Notes from the Vicar for Palm Sunday

READINGS FOR PALM SUNDAY 2020

with a few thoughts from the Vicarage by Julian White

 Isaiah 50. 4 – 9; Philippians 2. 5 – 11 & St. Matthew 21. 1 – 11.

Just a couple of weeks ago, it seems, I was grovelling around the Vicarage to see what Palm Crosses were available for distribution today. This, in common with many other parishes, is a customary practice to reinforce the significance of this Sunday as we approach Holy Week. This year the tradition is broken as a result of outside effects which keeps as all largely confined to home. Do not be unduly alarmed at this. Christianity is well used to a changing world and – as our Bishop reminds us – we often find value in a change of direction imposed upon us. Not least, it makes us consider half-forgotten things in a new way.

Isaiah 50. 4 – 9.

A most suitable reflection for this time when we operate under the shadow of the Corona Virus. We are given the assurance that we are not alone. God is with us. ‘I know how to sustain with a word him that is weary’ (v4). We have already seen or experienced the uplift conveyed by many during these challenging times, whether members of the NHS, family or friends. The key, it seems to me, lies in verse 9 where we read the unequivocal statement ‘Behold, the Lord God helps me.’ Throughout life we all experience times of darkness, uncertainty and fear. For the Christian this is offset by the certainty that we do not journey alone, that through good times and bleak, God remains with us. There are times for most of us when we echo (in a contemporary way) the words of Jesus: ‘My God, wherefore art thou?’ We, at length, come to realise that the biblical assertion – ‘I am with you until the close of the age’ – is a truth distilled.

Philippians 2. 5 – 11.

I vaguely remember studying this piece when I was a student and, if I recall correctly, it was all about the ‘self-emptying’ characteristics of Jesus – knowing what should be set aside in order to identify completely with humanity. For us, it is (among other things) a caution against arrogance and gloating over our perceived knowledge of ‘higher’ things. In other words, it is a call to humility of recognising our own limitations and acknowledging our failures. It is in humility that we find ourselves in the intimate presence of God. We discover that God is not interested in us ‘racking up points’ of meritocracy but to stand before him ‘warts and all’ In openness of our character, strengths and foibles, are we ultimately judged.

St. Matthew 21. 1 – 11.

The combination of humility and genuine worthiness is brought together in the gospel. Jesus is both proclaimed as the ‘Son of David’ by an adoring crowd and yet ‘Your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass’. Small wonder that many questioned ‘Who is this?’ It  was not the conventional behaviour expected from a figure with some type of regal aspiration. For us all, lying close to the heart of faith is the same question ‘Who is this?’ We tend to be suspicious of such exalted claims and demand to know what the credentials of the figure under scrutiny might be. Are we to be as convinced as the Roman soldier who stood at the foot of the cross who declared ‘Truly, this was the Son of God’? He made his pronouncement on what was to become recognised as Easter Day. What will our assertion be? To be a Christian is to live every day as though it were Easter. Shall we?

On Good Friday, the Stations of the Cross will be issued in a similar fashion to the above. It will be based on the format as used in St. Pierre church over previous years.