Pastoral Letter: Palm Sunday
Homily, Prayer and Blessing. Mark Chapter 11 verses 1-10. This is not how they had imagined it at all. It had all gone terribly wrong. They were looking for a Saviour, a Messiah, who would, like Moses, lead God's people out of slavery and oppression to freedom and new life; who would like David, conquer all before him and be a mighty king. As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, at the peak of his popularity, they had imagined him reclaiming Jerusalem as a war hero, the likes of which are recorded and celebrated elsewhere in scripture - marching into the city to transform God's people's fortunes and establish a new world order. But no. A humble man in a humble gown, rides into Jerusalem on a humble beast of burden. This is not how they had imagined it at all. God keeps doing this doesn't he? The wise men in the early part of Matthew's Gospel look for the newborn king, foretold in the stars, in a palace. Where else would He be? Hence their visit to Herod. But no, Jesus was born in a place of transience, in a place of ordinariness, in a place of poverty. Now He goes in the face of expectation once again. God's people are looking for a Saviour, a Messiah, whom they imagine to be a hero, a conqueror. But no, Jesus chooses to come into His city on an ass, and palm branches are strewn in the streets to receive Him. You and I probably had different expectations for Holy Week and Easter and indeed for this season of Spring altogether, from what we are all experiencing. We may have planned holidays, work trips, visits to the theatre, the usual commute into work every day, meals out with friends, meeting up with family or friends for coffee, drinks, weekends away, visits to the gym. But no, we have been told - no. For the good of others, for the good of ourselves, for the good of the NHS, no! No venturing beyond the doors of our dwelling for many, no time with family or friends for others, no time away to be refreshed by seeing a different landscape, no. This is not what we had imagined or expected. Just as for those 2,000 years ago, it was not what they had imagined or expected on the first Palm Sunday. But here's the thing: even when things disappoint, even when things fail to proceed in the way we had wanted or expected, God is still to be found. He is a God who through death, creates life; who through suffering, offers peace; who, though things apparently go wrong, transforms them and puts them right. It is not that God is the author of times that disappoint, which cause people to suffer, it is rather that, to quote Saint Paul, "All things work for good, for those who are in Christ." (Romans 8, v.28) God is a God of life, not death, whom we can experience, encounter, despite disaster and destruction. May I suggest to you that you never believe anything of God that you do not see made manifest in the life, behaviour, reactions, teaching, stories, of Jesus of Nazareth? And there we see, shining into the shadows of our minds, especially in the events of this coming Holy Week, that He is ALWAYS a positive force of goodness, affirmation, acceptance, healing, forgiveness, justice, renewal, compassion and love. There is nothing destructive in Him at all. He is not someone who condemns or punishes. Those are the implications of our own unforgivingness and unrepentance. Christ does not create suffering, this week we see Him entering into the experience of suffering and thence forever changing it, transforming it, even that, into a place where we can meet with Him. Again this Sunday, may I invite you between 9.30am and 10am or thereabouts, to light a candle, set all else aside and join others in the St. Mary's family and beyond, following the steps set out for you in WHAT? NO CHURCH? or a similar sequence you finds suits you, as we seek to keep in touch with God and keep in touch with each other. Seeking to experience Communion with God and Communion with each other, in the unifying presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Have a small piece of bread and a small glass of wine or some other liquid or juice, make the sign of the cross over them and say a prayer over each, as I suggested last Sunday, at the culmination of your time of prayerful meditation. "Lord, as once you said "this is my body, broken for you, I am with you always, even to the end of time" so now, be present with us and bless this moment and this bread, with the touch of your Holy Spirit." Amen. "Lord, as once you said "this is my blood, shed for you, I am with you always, even to the end of time" so now, be present with us and bless this moment and this wine, with the touch of your Holy Spirit." Amen. Let each of us remember that He gave all that He was to love us into wellbeing and let us feed from the energy of His love and the strength of His Spirit, as we continue to journey with Him and He with us into the events of this coming week and beyond. The journey may not be the one we had anticipated or expected, but He will be with us, wherever life leads. (Romans 8 v.38-39) "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other being shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God, which is made manifest in Christ Jesus Our Lord."