Palm Sunday reflections

J-P took us all on a time journey back to Jerusalem to think about Palm Sunday. For many, this was a day of celebration, of welcome to the new King, but as we look back on this day, our reactions are often tinged with sadness because we know that the celebration didn’t last long.

On that day, we see Jesus fulfilling prophecy in riding into Jerusalem on a colt – a symbol of peace and not of majesty. Jesus was welcomed as a celebrity, a king whose reputation for healing and miraculous acts was seen as being the way to victory over the Romans, but His mission was actually to serve and to save the oppressed. The crowds waved palm branches and set these and clothes in front of the colt, singing in excitement to Him. The Pharisees were not happy about this response, and we see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, knowing He had come to be the sacrificial Passover Lamb and knowing they would reject Him.

As we reflect on how celebration and sorrow can co-exist in life, we are reminded nonetheless of the purpose behind Jesus’s mission, a purpose of salvation, not condemnation. (John 3:16-17) Every cloud has a silver lining, and as we enter Holy Week and reflect on both the suffering and the glory of the crucifixion and resurrection, we can use the time we have to reflect on God’s great love for us and how this love triumphs over every tragedy.

A Triumphant Entry

Today is Palm Sunday and our reading was from Matt 21:1-11. Dave’s sermon looked at the 4 things we can learn today from Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

  1. We must trust God’s timing. Jesus has previously asked people to keep quiet about His ministry and identity, but as He chose to enter Jerusalem riding on a colt and thus fulfilled prophecy (Zech 9:9), He was demonstrating an awareness of the divine timetable which others did not understand. The excitement of the crowd temporarily deterred the authorities, who would otherwise have arrested Jesus at once. Luke’s gospel records that they complained saying, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”  And He answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”  He was saying, “Don’t you understand? This is the moment that God my Father has been preparing since the foundation of the world for you to have Your Messiah. I am officially here. And if I stop my disciples from singing, then you are going to hear a literal rock concert!” We need to trust God’s timing, even if we don’t understand the road we have to travel.

  2. When we give Jesus our time, talents and possessions, God is glorified. We don’t know who gave Jesus the use of the donkey on which he rode, but in doing so, he enabled Messianic prophecy to be fulfilled. When we place whatever we have at the disposal of Jesus – our talents, our presence in His house, our money, our service – they become the means whereby He receives the praise and the acclaim that is His due! The Kingdom of God grows; other people are blessed when we simply give Jesus what we claim as ours because, like this little donkey, our Lord has need of it. What is our ‘donkey’? What can we give?

  3. We must love people as Jesus loved them. Luke 19:41 tells us that Jesus wept over Jerusalem; He loved the people and knew that many of them would reject Him and His plan to save the world, and so they would suffer the painful consequences. If we are to walk as He walked then we must not only know how much He loves us, but we must love people as He does. We must be as moved by their pain as God is. We must be moved to real tears by the pain of those around us who hurt because they have rejected God in their lives. We must be prepared to cry with them.

  4. We must learn that Jesus’ way is the way of the Cross. The crowds on that first Palm Sunday did not understand the sacrificial nature of the Messiah, that He Himself would be the Passover Lamb. They were looking for a king who would conquer and kill, but instead they found One who walked the path of self-denial and urged His followers to do the same: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Jesus requires all that would follow Him to choose between the way of the world and the way of the Cross.

Lift Up Your Heads!

I love spring flowers: the vibrancy of the different colours after the bleakness of winter, the perkiness of daffodils and tulips in particular.

Tulips have a tendency to droop, however, and I’ve discovered this is because they need a lot of water. Florists advise us to trim tulips by 3-5 cm and cut the stems at an angle to give as much surface area to drink from, to keep them away from direct sunlight and fruit and to change the water frequently in order to keep them perky!

We can be a bit like tulips: sometimes perky, but often droopy! Psalm 24 tells us twice, Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.‘ (Ps 24:7, 9) Psalm 3:3 says, But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. At the risk of repeating myself yet again, we need to come to God and drink from His river of delights if we are to lift up our heads. More than ever, we need to do this now, to set our hearts, our minds and our emotions on things above. (Col 3:1-3) Only then will we be lifted from despondency and despair to vibrancy and hope.

 

Embrace Perseverance

Perseverance is defined as persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.’ It’s always been an unfashionable quality, for we are impatient people who prefer things to be accomplished quickly and with little to no effort. When my son started piano lessons, I was eager to learn the tricks of the trade from an expert. Not surprisingly, I discovered there were no tricks: just steady, regular practice, teaching the fingers of one hand to do something they were not used to doing, teaching the fingers of the other hand the same thing, and then putting the two things together. The first music book he had had 30 pieces of music to learn and I was shocked that he did not get to put both hands together until the very last piece! That was 30 weeks of lessons (over six months!) before he could play even one short piece which to me qualified as ‘playing the piano’!

Perseverance is necessary if we are to become masters of anything. Instead of giving up after one or two weeks, we need to learn to press on, to keep going, to persist. Children take months to learn to walk. They take years to learn to talk. Mastery of anything is difficult, but perseverance is the key element required. We simply must not give up.

I don’t know what you want to master this year. It may be a new hobby or skill. It may be losing weight or taking more exercise. It may be overcoming a particular temptation. It may be not giving up on a work situation or a relationship which seems hopeless. Most of us are wondering how long we will have to persevere with social isolation and the economic uncertainty facing us at this time.  Whatever the challenge, the answer will be found, in part at least, through perseverance.

Sunday services 5th April 2020

Here are the links for the services on Palm Sunday (5th April 2020):

Morning service (Holy Communion) @ 10.30 a.m.

https://zoom.us/j/111518849

Meeting ID: 111 518 849

Evening service (Little Big Church) @ 6.00 p.m.

https://zoom.us/j/451293083

Meeting ID: 451 293 083

Once again, we’ll be attempting to gather via Zoom and Facebook Live.