Sermon for Palm Sunday 2021
28th Mar 2021
Palm Sunday 2021
Holy Cross Church
The liturgy for Palm Sunday couldn’t be more dramatic as we meet this morning. In more normal circumstances, we would gather in anticipation of a procession around the outside of the church. This year we gather online to have our palm crosses blessed and to make our spiritual entry into Jerusalem. We have recited the Palm Sunday hymn All Glory Laud and Honour, a hymn of praise to Christ’s majesty, and we have held up the newly blessed palm crosses - a reminder of where this Palm Procession is leading us. We are, with the whole Christian Church on earth, entering Jerusalem with Jesus. We are entering his fateful Passion, his trial, his death on the Cross and his Resurrection from the dead. These are the saving events of the Christian Faith and vital for the human understanding of who Jesus is and what makes him Son of God. In these action we begin what the Church simply calls ‘Holy Week’, the most important week of the Christian year.
Holy Week is called holy because it embodies in Jesus Christ the love of God the Father in the sacrifice of his Son’s body and in the outpouring of his Son’s blood. This is what we call in the Holy Eucharist, ‘a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world’. Holy week contains everything that is necessary to Christian Faith. It lies at the heart of what we believe as Christians: that God the Father sent his son to die for our sins and to rise again from the dead. He did this as a costly act of love and to show us that we are loved by God even before we know we are loved. And on this day, Palm Sunday, and at this time, before we walk with Christ into Holy Week, it is the Church’s duty to ask you in the strongest terms to make time to come to the Holy Week liturgies. To commit yourself, as best as you are able, to the worship of the Church as we observe the holiest week in the Christian calendar. You can only know the mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection by entering into it and by finding it as you would find something buried deep within your soul. You are here this morning readying yourself to encounter the living Lord Jesus as he shows you the way to the Father’s glory. You are bidden by the words of Thomas before the raising of Lazarus when he said, ‘Let us go with him that we may die with him’.
Jerusalem today is a place of terrible contrasts. It is a jumbled up mix of warring factions. The old city is bounded by Jewish, Christian Muslim and Armenian quarters. The Church of the Holy Sepulcre stands in the middle of the city as the most holy Christian site in the world, and built over Golgotha, the place of the skull, where Jesus died on the Cross. But even in this Holy Church, differing Christian denominations fight over contested spaces from within the building, and there are often angry scuffles and even violence. Nearby is a busy souk or market, with smells of spices and coffee and freshly slaughtered meat, as well as hundreds of shops selling Christian souvenirs and trinkets. Into the same sort of Jerusalem, of intensity and of indifference does Christ enter upon his way.
Well may Jesus wept over Jerusalem. But it is to this Jerusalem of human chaos and doubtful charm, a crazed and yet indifferent kind of Jerusalem, and yet a holy Jerusalem too, that Jesus enters on Palm Sunday.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace -- but now it is hidden from your eyes. Luke 19.41-42.
In the church of the Holy Sepulcre you may queue for hours to get to the place where Jesus died on the cross, and then watch others burying their one arm into the ground and down to the rock below to touch the stones of Calvary. You stand waiting and impatient and wonder why you’re waiting. Then it is your turn to reach down and touch the rock on which the Cross of Christ died. You realise that for a few brief seconds you are the only person in the world touching that rock. The experience is immediate and was for me, overwhelmingly moving.
This is the famous stone
George Herbert ‘Teach Me My God and King’
This morning we go to join Christ in Jerusalem, where we know he will meet suffering and death. We go with him just as we are; knowing all the deficiencies we bring to the task of living and loving, but we go at first hesitant; but nevertheless in faith, aware of God the Father’s love going before us. God is guiding us and lighting our path and drawing us deeper into the wounded, sacred heart of Jesus. We go in this Holy Week with Jesus to Golgotha. And you are invited in this Holy Week to enter into these mysteries, to walk with Christ, to wait and watch with Christ, to sit at the foot of the cross, to wait at the tomb, and to experience the joy of his Resurrection and your resurrection. “If we are united with him in a death like his, we will surely be united within him in a Resurrection like his”. (Romans 6.5).
But for now, as we enter on Holy Week we pray:
Holy and strong,
Holy and immortal,
Have mercy upon us…