will be reflecting on the ‘sound’ of Holy week as we listen to a Monologue describing the death 9 Jesus through the eyes of the Roman Centurion.
Then next Sunday morning we will gather to celebrate the truth that Christ is alive and to reflect on the significance that can have for our daily living.
But today our focus traditionally is on the amazing but somewhat bizarre story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. This event is obviously a very significant one because it is recorded by each of the four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This morning we will look at this event as seen through the eyes of Luke. But before we do, let’s take a moment to pause and pray…
Call to Worship
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.”
Loving God, we join this day in glad and joyful praise. We welcome Christ once more as our King, Lord and Saviour. We promise him our loyalty, we bring him our love, we bow to him in worship, we greet him with wonder.
Loving God, come to us again through Christ this day. Speak to us as we read familiar words, as we recall his triumphal entry into Jerusalem long ago, as we remember all it meant and all it cost.
Help us to see that it was not only in the welcome of Palm Sunday, but in the rejection which followed that Jesus revealed your glory, and so help us to offer him our service in the days ahead, through the good times and the bad.
Hosanna to the Son of David, glory in the highest heaven, now and for evermore. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
READING Luke 19: 28-44 Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
“The Paradox of Palm Sunday”
I don’t know about you, but increasingly for me Palm Sunday has become one of those occasions when I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. I feel a bit like the people in the crowd that lined the streets of Jerusalem shouting and cheering as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. They honestly believed that He would become their new King and would lead them to a political and military victory over their Roman rulers. But when Jesus was arrested a few days later as a common criminal and a blasphemer, their laughter turned to rage and they shouted “Crucify Him!”
Unlike the crowd, we have the benefit of hundreds of years of hindsight and theological reflection. We know that Jesus is the King of Kings and although His Kingship is different from what the crowds then expected, it is far from a disappointment. We know that through His death and resurrection He has conquered sin and death. We know that by trusting in what He has done, we can be set free from the guilt of our sin and also from the power of sin over us. That’s something to celebrate! But at the same time, the events of Palm Sunday force us to stop and reflect on our own lives in a way which might actually leave us feeling a little guilty and knowing that with God’s help we need to make a few changes in our lives, however difficult that might be.
As I reflect on the Palm Sunday bible passages, the first thing it makes me think about is, “What sort of Jesus am I looking for, what sort of Jesus do I promote to the people I know?” Like the crowds on that first Palm Sunday, I think it’s easy for us to get that wrong. Like them, we can allow the thinking of our world to influence our expectations of what Jesus should be like and about how having Him in our lives should impact on us. It’s tempting to see Jesus as a celebrity, as a courageous leader who shows no sign of weakness or as one poster outside a Christian church I saw recently put it, “Jesus is our Super Hero!” And of course, Jesus is the all-powerful, invincible and almighty God. But He is also a God who is not afraid to show weakness and who treads a path of humility and sacrifice. In one sense the whole image of Him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey over a few coats and palm branches strewn across the road with his feet trailing the ground reinforces this point. If we missed it the first time, then surely we cannot fail to feel the disciples embarrassment when in the middle of the Passover party, their King sits down and starts to cry! Ours is not the Hollywood Jesus who at the end of his flogging in the film “The Passion of Christ” stands tall, puts out his chin and as much as says to the soldiers in Braveheart fashion, “Bring it on!”
That’s one of the dangers in Palm Sunday or any Sunday. We can portray a Jesus that is very far from the truth. Sure we have so much to celebrate in all that Christ has done for us and all that we have in Him! But that celebration is not to be unthinking. It is not to be like the red-carpeted spectacle of the Oscars. We are not to promote in our worship or our lives a Jesus who has come to give us all we want or a Jesus who has come to solve all our problems. We are not to promote a Jesus who will always make us strong and invincible and who demands professionalism and success in everything we do. We are not to promote a Jesus who simply wants to give us an emotional high all the time or always leave us with a feel-good factor. Yes, God by His Spirit will provide for our needs. Yes, God by His Spirit will comfort and support us through life’s struggles. Yes, God will help us to use the gifts and abilities He has given us to achieve things for His glory. Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength. But in all these things we must maintain the true Spirit of Christ- a Christ who was sensitive, humble, who was weak, who endured sacrifice and who came to serve rather than be served. Palm Sunday reminds us that the Christian way is not that of glamour and the red carpet. It is the way of the cross. It involves struggle and sacrifice and weakness and humility. It includes the poor and the outcast and operates on the basis that change comes from the bottom up rather than the top down. It constantly stretches us to the very fibres of our being as God challenges us to change.
So let me ask you, as I’ve asked myself again this week, “How does the reality of Jesus compare to the Jesus I am seeking or the Jesus I promote to my friends?
TAKE TIME TO REFLECT…..
Palm Sunday gives us a reminder of what our expectations of Christ should be. As the American Presbyterian minister Scott Hoezee puts it- “You likely didn't ‘tune in’ here this morning picturing a Palm Sunday Jesus with red-rimmed eyes, tear-stained cheeks, and a quivering chin. But if that is the Jesus you follow out of here, then you are on the gospel path.”
Prayers for others
Lord Jesus Christ, you entered Jerusalem in quiet humility, taking the form of a servant, even to the point of death on a cross, emptying yourself so that we might be filled.
Come afresh to our troubled world, with all its needs, its tensions, its problems and its evil.
Bring healing where there is division, love where there is hatred, hope where there is despair, joy where there is sorrow, confidence where there is fear, strength where there is weakness, healing where there is sickness. Life where there is death.
Lord Jesus Christ, reach out to your church and to your world, despite the weakness of our faith and the rejection of so many. May your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Come again now and establish your Kingdom, for it’s in your name that we pray. Amen.
Again it’s been my joy and privilege to serve you by leading you in worship this morning. Thanks for logging on. I hope you’ve enjoyed the new video format and found this time to be encouraging. Please remember to tune in again tomorrow as we begin our journey with Jesus through Holy week. Don’t forget to look at our church website or on Facebook for latest information. Keep everyone in your prayers and look out for anyone you can help. So let me close with a benediction after which, as always, I invite you to join me in saying the grace together…
My brothers and sisters. As we enter this holy week, let us keep our eyes on Jesus. He will show us where we need to go and what we ought to do. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore, Amen.
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