As most of you will know from our bulletin earlier this week we have been instructed to suspend church services until further notices and keep the churches locked. I will be exploring ways to continue to share in our life of worship and pray together via the bulletin.
For those of you who wish to continue to participate in worship during these troubled times the Church of England has an excellent resource where you can find prayers relevant to the day and appropriate readings. The website is: www.churchofengland.org/
There seems to be some doubt whether or not the cathedral can continue to live stream its services – the information seems to change from day to day. The site to go to is oxford.anglican.org/livestream
Along with many organisations and individuals this will prove a financially stressful time for our churches and those of you who have not yet signed up for regular giving might be able to use this time to join the Parish Giving Scheme. Please email me – [email protected] – to request a form which I will post to you. We are also exploring new possibilities of on line giving via the website but this has not been activated yet. We are always grateful for donations in church or by cheque.
Palm Sunday: 5th April 2020
Readings: Matthew 21.1-11 Philippians 2.5-11: The Passion according to Matthew 26.11-54
Collect appointed for Palm Sunday
Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
The Readings and the Liturgy
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the holiest week of the Church’s year when we remember and enter into the events of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. The readings, and liturgy move from the jubilation of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, through the events of Holy Week, ending with the crowds baying for Jesus’ blood and his crucifixion. It’s a week of contrasting emotions.
The service begins with the Liturgy of the Palms when the congregation’s palm crosses are blessed and the passage from Matthew’s Gospel (21.10-11), appointed for this year, is read. The Gospel describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey and the crowds greeting him enthusiastically with the words ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’. In the Tew Benefice, this part of the service begins, weather permitting, at the entrance to the church yard from where we process to the church to continue the service.
The passage from Philippians is thought to be an early Christian hymn in praise of Christ’s profound humility, emptying himself of his divinity, humbling himself so that he could identifying with us by living as a human being to the point of voluntarily experiencing death by crucifixion, a death of total rejection and a death which in the teaching of time is understood to be cursed; Deuteronomy 21.22: ‘For anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse’.
The Passion reading (usually read in dramatized form by members of the congregation), begins with Matthew’s account of Judas’ betrayal and the Last Supper, concluding with Jesus crucifixion and his burial. After the reading silence is kept.
In the sonnet below, the poet Malcom Guite explores the idea of the outer and inner Jerusalem; the historical events of Holy Week in the city of Jerusalem and the ‘seething holy city’ of his heart, describing the contrast between the enthusiasm of the crowds and the challenge that Jesus brings. Guite suggests that the story poses questions for our inner lives, among them:
Palm Sunday Malcolm Guite
Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
The seething holy city of my heart,
The Saviour comes. But will I welcome him?
Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
Changes their tune. I know what lies behind
The surface flourish that so quickly fades;
Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
The hardness of the heart, it barricades
And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
Of a perverted temple. Jesus, come
Break my resistance and make me your home.
Prayers for the Pandemic
O Lord Jesus Christ, who went about doing good and healing all manner of sickness: give strength, wisdom and gentleness to all your ministering servants, our doctors, surgeons and nurses; that always bearing your presence with them, they may not only heal but bless, and shine as lamps of hope in the darkest hours of distress and fear; who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
In these troubled times, grant that all who exercise power and authority among us and all who influence the opinions of others may do so in the Spirit of your Son who did not seek his own glory, but came as one who serves, and to bear witness to the truth. We pray for good government, wise decisions and just laws to the good and benefit of all, especially for the most vulnerable in society. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
It will be strange, to say the least, not to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week with you in church. I hope that you’ll be able to find time during the week to pray and meditate on the events of Holy Week and so be ready to celebrate Easter Day, if not in church then in our hearts and minds.
With love and prayers,