Blessed be God:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.
Dear friends in Christ, in our observance of Lent we have been preparing, by self-examination and spiritual discipline, to celebrate the mystery of our Lord’s death and resurrection. In baptism we are marked with the cross of Christ. Today we begin the solemn celebration of our salvation through his death on the cross and his resurrection to glory. We now recall our Lord’s entry, as king, into Jerusalem, to suffer, to die, and to rise again. Let us follow him, that, as we died with Christ in our Baptism, so we may share his risen life.
Assist us mercifully with your help Lord God of our salvation:
That we may enter with joy into the celebration of those mighty acts whereby you give us life and immortality;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
GOSPEL OF THE PALMS
read by Rev Janice Aiton
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Mark chapter 11 beginning at verse 1
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Glory to Christ our Saviour
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel.
Praise to Christ our Lord.
BLESSING OF THE PALMS
Almighty and everlasting God, may these palms be for us a sign of Christ’s victory over sin and death;
and may we 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.
We ask this through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
COLLECT FOR PURITY
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION
God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.
God our Father, we confess to you and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins, and deliver us from the power of evil, for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God, who is both power and love, forgive you and free you from our sins, heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit, and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen
LENT PROSE/ KYRIE
sung by Dougie Byers
COLLECT OF THE PASSION
who, in your tender love for the human race,
sent your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ,
to take our nature upon him,
and to suffer death upon the cross,
giving us the example of his great humility:
that we may both follow the example of his passion, and also, be made partakers of his resurrection;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT READING
PSALM 31: 9-16 read by Annette Beagrie
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
My eye wastes away with grief,
Yes, my soul and my body!
For my life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;
My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away.
I am a reproach among all my enemies,
But especially among my neighbours,
And am repulsive to my acquaintances;
Those who see me outside flee from me.
I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.
For I hear the slander of many;
Fear is on every side;
While they take counsel together against me,
They scheme to take away my life.
But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
And from those who persecute me.
Make Your face shine upon Your servant;
Save me for Your mercy’s sake.
SECOND READING PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11
read by Billy Dewar Riddick
The Humbled and Exalted Christ
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that
every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
PASSION READING MARK
15: 1-39 read by Rev Janice Aiton
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So, the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So, Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
THIS IS THE PASSION OF OUR LORD.
Palm Sunday had no white smoke, no conclave of cardinals and no white jeep- only cloaks, palms branches and a donkey. Palm Sunday might have been simple in its celebration compared to the scenes we have witnessed in the past when a new pope is elected. Seven years ago, we saw on our television screens the arrival of the newly elected Pope Francis. Groups of supporters waved Argentine flags in St Peter’s Square, and thousands and thousands of people thronged the square for the Pope’s inaugural mass, filled with excitement and anticipation of what Pope Francis will deliver for the ordinary people of his day. The people were excited and elated, and in many ways, they echoed the crowds all those years ago in Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.
Jerusalem would have been packed. It was not a big city, but as many as two-and-a-half million people may have been there for the Passover. All the accommodation in the city would have been taken; innkeepers would have made a handsome profit. Many of the people would have stayed in towns and villages around about and would have come into Jerusalem during the daytime. Overwhelmingly, the crowds are ordinary people, but amongst them there would have been a sprinkling of others. Political extremists would have canvassed for support, moving through the crowd, sharing ideas with likely listeners. Were they around today they would be on the Internet and sending emails and text messages! Along with political extremism, there would have been religious fanatics who would have regarded Passover as a great opportunity to berate the gathering crowds of the faithful. Into the middle of this confusion and chaos and noise comes a man with a small group of supporters: Jesus of Nazareth. Many of the people would have heard his name and stories would have spread quickly through the crowds, “A great teacher”, “The Messiah”.
The Messiah coming into the Holy City at Passover! This indeed was something special- it was a moment not to be missed. The news would have flown around the city, “He is coming! He is coming!” Daily life and business would have been going on as normal, Sunday being a working day, but at the news the Messiah was coming, trade would have stopped, shops would have closed up, workmen would have put down their tools. Whatever they were doing, people would have stopped. They would be afraid to miss something momentous. The stories would have spread and the anticipation grown. Then the rather odd parade passes through. It sounds odd, but Jesus knew what he was saying and the people themselves knew. Jesus knew that when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, he was fulfilling the words from Zechariah, “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The devout people lining the streets also would have known the prophecies of Zechariah. Jesus knew and the people knew that the carpenter’s son from Nazareth was declaring himself to be their king, their Servant King, the King of Peace.
Reading about it today, the picture of someone riding into a city does not mean much to us, but for the people there, it said that the one for whom they had waited so long had at last arrived. Naturally, this was not pleasing to everyone. The clergy would have been concerned at the audacity of this upstart from Galilee. The Roman authorities would have been worried at the prospect of disturbances. There had been riots before bringing Pontius Pilate unfavourable attention from his superiors. Disorder at Passover would be the last thing Pilate would wish to see. Neither the religious leaders nor the civil authorities would have been pleased to see the scene that unfolded on that Palm Sunday. It would be a coalition of those two groups that would bring about the death of Jesus, and turn the palms into crosses.
