A thought for Palm Sunday.
My office mug has the message ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ copied from an unused Government poster prepared in case of German invasion in WWII. This poster was never formally issued but was rediscovered recently and spawned numerous copies, tea towels, mugs, and spin-offs. The ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ message is thought to sum up British attitudes to difficulties in life. However, in this current crisis we are being told to do exactly the opposite and change our patterns of behaviour; Keep Safe, Socially Isolate, Stay Home.
Today is Palm Sunday, when we celebrate the start of Holy Week, and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Normally at our church we have a donkey joining us and leading a procession around the church.
But, like churches across the country we won’t be having a service in our church building. So, we have the opportunity to do something different. Instead of the focus being on the church or the donkey, the hymns we might normally sing, or the set prayers, liturgies, and logistics of putting this all together, we can simply stop, pray and turn to Jesus directly ourselves.
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
Last Sunday, reading from the Gospel of John up to the end of chapter 11 where Jesus reveals his glory and power over death as he commands Lazarus to come out of the tomb, I could not help noticing how the gospel unashamedly focuses on Jesus alone, the disciples barely get a mention.
The gospel is all about Jesus: His life, His message, His sacrifice, His power to save, His Glory, His love for us.
Jesus delays seeing Lazarus for 4 days, by which time he has died and been laid in the tomb. When Mary and Martha see him, they both say the same thing: ‘Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’. Jesus replies to them both ‘Your brother will rise again, for I am the resurrection and the life’. In the midst of this current crisis we may be tempted to say to God, ‘If you wanted to, you could stop all of this’, and we may be wondering why He is allowing this suffering.
Just a few days after Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave, He enters Jerusalem and the crowds wave palm branches and shout ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’
John 12:16 says ‘At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realise that these things had been written about him.’
“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me –
a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalm 42:8
As Jesus entered the city, and the crowds lined the streets, they stopped what they were doing and flocked to see him. They put down what they were carrying to pick up palm branches to wave, they shed their outer garments to pave the road. But later that day as Jesus left the city, life in Jerusalem went back to normal. Everyone carried on.
We don’t understand at the time the reasons why things happen, we don’t always see or recognise God at work in our lives, but Jesus always has a reason and a purpose. Mary and Martha knew in their hearts that Jesus could do all things, the crowd recognised Jesus as the King that was promised, the disciples followed Jesus because they knew he was the Messiah, but only later were they able to see how God’s plan had unfolded in what they witnessed.
‘God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.’
1 Corinthians 1:9
We have a blessed opportunity in this Holy Week, to pause and reflect more deeply in the Bible and pray. Let us choose not to ‘carry on’ or return to the old normal. Instead we can go to our own rooms, choose to ‘Keep Faithful’ and ‘Turn to Jesus’; to pray quietly with God and let him open our eyes to see how He is being glorified even now, and to declare his everlasting love to all.
‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ 1 John 4:10