Welcome to this morning's Worship service.
Worship today is led by Ray Heasley (not on Zoom)
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Rev Christine Fox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Children's and Family worker - Jessica Bullett: Jessicagrangewood@outlook.com
Thank you to all those who have been part of putting together this weeks service.
Below you can find this weeks Message. Click here to find the whole worship sheet.
Today we have a story which is one of the few recorded in all four of the Gospels, that of “the triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, what we now call Palm Sunday. The accounts of his approach to Jerusalem are strongly influenced by Psalm 118. By the time of Jesus, this was used at festivals, sometimes with the waving of branches from palms or other trees, as a prayer for the restoration of the Kingdom of King David. It would have been recited by pilgrims arriving in the city for the Passover festival.
Jesus was travelling on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem – a long uphill slog, from the lowest point on earth, below sea level, through sandy hills and desert, a hot and dusty journey.
Variations in the gospel accounts show the writers’ different emphases and intentions:
Matthew emphasises the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, with the crowd asking questions about who this was;
Mark, as usual, tells the story as it happened, without much comment, although his words do have strong hints at Old Testament links;
Luke highlights the self-evident nature of what was happening – “if the disciples keep quiet, the stones will cry out!”;
John tells the story briefly, and emphasises that the disciples wouldn’t understood the full meaning of the event until much later.
Today we focus on three aspects of the story from Mark, one about Jesus, one about his disciples, and one about us.
1 His Humility
Have you been somewhere when the Queen made a visit? I can remember one many years ago: roads were closed, places were cleaned, there was extra security, police motor-cyclists checking the route, crowds waiting expectantly, then the outriders and the special car, a Rolls, of course.
The Jewish people had been promised a Messiah; some expected a leader who would lead an uprising against the occupying Romans, others expected a kingly figure. But they got neither of those. This is a man not on a chariot, but on a donkey, who has come to die.
In verse 9, Mark says “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, quoting from Psalm 118, whereas Luke’s version says “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”. For Mark, it is the lowliness and humility of the entry that matters, not any triumphal nature. This is a kingship of hidden majesty, of humble power to save.
Other familiar aspects are here – Jesus is the messianic figure, coming on an untried colt as prophesied by Zechariah at the end of the Old Testament. The way the colt is obtained has hints of Jesus’ unusual powers. The man who rides the donkey is more than an ordinary man, though the crowds do not know this at this time.
From the beginnings of the Gospels, the normal power dynamics are turned upside down. Jesus came not as a mighty king, but as a vulnerable baby, born in a makeshift bed. In his actions and teaching throughout his ministry, Jesus shows the way of the servant, teaching that whoever would be greatest should be least. Now he enters Jerusalem, not as a reigning king but on a donkey, and will soon be doing a task normally done by one of the very lowest of servants, washing his disciples’ feet.
In our world today, power and status seem to be as important as ever, whether in politics, business, or the world of celebrities. Even in the last year, during the pandemic, the gaps between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, have got wider.
The Christian message includes a challenge to the values of the world. As we consider the issues in the communities in which we live, what would Jesus want to challenge? Who is marginalised and ignored?
2 Their Obedience
Do you like being told what to do? Or do you prefer to do the things you want to do, in your own way? Two of the disciples were sent ahead to get a young donkey. They were told to say “The Lord needs it and you’ll get it back shortly.” There was no explanation, no evidence of it being pre-arranged.
Can you imagine your minister telling you to go to someone in a car park at the local supermarket and say to him that your church minister needs his car? You would probably be having words with her – perhaps like Sergeant Wilson asking “Is that wise?”, or perhaps putting it a bit more strongly!
How did the disciples feel? They might have thought it was a strange thing to be asked to do, and rather unlikely to work, but, they went and did as Jesus said, and the owner let the donkey go.
How would we have reacted? Would we be like Moses when God chose him, in Exodus chapters 3 and 4, to lead his people and his reaction was to say things like “who am I?”, “what if they don’t believe me?”, “can’t you send someone else?”
It is not always easy or comfortable, and not obvious what God wants us to do. It could be risky, we will probably not be sure where it will take us. Jesus doesn’t provide full “routemaps” or job descriptions, he just says “Follow me”. In our Methodist annual Covenant service we have these words “I am no longer my own, but yours … put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will…” These are challenging and uncomfortable words – do we really mean them?
Jesus knew in advance what would happen. We too can be reassured that God will give us the words and the strength to obey, in any situation.
3 Our Offering
Would you lend the minister your car? What if it was for someone you didn’t know? What if it was for someone famous like a President or Archbishop? Or even the Queen? You might just go via the car wash in that case!
We are told that Sir Walter Raleigh placed his cloak across a puddle for Queen Elizabeth I as an act of chivalry. We give the red-carpet treatment to royalty and celebrities as a mark of respect. In today’s passage we read of several occasions when individuals offer something valuable to Jesus. The owners of the colt put up no resistance to the two disciples taking the animal – they just let it go right away.
Equally, as Jesus enters Jerusalem, the crowd of disciples lay their cloaks on the ground. In Jesus’s time, a cloak or outer garment was precious, especially for poorer people, to be looked after and repaired properly. It was often used in surety against a loan. So to throw down a cloak was a significant gesture, but to sacrifice a precious cloak in celebration of the long-awaited Messiah was a privilege, the cost of which was not to be counted.
What does it mean for us to give to God the things that we really value? What will we offer in wholehearted celebration of the presence of the Messiah in our lives? Not just things, or money. Time? Gifts we have? Will we take on things that are not so nice, or get the credit or headlines?
It doesn’t have to be spectacular, or world-changing – but it could be, for someone you help, more than ever at the moment, where so many have lost so much, and so many are feeling cut-off and left out.
The disciples are showing that they want Jesus to rule their lives. What kind of rule do we allow God to have over our lives?
To conclude, here are words from two hymns. There wasn’t time to include them both in our service; the numbers in Singing the Faith are 161 and 272, so, if you have access to a book, or the internet, you may want to read the full verses.
Teach us, Lord, full obedience, Holy reverence, true humility; …
Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds; Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us …
And by grace we'll stand on Your promises, And by faith we'll walk as You walk with us.
This is our God, The Servant King,
He calls us now to follow Him, To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King