Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our third Sunday Service during the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevents us from meeting together physically in church. I hope you find this mixture of prayers, readings, and sermon a meaningful substitute and that you will feel able to worship God in your home knowing that other members of the All Saints’ family will be joining you. I realize not all of us will be worshipping at the same time but at least we will all be following the same service. I pray that all of you will be able to feel God’s love and presence as we all go through this period of separation.
For Palm Sunday, it is possible many of you are joining in a live version of the sermon being celebrated by zoom on your laptop, phone, or other devices. Digital directions (i.e., the zoom invite) to our Palm Sunday service at 11:00am on April 5 will be circulated by parish email.
Dear friends in Christ, during Lent we have been preparing for the celebration of our Lord’s paschal mystery. On this day our Lord Jesus Christ entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph. The people welcomed him with palms and shouts of praise, but the path before him led to self-giving, suffering, and death. Today we greet him as our King, although we know his crown is thorns and his throne a cross. We follow him this week from the glory of the palms to the glory of the resurrection by way of the dark road of suffering and death. United with him in his suffering on the cross, may we share his resurrection and new life. Amen.
Let us pray:
Assist us mercifully with your help, Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy into the celebration of those mighty acts whereby you give us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn: “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty” (vs. 1-3) #182
Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark all the tribes ‘hosanna’ cry;
Thine humble beast pursues his road
With palms and scattered garments strowed.
Ride on, Ride on in Majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die!
O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.
Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
The wingèd squadrons of the sky
Look down with sad and wondering eyes
To see the approaching sacrifice.
May my words be in the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Amen.
Right, let’s stop everything right there. You have just listened to The Greatest Story Ever Told, a sequence of events which changed the course of world history like no other event has done … for Jesus’s death on the cross is the ultimate act of self-sacrifice a human being could do for his fellow human beings. Not only that, it is the one single act in the history of the world where God, through the Son, defeats the devil and all the sin of the world, is now borne by Jesus on his shoulders as he suffers the agonizing death on the cross – as Isaiah predicts of the suffering servant, “wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquity.”
As we gather in the quiet of our own homes, let us reflect on those people who conspired to bring this horrendous event about – some of them well-known favourites like Pilate, the High Priests, Peter and his denials, and Judas Iscariot. But what about ordinary people like you and me – the servant girl quizzing Peter, a man carrying a jar of water to lead the disciples to the place for the Last Supper, the prison guard who loses an ear, all those standing up to give false testimony, a man who offered Jesus a drink on the cross, the centurion doing his duty but recognizing who Jesus was after witnessing his death, and the women at the foot of the cross. All of them ordinary people caught up in this greatest event in world history and all playing their part.
But what were those people doing just five days before? They were doing exactly what we’ve done today – welcoming Jesus as King on a donkey, waving their palms, shouting Hosannas and praising God for sending them this man called Jesus as their Messiah to lead them out from under the yoke of Roman rule. And yet in less than a week that love turned to hate, cheering changed to a cruel cross, the joyful waving of the crowds turned to mockery, the hurling of insults and attempts at harming Jesus, the shouts welcoming him as King turned to shouts of “Crucify Him!” A day of joy turned into a day of immense sadness. In just a few days all these changes took place.
An astonishing turn around; but, thankfully, there was to be another more astonishing still. For on Easter Day Jesus was to change it all back again. Hate was replaced by love, the tears at and after the cross were replaced by cheers of awe and wonderment following The Resurrection. The mocking of the crowds gave way to tsunamis of happiness, sadness was replaced by joy, the one who had been killed was worshipped as Lord of Lords and King of Kings!
Palm Sunday and the events leading up to Jesus’s death remind us how quickly people can change – ourselves included – and how short-lived our love and faithfulness can be. But it reminds us also that the love of God shown in Christ never changes; that however much we may fight against his will and however faithless we may be, his love and purpose will endure for ever. And that purpose will always have at its fulcrum ordinary men and women. Like those involved in the death and resurrection of Jesus and like all of us gathered here, separated and yet so much together. Filled with the Spirit, we are called to follow in their footsteps and witness to that loving purpose of God in our generation. Amen.
Hymn: “My Song Is Love Unknown” (vs. 1-3) #184
My song is love unknown;
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they may lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake,
my Lord should take
frail flesh, and die?
He came from His blest throne,
Salvation to bestow:
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know.
But O my friend!
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend!
Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day,
Hosannas to their King.
Is all their breath,
And for His death
They thirst and cry.
Almighty God, whose Son was crucified yet entered into glory, may we, walking in the way of the cross, find it is for us a way of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty and ever-living God, in tender love for all our human race you sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take our flesh and suffer death upon a cruel cross. May we follow the example of his great humility, and share in the glory of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Gracious God, the suffering and death of Jesus, your only Son, makes us pleasing in your sight. Alone we can do nothing, but through his sacrifice, may we receive your love and mercy.
We finish our prayers by saying the great family prayer Jesus taught us:
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: “O Sacred Head, Surrounded” (vs. 1-3) #198
O sacred head surrounded
by crown of piercing thorn;
O royal head so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn:
death’s shadows rise before you,
the glow of life decays,
yet angel hosts adore you
and tremble as they gaze!
Your youthfulness and vigour
are spent, your strength is gone,
and in your tortured figure
I see death drawing on:
what agony of dying,
what love, to sinners free!
My Lord, all grace supplying,
O turn your face on me!
Your sinless soul’s oppression
was all for sinners’ gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but yours the deadly pain:
I bow my head, my Saviour,
for I deserve your place;
O grant to me your favour,
and heal me by your grace.