The Diocese of Norwich ‘Sunday Hope’ Podcast
Palm Sunday – 5 April 2020
The Very Revd Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich:
A warm welcome to you on this Palm Sunday. I’m speaking to you from the Deanery in the Close looking towards the Cathedral, which like all the churches in our diocese is closed for public worship and private prayer at this time. However, its very presence at the heart of our city and diocese is a reminder that Christians have worshipped here for hundreds of years, and we now join in fellowship with one another and the great company of those who have gone before us as we offer our worship this morning.
This short podcast contains a the Collect for Palm Sunday, a reading, a homily, a question for reflection, and some prayers.
You might like to press pause now and light a candle as we help ourselves become more conscious that we are in God’s loving presence.
(Light candle and pause)
Let us pray
The Collect for Palm Sunday:
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross;
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We now hear the account of the first Palm Sunday as recorded in the 21st chapter of St Matthew’s gospel. My husband, Chris, is going to read this for us.
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethpage, at the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them. “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her, untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
“Tell the daughter of Zion. Look your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of them and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
There’s a beautifully written and illustrated children’s story book which looks at the events in Jesus’ earthly life through the eyes of a donkey.
The story begins with the donkey being taken away from its mother in order to make a special journey ~ to carry a young woman, expecting a baby, from her home in Nazareth to the town of Bethlehem.
There in a stable the donkey witnesses the birth of the baby who is then visited by excited shepherds and solemn wise men all of whom are making some strange predictions about this baby’s life.
The donkey is soon to make another journey, this time fleeing to Egypt with his special charge, as Joseph takes Mary his wife and the infant Jesus out of the reach of the wicked King Herod.
Then, many years later, this donkey is to carry Jesus again, but this time he’s not a helpless baby but a grown man who has gained such a reputation that people throng out to greet him, waving palm branches and shouting words of greeting, hailing him as their king.
But in the children’s storybook this is not the final journey made by this little donkey. Just a few days later he’s taken outside the city walls of Jerusalem to a grim place of execution where three bodies are hanging on crosses. The lifeless body of Jesus the humble king is laid across the donkey’s back, and the donkey gently carries him to the tomb hewn out of the rock.
Of course, the story that the same donkey may have carried Jesus on all these occasions is fanciful, although not entirely impossible as I gather that donkeys can live for up to 50 years. However, it doesn’t much matter.
What is captured in this story is the fact that from the moment of Jesus’ conception, through to the events of the first Holy Week, people recognised that Jesus was special – God’s gift to the world.
It also makes us face the fact though that we as human beings are fickle; reminding us of how the crowds changed within a few days from welcoming Jesus, singing his praises, to shouting for his crucifixion.
Over these last two weeks we have experienced exactly this about human nature. We’ve seen how people can be selfish and even greedy in their panic to look after themselves. However, what has come across so strongly is that we as human beings can be incredibly inventive and imaginative, we can be utterly selfless, kind and generous, and we can pull together as communities and indeed as a worldwide family in the face of the Coronavirus.
As we now enter Holy Week and try to walk with Jesus the way of the cross, we will come face to face with human wickedness and have to accept our own part in crucifying Jesus. Next Sunday though we will celebrate once more, how nothing could defeat God’s love – that love would overcome death and it is a love from which we will never be separated.
I invite you now to reflect for a few moments and think about that small beast of burden, which today still bears the image of the cross in the fur on its back. Ask yourself, am I ready to share the burden of carrying Christ’s cross, and to know something of his sorrow and suffering?
- Are there people around me at this time who are carrying heavy burdens – how might I help share and relieve those?
Canon Susanna Gunner is now going to lead our prayers from her home:
Let us pray
We greet you, O Son of David,
not, this year, outside with a jostling crowd,
but quietly and at home, bound to each other by prayer.
We greet you, O long-awaited king,
not, this year, led into church by cross and clergy,
but led instead by a renewed sense
of the world’s deep need for you.
We greet you, O Christ,
not, this year, with palm branches
but with the upturned palms of our hands
ready and waiting
to welcome and honour you. Amen
Lord Jesus, as we stand on Holy Week’s threshold,
readying ourselves to walk with you to the Cross,
we know that, like the donkey on which you rode,
you will reveal both patience and humility:
foster these qualities, we pray, in us,
that, as we journey through these testing times,
and following your example,
we may humbly accept the limits of our daily lives
and breathe new patience into our way of being -
with others and with ourselves. Amen
Let us pray together as our Saviour taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory
for ever and ever.
Christ crucified draw you to himself, to find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope and the assurance of sins forgiven; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you and all the people you love. Now and for evermore. Amen.
Prayers during this time of crisis
Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.
God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
For those who are ill
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
For hospital staff and medical researchers
give skill, sympathy and resilience
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From one who is ill or isolated
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.
For the Christian community
We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.
For more resources visit the Church of England website her
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