5th April 2020
Symbols play a big part In our Xian faith symbols – the cross obviously, the fish, the dove, the hands together in prayer
And of course, we remember the last supper where Jesus takes bread and wine, simple normal everyday items, and through them he opens up to us the things of God and his saving grace.
So important is this that’s it’s been passed down to us today as Holy Communion
So on this Palm Sunday we look back to an historic event. Jesus is proclaimed as king as he rides into Jerusalem, but there is something deeper here – something that points us, not to some earthly king and his victory parade, but points us to God the King, the Lord, the Saviour, revealed in the person of his son Jesus Christ
Picture the scene
Jesus is a wanted man. The religious authorities are very keen to get their hands on him and to get rid of him in any way possible.
Under the circumstances you’d think Jesus would keep his head down
But what does he do? He rides into Jerusalem in the most public of ways - as if he had a neon site over his head - HERE I AM
It was Passover time and Jerusalem and the whole surrounding area would be jam packed with pilgrims, all wanting to celebrate the high religious festival.
Quite a crowd there. (Remember crowds?)
And of course, with the Roman occupation and religious expectations many people were really wound up, like an open box of fireworks just waiting for a spark.
With all these people and all this commotion, it would be an ideal time for Jesus to sneak into the city, but he does the opposite
He enters the city in full view of his enemies and in full sight of the crowds.
And Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey
Now to us a donkey is a pretty stupid animal - In the Pinocchio story the boys who avoid school are turned into donkeys- but in Jesus time it was seen very differently
When a king went out to war he rode a war horse to emphasise his power and majesty.
But when a king came in peace he rode a donkey to show his humility and good intentions.
Jesus makes his claim to be king.
The King of Peace.
He comes not to destroy and oppress, but to build up and bring freedom
Not to condemn and damn, but to forgive and grant new life
Not in military strength, but in the power of love
This is Jesus’ public appeal to the people before his enemies do in fact get their hands on him and he is crucified.
As we know, this triumphant entry into Jerusalem is a high point, but it is soon forgotten as Jesus is abandoned by the people who were singing his praises and abandoned by even his closest friends as he’s arrested and crucified
Its short step from ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ to the shouts of ‘Crucify!’
Looking forward, on that first Easter Morning when the tomb was empty and Jesus was raised from the dead, there is no mass celebration, no waving crowds and shouts of praise but merely the dawning of understanding that this Jesus who was crucified, who was dead and buried, had risen from the dead’
With his resurrection we see that Jesus is indeed king and King of all creation
He makes that same appeal today
The Prince of peace, crucified and raised from the dead, continues to hold out his hands to all people and to find in him forgiveness and healing and peace and eternal life. The life of God.
We are reminded that Christianity is not only about private spirituality and our individual relationship with God.
As he rides into Jerusalem Jesus is proclaiming a new society and growing communities to advance that vision of the Kingdom of God
We’ve all seen the films of the Roman Empire with Spartacus, Ben Hur, and Gladiator, and we've seen there, the scenes of the triumphant parades of Caesars, and Generals.
The might of Rome expressed in military power and fear.
As Jesus rides into Jerusalem he imitates the triumphal marches of the Roman conquerors and in doing so he mocks the whole show.
He shows it to be a sham - worthless earthly power that will fade away in time.
The power of love is greater and God’s love is the greatest.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey
He rides to offer
Peace with God
Peace with one another
Peace with and within ourselves
Those very same things he offers each one of us today.
29th March 2020
John 17: 20 - 23
20 “Jesus said, My prayer is not for my disciples alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—
23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
In the 17th century John Donne wrote
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main …;
any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
This expresses the idea that human beings need to be part of a community in order to thrive.
That we are all connected to a greater or lesser degree
Or as Barbara Streisand sang – People – People who need people are the luckiest people in world.
(I can’t believe I’m quoting Barbara Streisand – but hopefully you get the point)
God created us to be in community – to be part of something greater – to live and work together for the common good and to find love, friendship, social interaction.
In the book of Genesis, we hear the words – It is not good for man – for humans to be alone – a firm message of our need for companionship
However, that might work out
Those things we need to truly fulfil our basic needs - to be loved, to be engaged in something greater than ourselves, to care and be cared for
The whole idea of isolation – separation – being cut off from human contact goes against our basic need to be with others
Yes, it’s great to take time out. To be alone – a cup of tea a bit of peace and quiet and let the world go away …. for a time.
Or taking time out alone to think and pray
But that is a choice To have it forced upon us isn’t good and can be distressing and depressing.
Simple things become complicated and worrisome.
I thought before the quarantine I must get a haircut. But should I? Am I putting myself at risk and putting others at risk?
When this is over all the lads are going to be hairy enough to pass as a member of a 1970s rock band. I must dig my old flares and my platform shoes out.
We can partly define ourselves by the social groups we identify with and groups to which we belong to and what we do there.
And on this Mothering Sunday we are mindful of our parents, our families. The closest of ties we have
For the Christian we are the body of Christ. We meet regularly to worship and give thanks to God, we meet for fellowship, to pray and to join in communion – to take bread and wine together in remembrance of
God’s love for us shown in Christ’s death on the cross, and his mighty resurrection.
And yet, here we are, kept apart
Kept apart by necessity, yes, but nevertheless there is this sense of dislocation and separation
But not in spirit
The Holy Spirit binds us together, one in Christ
When one of us suffers, we all suffer
When one of us rejoices, we all rejoice
And this is to with our communion. It’s not only about taking bread and wine together but it is also a statement of our unity and our togetherness – not only in our particular churches - but with Christians throughout the world today, and with Christians in all times and in all places – our unity with those who are now with the lord, and those who will follow us
All one - in Christ
So what can we do as we get through this time of quarantine and distancing.
Do something you haven’t had the time or the inclination to do.
Have a dig into the Bible – pick a Gospel and have a read through – stop and think along the way
Phone a friend – or e mail - keep in touch
And pray Take time every day to spend time with God – to ask his mercy on us and to bring us through this dark time
Pray for the sick, the bereaved, the lonely, and fearful
And may the lord bless us with peace and good health and see us through this time together.