Bishop Steven gave the following sermon during the Church at Home live stream on Palm Sunday. The picture is one of many DIYcross pictures sent in to our Facebook page. Our thanks to everyone who contributed an image.
Love and prayers to you and your family as we share in this worship together for Palm Sunday, each in our own homes.
This will be a Holy Week like no other as the pandemic continues. Some of us will be spending this week working in essential services such as health care or food supplies or care for the vulnerable. You have our thanks and appreciation. Some will be isolated and alone.
Some will be working from home.
We will all be taking time for prayer and worship not in our churches but in our own homes as we walk the way of the cross with Jesus and as we mark his death and resurrection.
We will miss familiar places and people and services but, I hope, we will all be able to find God and find inspiration in new ways. We are focussing in this service on the first to great act of the drama. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. You will find on the website a link to a dramatized reading of the whole passion story which we can listen to later today or through the week ahead.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Today is normally a day of full employment for donkeys and processions round the church or through the village. I’ve done a few in my time and I always enjoy them, particularly when there are little accidents. But this great public symbol needs unpacking.
The donkey is more than a convenient form of transport. Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king, imitating the humility of the kings of old and echoing the ancient prophecies of the House of David. Everyone in the crowd knows this. That’s why they throw their coats in the road and tear the palm branches from the trees to make a royal road. Jesus is their Messiah.
His coming is a challenge to the Romans and to the Jewish leaders. His coming brings hope to the people. Hosanna, they cry. Hosanna to the Son of David. That word Hosanna is a prayer. It means “save us”.
To understand all that follows, we need to understand that Jesus comes today as king. He enters Jerusalem publicly, deliberately, his face set towards the cross. He knows that he comes as king to suffer and to die for the sins of the world and then to triumph over death.
The cross is not something others do to Jesus. The cross is Jesus action of love for others, for the sins of the whole world. We will watch and listen to this unfolding drama of love, as Christ offers himself for our sake.
But Hosanna is our cry this day as well. Hosanna as we welcome Jesus as our king to our homes and to our hearts. Hosanna as we cry to God to save us: to save us from disease, and isolation, and grief and selfishness, and fear.
We may not be able to see each other today, but all of us know much more deeply how much we need each other. We cannot be part of a congregation we can see and embrace or hold. But we are part of a great unseen cloud of witness all across the world, the Church of Jesus Christ who are walking through this strange Holy Week together.
Today we say with Christians all across the Diocese and across the world, Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Save us Lord and deliver us from all that we are facing.
Today we open ourselves to all that God has to teach us and all the world in this Holy Week.
Watch a recording of the Church at Home service below.