You can join this week’s worship service by visiting here.
Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and Andy’s prayers for this week.
You can find this week’s Children’s Time video here.
Scripture: Mark 11: 1-11
Music: All Who Are Thirsty,We Shall Go Out With Hope of Resurrection
Musician: Terry Croft, Violin
It is not a very long walk from Bethpage heading east into Jerusalem. You could do it in under an hour. But this was a journey that had begun years earlier on the shores of the Galilee. And the scene is set, it was just before Passover.
The story begins with Jesus sending two disciples to fetch a colt, a donkey that he would ride into the city. You ever wonder about details like this? I’ll come back to this.
We’re told that a crowd of his followers cheered him on; they were common, ordinary folk. Mark tells us they laid their cloaks and soft branches from the fields on his path. Matthew and Luke tell us they waved palm fronds and shouted as he rode past; “Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David. Hosanna in the highest!” The crowd was filled with joy and hope.
It was probably a sunny day with clear blue skies and temperatures in the 20’s. The path he took and the places along the way are part of the Biblical record; down the Mount of Olives, past the Garden of Gethsemane, across the Kidron Valley and up the hill, through one of the gates and into Jerusalem and on to the Temple.
Meanwhile, from the west a different procession was also entering the city as they always did before religious festivals. It was Herod and his troops making their way up from the Mediterranean coast to reinforce the garrison stationed in Jerusalem; chariots and cavalry on horses, foot soldiers dressed for battle and carrying weapons and imperial banners and golden eagles mounted on poles, all of them were moving to the beat of Roman drums. There was no crowd cheering. For the most part, the common folk who looked on were filled with a mix of fear and loathing for these were the brutal occupiers of their land.
Some scholars wonder if Jesus was mounting a counter demonstration. It certainly was a study in contrasts. The horse that pulled Herod’s chariot was a symbol of power and war. The colt, that donkey I mentioned earlier that Jesus rode was a Biblical symbol of humility and peace. Herod’s procession was focused on the kingdom of Rome, a kingdom based on military power and the brutal suppression of the locals. Their presence for Passover was meant to send a message – behave or you will be crushed. Meanwhile, Jesus was focused on a different kingdom, the kingdom of God, a kingdom of hope based in compassion, of peace rooted in justice. His message was in God’s eyes, we are all beloved children meant to live full and abundant lives in a community rich in the support of each other.
In their enthusiasm, the followers of Jesus may have believed that they were launching something like the Arab spring, a revolution against the Roman’s. Some may have wondered if Jesus is the long promised messiah who would mark the return to the glory of David’s kingdom from a thousand years earlier. (Remember that line, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David.”) Is he the one who would make their nation great again?
But Jesus had always been clear about his message over the last three years, “All are welcome to come and follow me. Follow me into Jerusalem. It will not be an easy journey because you will have to pick up your cross. But, this path leads us to meaning and fulfillment in this life and in the life to come. It is the path that leads us to God who will be with us.”
There are still those who get his message confused. They, like some who gathered with him on that day want a different kind of messiah. Some, believe that if you say you follow him that you will be rewarded with great riches. That you will become wealthy. He never promised that though did he? Instead he offered meaning and purpose for our lives. Some believe that if you pray with the right words, or if some preacher touches you that you will be cured of a life long illness or a life threatening disease. But, he never promised that either did he? He promised to bring healing – to help us find strength and courage rooted in love in the face of our troubles.
It has been a long and difficult Lent. Not the normal six weeks but one that has lasted over a year.
As Jesus was making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem I cannot be sure of what he was thinking. He knew his journey was not over and what lay ahead in the coming days – that there would still be hardship but he was prepared to trust in God and where God was calling him.
We too realize that over the coming days we will still be face hardship, we will still be journeying with Jesus. But this is also a time for us to begin to think about what Jesus really calls us to in our personal lives and as a community of faith.
We all long to return to being together, to supporting each other on bright sunny days and maybe more especially in the long, dark nights of our souls when we need the support and strength we can draw from a supportive community.
The questions we can begin to consider are; what do we need to leave behind from this past time? What can we as individuals and as a community of faith let go of that was not life giving or fulfilling? Also, what have we learned from this time apart that is important to hold onto?
This has been a time of profound change and God has been with us throughout and God will guide us into the future; past Palm Sunday, past Good Friday and into the time of Easter.
As we pray with the words, “Lord, hear our prayer,” you are invited to respond, either aloud or in your heart, “And in your mercy, answer.”
God of Palm and Passion, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, may you enter our lives and hearts today, as we offer our concerns and hopes to you, our prayers for ourselves, our loved ones, and all your dear ones of the world.
Lord, hear our prayer…
This Holy Week, we draw nearer to the Cross, and we lift up our broken promises and dreams… we lift up in prayer this divided world, shattered by violence… we lift up victims of gun violence, especially those targeted out of ignorance, bigotry and hate… and we pray that you would heal divisions and inspire mercy in all people. Lord, hear our prayer…
We draw near the Cross, longing for justice for missing and murdered indigenous women and their families, and for healed and right relations with our indigenous neighbours. Lord, hear our prayer…
We draw near the Cross as people not at peace with our neighbours… as people with trouble at work and at home… as people suffering with illness, addiction, pain, fear… as people patiently waiting vaccines and for reconnection with loved ones, and these not only for ourselves, but for all. Lord, hear our prayer…
As we watch Jesus enter Jerusalem, we also see his faith in you, and so we dare to draw near the Cross with hope, borne of your promise of peace and mercy, forgiveness and fulfillment. We know that you are with us, even in the depths and shadows, and so we pray with courage and with faith, for the healing and restoration of all things.
Lord, hear our prayer…
We pray for the greening of the earth and the healing of all Creation; we pray for reconciliation among peoples, and peace among nations; we pray for restored relationships and strengthened souls; we pray for fulfillment, friendship and freedom. Lord, hear our prayer…
God of Life, we give thanks for the week that has passed, and pray for strength in the week to come, with its story of your self-giving love.
We offer all these prayers, of concern and thanksgiving, in the name of Jesus, who for our sake became the Christ, and who taught us to pray saying, Our Father… Amen.