Readings, Hymns, Sermon and Prayers for Palm Sunday, 5th April 2020

If you have a Palm Cross – one you have kept or one you have made, why not hold it up, read these words and say the Palm Cross prayer:

During Lent we have been preparing by works of love and self-sacrifice for the celebration of our Lord’s death and resurrection. Today we begin this solemn celebration in union with the Church throughout the world. Christ enters his own city to complete his work as our Saviour, to suffer, to die, and to rise again. Let us go with him in faith and love, so that, united with him in his sufferings, we may share his risen life.

The people hold up palms or branches while this prayer is said by the president

God our Saviour,
whose Son Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem as Messiah to suffer
and to die;
let these palms 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 for ever.
Amen.

Opening Hymn

Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:1-11

As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,

“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
    ‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
    riding on a donkey’s colt.’”

The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God for the Son of David!
    Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Praise God in highest heaven!”

10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.

11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (NLT)

Sermon – by Rev’d Jo Joyce

Palm Sunday is a funny time isn’t it? There is a such a contrast of emotions from the excitement of the crowds of Jesus’ followers, to the obedience of the folk who collected the donkey and colt for Jesus to ride, to the anger of Jesus in the temple and I guess the bewilderment and eventually anger of the many onlookers, wondering what on earth was going on and who was this bloke anyway?

My guess is that like me you might be feeling a whole mix of emotions this week as we go into a very strange and different sort of Holy Week. Whether its sadness at being along, worry about work or health or those moments of joy at the care and support of the community, finding a new skill or the beauty of the spring sunshine. Its been a bit of a rollercoaster!

Jesus’s followers were very excited at his entry to Jerusalem, and in this triumphal entry he was making a very clear and thought out gesture, but very soon they were quickly disappointed when he didn’t turn out to be the kind of King they were hoping for. It’s so easy isn’t it to try and make God in our own image, to expect that God thinks like us and does things the way we expect.

Tied up in the joy of Palm Sunday is a whole load of hope that maybe Jesus will be the one to solve our problems in the way we want them solved. They hoped for a war with the Romans, the ousting of an occupying force. What they got was a saviour who talked about loving enemies, turning the other cheek and loving our neighbour – nothing about the vengeful uprising they hoped for.

We sometimes hope for a God who will remove all our problems and be the quick and easy solution, in answer to our prayers. It’s always tempting to try and take the easy way out, when of course the way out is often hard and complicated. In the situation we find ourselves in today we all long to wake up tomorrow and find it has all gone away. But it’s not like that, sometimes the solution to difficult things is long and hard, it doesn’t look how we had hoped, and we have to wait slowly for change to come and there to be a new dawn.

The story of Holy Week is that God is there in that waiting, suffering alongside us, and in the waiting, we are changed. By God’s grace we can become kinder, more community minded and learn to love our neighbour – even if we have never met them, just as the disciples and their understanding of who Jesus was also changed radically over that first Holy Week.

The excitement of Palm Sunday was not misplaced, the people were right to become excited as Jesus came to town, it was just that their understanding of the solution to the problem was misplaced. Jesus’s victory didn’t look like a triumphant battle, instead it looked like the cross and resurrection. God’s solution was not just to solve the immediate problems there and then but to bring a reconciliation for all people for all time. Have a blessed and joyful Palm Sunday as you prepare to go into the waiting of Holy Week.

Intercessions

Living God,
In our hour of need we turn again to you, for we have nowhere else to turn.
We put our faith in you, because you have proved your faithfulness time and again.
We reaffirm our love for you because you have never let us go.
We thank you that you are not distant from us.
but have drawn near, in your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
He has shared our life, tasted our death and defeated it;
He understands our worries and our fears.
Help us to respond as your children now.

We pray for this pandemic spreading across our world,
remembering all who have lost loved ones,
and praying for those seriously ill at this time.
We uphold the National Health Service,
as it responds to this added pressure on its already overstretched services.
We pray for doctors and nurses and all in the caring professions,
who work to help and support people as best they can.
We remember those working behind the scenes,
testing samples, confirming results, giving information to patients.
We uphold others trying to understand this virus better,
working to create an effective remedy.

We pray for our Governments in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff and Belfast,
as they work with the best medical advice.
to guide us on how we should respond,
and what action we should take.
We pray that these guidelines might be taken seriously,
and that all would put them into action.
May this crisis bring out the best in us, not the worst.
Help us to live by faith and not by fear;
to build bridges not barriers,
and to resist all who would speak ill of any other group.
May we not forget our responsibility to one another,
not least to the vulnerable and voiceless in our communities.

Help us to find ways of keeping in touch and offering reassurance
to those with underlying health issues;
for any who feel particularly vulnerable
or in danger at present.

As the virus spreads,
we pray for the disruption it causes to normal life,
bringing new fears and anxieties:
We pray for those who have been laid off as their work disappears;
for financial hardship for individuals and businesses;
for the impact on the economy and pensions, when austerity has already left its mark.
We pray for those whose trips, both for business and pleasure, have been cancelled;
and others where events, long anticipated and planned for, have been postponed;
for those making contingency planning for home based work or child care or exams.
May our inconvenience not blind us to others’ loss.

We remember those
who cannot visit loved ones in locked-down care homes;
for the elderly whose social contacts have been severely curtailed;
help us to find creative ways of keeping in touch,
of assuring them they are not forgotten or ignored.

May congregations find new ways of living though this time.
May we not forget our faith, but draw strength from it.
So may our worship be heartfelt,
our fellowship deepen,
and our service increase.

God of grace and God of mercy,
hear our prayers at this time.
Strengthen us, by your Spirit, so that:
we may carry on our lives as best as we are able,
looking out for others,
showing love in action,
being faithful in prayer,
and bringing encouragement, hope and peace;
always trusting in you,
our Rock and our Redeemer.

These prayers we bring to you
in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Rt Rev Colin Sinclair Moderator of The Church of Scotland (adapted)

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