02 April 2023

And so Holy Week begins! The big challenge of this period in the Church Calendar is that the focus is so very clearly on events that happened to “Someone else” so very long ago. It can all tend to become a nice “show” or a good academic exercise, but with little impact on us as we seek to follow this Jesus. Yet, with the unique calling and nature of Jesus, and the unique character of these events, it can be a stretch to find ways to apply the truths of this week to the lives of worshipers today. But, if this isn’t what the work of liturgy is all about, what is?

So, today – and throughout this week – may we journey with Christ, but may we also be challenged by Christ as we worship.

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29: A celebration of God’s goodness and faithful love, answering prayer, turning the rejected stone into the capstone, and inviting people into God’s presence.

Matthew 21:1-11: Jesus instructs the disciples to bring him a donkey and its colt, then he mounts the colt and rides into Jerusalem, where a procession gathered to celebrate him, while others wondered who he was.

Palm Sunday is another one of those moments when it is easy to fall back on the same old ideas. But, if it is thoughtfully and carefully prepared, this celebration can be a powerful beginning to a very moving journey through Holy Week. In the light of this, it is good not to miss the connection with the rest of what is to come this week, and how this moment of entry into Jerusalem was a very definite and intentional decision by Jesus to face the suffering which lay ahead. Rather than avoid the confrontation and its consequences, Jesus faces them square on, and refuses to shy away from the suffering, or change his message or methods in order to stay safe. In a world in which pain-avoidance has become almost a religion in itself, this example is deeply challenging – as is the cause of Jesus’ pain: his insistence on living according to God’s alternative way and his refusal to bend to the demands or threats of empire and its systems.

GLOBAL APPLICATION: Stories of political and economic upheaval seem to fill our news reports these days, and we are faced with the cruelty and ruthlessness of Empire, the dynamics of which are played out every day in the world of business, politics, science, education and even in the realm of faith. As we watch Jesus ride into Jerusalem on the donkey’s colt again, we cannot avoid the call to live out the alternative Kingdom that God calls us to, even when it leads us to sacrifice and confrontation with the “powers-that-be”. This calls for us to search our hearts, to acknowledge that no person or group that operates within “the system” will ever lead us to God’s reign, and to count the cost for ourselves of following Christ, and living in subversive ways to undermine the oppressive control of Empire. What is good news is that there are so many ways to do this today, thanks to the internet, social media and our greater awareness of what is going on in the world and our connectedness to it. All that is required is the same strength and determination of will that we see in Jesus.

LOCAL APPLICATION: We each face, every day, the temptation to just be part of the system. We must choose every day whether we will turn from the sacrifices of challenging the status quo, or “get on the donkey” and face the confrontations. And each day we do this in some surprising ways. When we refuse to play God in the lives of our children, friends or companions, we reject the ways of Empire. When we reject the call to accumulate as much as we can, and embrace a life of simplicity and generosity, we undermine the influence of Empire in our world. When we commit to peace and justice, even at the cost of our own safety or lives, we have turned our back on Empire. When we take the time to acknowledge the dignity and humanity of those on the fringes of the system, we have undermined the exclusionary rules of Empire. Living like this will seldom win us any awards or lead us into positions of power and wealth, but it will win us the inner joy and peace that comes from living in God’s reign, and it will lead us to integrity, wholeness, and the wealth of love and being loved that Jesus demonstrated so well. So, today is a good time to evaluate where we still collude with the system and where God may be calling us to opt out.

The King Is Coming
Calls For Allegiance

Hymn Suggestions:
All Glory Laud And Honour
Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
Rejoice, The Lord Is King
Ride On, Ride On, Majesty
Prepare The Way (Link to YouTube video)
Hosanna (Link to YouTube video)
Servant King (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for Palm Sunday

Video Suggestions
From Palms To The Cross
Scattered Palms