Reflection for Palm Sunday – 5th April

Penny Ashton has written this week’s reflection..

Ps 118: 1 – 2, 19 – end,  Matthew 21: 1-11

I once heard it said that Jesus must have had wonderful hands – a thought that anyone familiar with stories of healing would agree with, but this person was not thinking of healing but of horsemanship.  Anyone who knows horses at all will be aware that they can be startled by a leaf turning over in the hedge, and completely terrified by a flapping poster or carrier bag being blown by the wind – and yet a never ridden, unbroken colt of a donkey was content to be ridden by Jesus through the sort of crowd that it takes many months of training to persuade a police horse to approach.  The hands and voice of the rider give confidence and the hands and voice of Jesus were like none other that the colt had experienced before.  A scene from the film Jesus Christ Superstar that gives an idea of what that day must have been like can be found here:

The words of our psalm must surely have been in the minds of many who were in the crowd, rejoicing at the coming of the promised messiah as they shouted praise and welcome to the coming king.

It seems odd at this time of empty streets and deserted cities to be thinking of a day when it was almost impossible to move for the crowd, and certainly impossible to hear anything that was said at less than a shout.  It seems even worse to think of an Easter that we will be unable to celebrate anywhere but in our own homes and with those who live with us – or alone if that is how we live.  This would surely be a day when we say with the psalmist in v 24 of today’s psalm ‘This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it’.  A day as the psalm describes for coming together to celebrate.

It has been our custom in recent years to read the full Passion Story as our gospel on Palm Sunday, usually in a dramatised form using different voices for the people involved, and while I welcome this opportunity to hear and feel the whole story of the Passion, I also miss the chance to read the story of Palm Sunday that we are reading today, and all that happened then to set the events from Thursday onwards in train.

I do not think for a moment that the conditions we are currently living under, or the cause of them have been sent by God, but I do believe that God has a lesson for each of us to learn in every circumstance that we find ourselves in.   I also know that Facebook is an unlikely place to find sound Christian teaching, but I was impressed by post I recently saw from San Romero Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas regarding the closure of places of worship: –

Churches are not being closed.  You are the church.  You are to remain active and open.

God has a challenge for us in these difficult times.  It is not what we expected, and it might not be what we would have chosen.  It will certainly not be one that we will find easy, but I am convinced that in the long run it will be one that improves our walk with Him and with each other, and makes us a stronger fellowship, more able to share our faith and serve our community.  I believe that God is calling us more than ever before to prayer.  I was struck by the following sentence which I found on the website of the Order of St Benedict, or Benedictines. ‘Our main work is our prayer – what Benedict calls the “Work of God” – and this balance between prayer and work punctuates the rhythm of our day.’

Many of us have admired the work of Mother, now Saint Teresa among the poorest of Calcutta.  I remember hearing her say many years ago in an interview that God had not called her to serve the poor but that her primary calling was to prayer.  These quotes are attributed to her:

“My secret is quite simple.  I pray.”

“Everything starts from prayer. Without asking God for love, we cannot possess love and still less are we able to give it to others.” – Mother Teresa

In the busyness of our normal lives, we have perhaps forgotten that God first created us to be with Him.  We cannot be obedient to Him, do his will, if we have not spent time with Him, learned about Him, and listened to Him, before finding out what it is that he really wants us to do.  And time is the one thing that we all have plenty of at the moment.  Time, they say is money – how are we spending ours?  The need for prayer has never been greater – for ourselves, our friends and families, our town, our country and our world.

We may all feel at times that our prayer achieves nothing, and is not heard.  We find it easy to forget that there is nothing that gives our heavenly Father more joy than when we turn to Him in prayer.  We do not see pebbles being moved by our faith, let alone mountains as we were promised.  But we forget that we do not live on the same timescale as God – although we are happy to sing:

‘A thousand ages in thy sight, are like an evening gone’

we still look for instant answers.

I read the following in a meditation that was sent to me for Lent by Tear Fund:

‘There will be mountains in our lives that do not move.  But we can take heart from the fact that one day, out of the pain, something brand new may come to life.’  Gideon Heugh.

During this Holy week let us all do what we can to be faithful to our calling and spend time with our loving heavenly Father.  Time spent in that way is never wasted.

I wish you a blessed and joyful Palm Sunday, and leave you with a song of praise that is based on Psalm 103.  May you too find 10,000 reasons to bless and praise God this Easter.