Sermon for Palm Sunday 2020
5th Apr 2020
HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY 2020 – AT A TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
It has been of great interest to those who love human history to play the game of “Where were you when…?” as this question applies to some of the shattering events of recent history. Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Or at the time of 9/11? Where were you when you heard the news of the death of Princess Diana? Or when Man landed on the Moon? and so on.. In the future people will ask “Where were you and how was it with you at the time of Coronavirus? The answer to these questions admits that the course of human history is no ordinary one. And it can involve each one of us personally and profoundly. Certain events are singular and perhaps incredulous and disturbing. Their impact reverberates long afterwards. They shake and us out of the normalcy of our existence. They are defining moments in our lives and in the life of our world.
Today’s Gospel account belongs to this same type and tells us that when Christ enters Jerusalem on a donkey “…the whole city was in turmoil” and the rest is history. Jesus enters Jerusalem in two ways. First he enters physically and actually; and then he enters in fulfilment of the divine purpose, enters unto and into his own death and toward the Cross. There was this same action in the last public words of Dr Martin Luther-King who at once proclaimed his message of freedom for all and at the same time predicted his own death only one day before it happened:
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.
And I don't mind.
It is with this faithful surety and passion that Jesus enters Jerusalem, to what will begin with the cheering of the crowds and then enter us upon Holy Week, in which the Christian Church across the world will now walk with him in his suffering, death and resurrection. We at Holy Cross are called this year more than ever to participate in, to experience and to proclaim what the Church has called ‘the saving events of our salvation’. We are being called this morning not only to cheer him on with Palm Sunday exhilaration, but to remain with him in what will follow, even to the upper room at the Last Supper, to the Garden of Gethsemane and then to Pontius Pilate’s judgement and then onto the road to Calvary. St Paul has reminded us in Romans Chapter 6 that “…if we become one with him in a death like his, we will certainly become one with him in a resurrection like his”.
And so we have this invitation on this first day of Holy Week to spend this Holy Week with Him. As the old spiritual hymn puts it “Were you there when they crucified the Lord?” At this time, it behoves us as God’s Church of Holy to proclaim our faith and to share it in acts of kind communication. To be the Church whose vocation is to love the world which Jesus loved.
But sometimes, as this same hymn reminds us, “it causes me to tremble…” Some of the Coronavirus realities are challenging and difficult. Many will feel gloomy, lonely, dispirited, alone and increasingly vulnerable. Many will feel shut in, frustrated and angry. Many will be coping with the effects of domestic overcrowding. Many will be mentally and physically exhausted. At this time of Coronavirus the Church is being called to set out on the Holy Week journey as our world’s own unfolding Passion Narrative. We bring our world at this particularly difficult time to God and ask God to give us all the spiritual energy we all need to remain faithful and hopeful.
At last Sunday’s online Mass, through the mixing of microphones, an interesting cacophony of voices was raised, and it was moving for me to hear Polly follow ‘Lord in you mercy, hear our prayer… with an exclaimed “…and let our cry come unto thee!” Our worship a this time of emergency will I think have elements of that same ‘Crie de Coer’ which so animated the crowds in Jerusalem and which so affected Martin Luther King one day before his death. And Jesus, on that donkey lets out a silent ‘crie de coer’ also; the one which has already admitted to complete obedience and confidence in the Father’s will. He is the one who ‘has not turned backwards’ and has ‘set his face like flint’. He is the one who will win through and provide for the compass bearings we need for the full expression and fulfilment of our Christian calling.
A Locked Church
Ah my dear Lord, the church is locked
But let my heart be open to your presence;
There let us make, you and I,
Your Easter garden;
Plant it with flowers,
And let the heavy stone be rolled away.
A Prayer in the Time of the Coronavirus
Almighty and All–loving God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we pray to you through Christ the Healer
for those who suffer from the Coronavirus
in this country and across the world.
We pray too for those who mourn the loss
every person who has died as a result of contracting the disease.
Give wisdom to policymakers,
skill to healthcare professionals and researchers,
comfort to everyone in distress
and a sense of your calm to us all in these days of uncertainty.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord
who showed compassion to the outcast,
acceptance to the rejected
and love to those to whom no love was shown.