It will come as no surprise to you I am sure when I say that today is Palm Sunday, the day at the very beginning of Holy Week ( where Christians of all denominations and flavours follow the journey of Jesus last days, leading to the curcifixion on Good Friday). Today as we gathered for worship we heard again the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem, and pondered together what it means for us today.
We always have a sharing time in our worship at North Shore Methodist in Blackpool, and today not a few of us were feeling particularly fragile. There were fresh bereavements to deal with, difficult diagnosies being digested, and some still being waited for. On top of all of that change is in the air for the congregation and for me personally as I prepare to leave them and move on this summer. The fact that this will be my last Easter with them was certainly on my mind as I prepared to preach, as were the various pastoral situations, and the still breaking news of Ian Duncan Smith’s resignation following the Budget. All of these things show us that our world is multi-layered, we are all affected by the personal, communal, national, and global, by the intimate and the political, all interwoven to give us our context, our reference point.
I believe that it as just so with Jesus and his disciples as they stood on the edge of Jerusalem at the beginning of what we now call Holy Week, that Jesus wept over Jerusalem is telling, and I wonder how often we allow our emotions to be expressed so freely. I must admit that I felt wobbly this morning as I stood to lead and preach, I was aware of my own and the congregations situations, and aware that in many ways we all need the courage to trust ourselves into the hands of our creator who will bring us in Christ through the valley, the darkness, the bumps and emotions of this story, which necessarily must become our pattern if we are to be transformed. This pattern of letting go, yielding, and dying are essential for us, and they are so easy to resist, because we would like, I think, to be able to jump from what has been called so often “The triumphal entry ( into Jerusalem) to Easter Day without encountering pain or darkness, or death.
The thing is, that life does bring us pain, darkness and death, and to refuse to encounter them diminishes us in ways we cannot begin to imagine if we do avoind them. The Psalmists speak of treasuers in the darkness, Jesus calls our attention to the grain of wheat that must fall, and the bruised reed he has compassion upon, and of course as we enter into this week we know that he was indeed a man of sorrows, aquainted with grief. I do not encounter in this a triumphal God, but one who has so empathised with our condition that vulnerability and grief were met in him revealing not weakness but grace and love, a love that is stronger than any worldly power that we could ever admire or aspire to.
Thus, as I was preparing to preach today I wanted to capture something of the fragility of life, to convey our multi-layered contexts and to invite people not to be afraid to take the journey of Holy Week afresh. I felt vulnerable as I gave the message, and was hertened by some good responses to it. My prayer is that we can walk the path with integrity and in awareness that we do not walk it alone, we have one another, and we have the company of the Holy Trinity, Father Son and Spirit who each, and together bring us comfort, strength and insight as we allow their story to touch ours in a fresh way.
Loving God, creator, friend, and counsellor, help us to step with you into this week, to trust ourselves to you to guide our thoughts and our steps, to find in you wisdom and strength for the journey. May we find in you our comfort and consolation, and may we become a comfort and consolation in the way we live our lives. AMEN