Material For Worship on Palm Sunday

Nerys writes: Palm Sunday is a strange day of mixed emotions. It is the day when we accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, joyfully proclaiming him king, knowing that this journey would cost him his freedom and his life. It is a time of looking back at our Lenten journey, giving thanks for God’s faithfulness towards us in difficult times, as we set off on a new journey to the foot of the cross and beyond. As you light your candle today you may wish to say this prayer:

Lord, you have brought me through the wilderness
And delivered me to the gates of the Jerusalem.
As I prepare for the mysteries of Holy Week,
Let me share my heart with Christ
As Christ shares his risen life with me.

Before reading the Gospel of the Palms, take a moment to reflect on the palm cross you have been given. It is not easy to imagine it as a living, shining, green frond growing on a tall, majestic tree. To the people of Israel, the date palm represented peace, plenty and fruitfulness. Palm branches were often depicted on coins and were carved into the walls and doors of King Solomon’s temple. In the ancient world, they were used on festive occasions as tokens of joy and triumph. Kings and conquerors were welcomed with palm branches being strewn before them and waved in the air. Among the Jews of Jesus’ day, palm branches and the cry of ‘hosanna’ were an important part of the Feast of Tabernacles, the culmination of the spring festivals which started with the Passover, but since the Macabbean revolt a hundred and fifty years earlier, they had become symbols of nationalistic pride. They were reminders of the belief that the Messiah was coming to raise up an army which would overthrow Roman oppression and free God’s people. It was these palms that the followers of Jesus used to greet him as he entered Jerusalem for the last time, intent on a very different kind of victory.

As you listen to Alastair read Mark 11.1-11, I invite you to use your imagination to enter into Jesus’ mind.

You may also wish to explore a recreation of the scene in an African setting from the Jesus Mafa series.

I offer also these words of reflection by the American artist and author, Jan Richardson:

It can be challenging enough to walk with intention into a future that is unknown. But to move with purpose toward a destination that is known, and fearsome? That is quite a different path, one that requires grace and courage we cannot conjure on our own.
Such a path offers a curious freedom, too, because it invites us to enter our future not as victims, helpless before our fate, but with intention and discernment, knowing that the path we choose—any path we choose—will hold its occasions of dying and rising. When we can meet those occasions with courage and grace, the perils of the chosen path begin to lose their power over us.

The palm frond in your hand, the symbol of victory, has been shaped into the sign of the cross, an instrument of torture, humiliation and death. The second of today’s readings is the Gospel of the Passion, Mark 14.1-15.47 (or 15.1-39). Hold on to your palm cross as you read it to remind you that this is ultimately a story of victory. After a time of silence to reflect on what it means for you, to feel God’s presence with you and listen for the voice of Love, you may wish to use the following prayer of commitment.

Almighty and everlasting God,
may this palm be for me
a sign of Christ’s victory over sin and death;
and may I who have been baptised in his name,
worship him as king, obey him as Lord,
and follow him in the way of the Cross, which leads to eternal life.
I ask this through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

You are invited to bring your time of worship to an end with prayers of intercession:
• For our world and all its people …
• For all in positions of authority and influence …
• For those in need …
• For those who are suffering …
• For the Church which is Christ’s body …
• For yourself and those you love …
You may also wish to listen or sing along to David playing Henry Hart Milman’s hymn,

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes ‘Hosanna’ cry;
O Saviour meek, pursue thy road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
The winged squadrons of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
the Father on his sapphire throne
expects his own anointed Son.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, thy power, and reign.