Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Paul Blackheath

A short service for Palm Sunday 5th April 2020

May grace, mercy and peace from God be with us all

Today is Palm Sunday. We are one week away from Easter.

A gathering prayer

As we gather

bring your palms and branches from your garden, your palm crosses from years gone by, your shouts and praise.

Hosanna to the Son of David!

Hosanna to the King of kings!

Let us journey to Jerusalem

to worship the king who came to save us.

Amen

God our Saviour

whose Son Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem as Messiah to suffer and to die;

let these palms and our offerings of praise be for us signs of his victory

and grant that we who bear them in his name

may ever hail him as our King,

and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life:

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.

Amen


Psalm 118 1-2, 19-29  A Prayer of Thanks for Victory

Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good,

and his love is eternal.

2 Let the people of Israel say,

“His love is eternal.”

19 Open to me the gates of the Temple;

I will go in and give thanks to the Lord!

20 This is the gate of the Lord;

only the righteous can come in.

21 I praise you, Lord, because you heard me,

because you have given me victory.

22 The stone which the builders rejected as worthless

turned out to be the most important of all.

23 This was done by the Lord;

what a wonderful sight it is!

24 This is the day of the Lord's victory;

let us be happy, let us celebrate!

25 Save us, Lord, save us!

Give us success, O Lord!

26 May God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

From the Temple of the Lord we bless you.

27 The Lord is God; he has been good to us.

With branches in your hands, start the festival

and march around the altar.

28 You are my God, and I give you thanks;

I will proclaim your greatness.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good,

and his love is eternal.


Our bible reading is Matthew 21.1-11

Jesus comes into Jerusalem for the Passover festival.

Hosanna! Hosanna!’ The crowds shouted and sang as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Now who’d get excited about a man riding on a donkey? People who had read the Old Testament, that’s who. Some laid their cloaks down in the road, and some cut branches from the nearby trees to mark the way, as they would do for a king.

A king? A king on a donkey? What made them think of that? Well, the Old Testament prophet, Zechariah. Years before, he’d said: ‘Shout for joy, Jerusalem! Your king comes to you, riding humbly on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ Jesus knew the Old Testament very well, of course. That’s why he’d sent his disciples ahead of him to get the donkey in the first place. ‘Go into Bethphage,’ he’d said. ‘You’ll find a donkey and her foal tied up there. Bring them to me.’ Just as his followers were about to go, he’d said, ‘If anyone tries to stop you, just say, “The Lord needs them,” and they’ll let you go.’

So the disciples had gone and got the donkey, a humble animal, just as Zechariah had described it, and thrown cloaks on its back for Jesus to sit on. And that’s what he was riding into the city.

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ cried the crowds, both behind and ahead of Jesus. ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Well, with all this shouting and singing going on, it’s not surprising that the people of Jerusalem got excited when Jesus rode in. ‘Who is he?’ people asked. And the singing crowds replied, ‘This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.’

Glossary

Hosanna! A Hebrew word usually used to mean ‘Praise’, but it actually means ‘Save us, please!’;

Prophet someone who receives messages from God to pass on to the people.


A Palm Sunday Thought for the Day by Mrs. Jill MacDonald

Our reading today records an occasion of great celebration............and the fulfilment of a prophecy given by Zechariah around 500 years before!

Picture the scene:

Jesus is seated on a lowly donkey, using his disciple’s cloaks as a saddle, amid a very large crowd, riding towards, and then into, Jerusalem. With such a large crowd it would have been noisy anyway; but this particular crowd was shouting!

Imagine the din.....the infectious excitement........the questions being asked all around.

It wasn’t quite a ‘red carpet’ affair but there was a carpet of palm branches being laid before him to indicate, by using what was growing near to hand, that this was someone important arriving.

And so he was – he certainly didn’t deny the truth of what they were shouting!

But unbeknown to them, he wasn’t going to fulfil their expectations in the way they thought he would.

A thousand years before King David had reigned and been a very ‘hands on’ king, physically going out and defeating the enemies.

This crowd rightly proclaimed Jesus as King David’s heir but wrongly thought that he would head up an army and defeat the Romans for them.

In fact, instead, a week later he would be doing so much more!

It’s very hard to imagine what Jesus must have been thinking amid this jubilation centred on him when he knew what awaited him by the week’s end. He knew that by then the crowd would still be centred on him but shouting a very different message. The ‘vibes’ of adoration would turn to hatred and violence.

Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week in the Christian calendar and if we were able to be in church today we would have been receiving our palm crosses.

Sadly, the coronavirus has put a stop to that....as it has to so many other things. Many, many people are anxious and worried and many more are feeling isolated and alone. We are not able to be part of a large, or may be not so large, crowd celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

In fact, you may be asking, is there anything to celebrate at all?

Well, I feel that as Christians, we must reflect on, and celebrate, the wondrous fact that, on that first Palm Sunday, Jesus chose to steel himself with a gritty determination and, knowing exactly where the road of palm branches was leading to, continue to walk on into what would become complete and utter darkness and isolation for him before the glorious day of resurrection.

Today we may be feeling that life is a bit dark for us; and perhaps not just because of the coronavirus but because we have been struggling with pain and illness, or heartache and grief, or anxiety about money....or whatever.......for some time.

I want to encourage us all to grasp hold of the truth that Jesus is walking with us on our own personal roads through life; he understands what we’re going through and he will never leave us come what may.

If you have a palm cross from last year join with me in lifting it high and rejoicing that we have the most marvellous Saviour!


Mrs. Jill MacDonald, Minister in Charge & Reader, St James’ Rounds Green


Our prayers

Lord Jesus,

we pray for all who give of themselves sacrificially,

for those whose lives are dedicated to serving others especially in this current crisis:

parents, carers, foster carers, doctors, nurses…

those caring for children or elderly relatives.

Let us travel together and lighten the load.

We pray for those serving in war-torn countries

around the world:

medics, those who work in missions, the media,

NGOs and charities…

who bring food, shelter and healing to those in need,

sometimes putting their lives on the line.

Let us travel together and lighten the load.


We pray for those in our communities who need our unconditional love:

those hurting from broken relationships, abuse, bullying, domestic violence, anxiety, depression, unemployment…

children and adults whose lives are bereft of love and hope.

Let us travel together and lighten the load.

We pray that we might be Easter people,

laying down our lives to serve others,

bringing hope to hopeless situations – the hope

of the cross and resurrection.

Let us travel together and lighten the load.

Amen.


God of hope,

heal us and restore us,

that we may know the power of your love at work in our lives,

today and everyday.

Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ. Amen.

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