How is it that the palms turned into crosses? Every year we try our best to take these long strips of palm branch and by some feat of engineering, we turn them into crosses. We sometimes don’t fully understand what exactly we are doing. We take these things which are supposed to be instruments of joyfulness and praise for Jesus, and we turn them into crosses, forgetting that this represents the very thing on which Jesus was crucified. The very same things that we are supposed to praise God with, are turned against Jesus. It is easy to forget, as we wave a little, that the cross is an instrument of death. We see that palm branch, we turn it into an empty cross, and we conveniently pass over the suffering and death in between. But the cross was not always empty.
This is the beginning of Holy Week. Today we start with shouts of Hosanna. Next Sunday is Easter – the day of resurrection and shouts of Alleluia. But we are not there yet. Between the shouts of Hosanna and the shouts of Alleluia there is another shout: “Crucify him, Crucify him.”
In our readings today, we have what we might call the Passion Narrative, the Good Friday account. It is about the crowds shouting “Crucify Him” and about how Jesus endures the suffering of the Cross. Then we have in our gospel reading a picture of a parade with shouts of joy. This is the “Palm Sunday” picture. It is all about the crowds welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna. What do we learn when we see these two pictures side by side? We learn about love. We might call that “Palm Sunday” love and “Good Friday” love. These two kinds of love – Palm Sunday love and Good Friday love- show us the difference between how we love, and how God loves.
First there is the love which the crowds show to Jesus on Palm Sunday. It is exciting, it is loud and it is a big show. They welcome Him into Jerusalem with palm branches and songs and shouts of joy- “Hosanna to the Son of David”. They are welcoming Jesus as their King into the throne of David. But within a few days that same crowd turns on Jesus. When Pilate asks them what they want to do with this Jesus, this King of the Jews, they reply – “Crucify Him”. What is wrong with this picture? Was the crowd lacking enthusiasm?
Apparently not, they were enthusiastic when they shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David”. They were just as enthusiastic when they shouted “Crucify Him”. If we think love is about putting on a big show, or just being enthusiastic, we need to think again. The crowd was pretty enthusiastic when things were going well for Jesus. Palm Sunday love is like that. It loves when there is a good time to be had, and it stops loving when there are bad times to be had. This way of loving changes with the weather, or with the circumstances! Status, appearance, health, reputation – all these things matter to Palm Sunday love. You can love the person, or you can love the things around the person. The crowds didn’t love the person of Jesus. They loved the show, the power, the miracles, the idea that this man would be their king.
On Palm Sunday we see a picture of our love for God, on Good Friday we see a picture of God’s love for us. “Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.” What does that tell us about Jesus’ character? About his love? It tells us about his great love and sacrifice. He has a strength of willpower that says – I will do what I need to do. Jesus shows us that the foundation of love is commitment. He set his face like flint – against everything that will come his way.
We get enthusiastic – but Jesus gets determined. He is committed to dying on the cross for us. His love knows no bounds. His arms are outstretched on that cross in love for us. His love is not a fickle, changing love but a steadfast and loyal love, that endures. For Jesus, Good Friday love is all about commitment. It means commitment regardless of the circumstances. Jesus is committed to us when we push him aside because our work, our church, our family, our leisure, our popularity and status are more important than spending time with Him. He is committed to us when we fail, disappoint and betray him. Jesus is committed to us when the circumstances change. He loves us when we are shouting “Hosanna” and he loves us when we are shouting “Away with this man.” Jesus loves us when that love is not returned. He loves us regardless of how we treat him. He simply loves us. He is not merely enthusiastic about loving us when things are great; he is committed to loving us when things are darkest, for us and for him. This is Good Friday love- agape love, sacrificial love that gives and gives and gives- never counting the cost. It is a love so amazing, so divine. This is the love that we are to emulate. Amen.
We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.
with the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
As we recall Jesus entering Jerusalem, let us gather our thoughts to pray Jesus the Anointed One, as the crowds welcomed you and sang your praise, so today we welcome you more deeply into our hearts and lives, rejoicing in your unfailing love and kindness.
We do pray that in these days that more people will turn to you, lean on you and trust in you, and proclaim you as the Messiah, who brings healing and wholeness.
Lord Jesus, the Anointed One
Hear our prayer.
Jesus, humble Servant who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, we pray for that real humility in our hearts, which treats status and image casually, and truth and loving service seriously.
Lord Jesus, humble Servant
Hear our prayer.
Jesus, gifted Teacher, who said suffer the little children to come unto me, reach out in love and care to all our children.
We think especially of our children, who have just returned to school after a time of home-schooling, and ask that you might help them in their learning.
We pray for teachers as they enter their Easter holidays and pray for refreshment, renewal of their strength, patience, wisdom, and creativity, as they seek to offer after the holidays, opportunities for children to catch up in their studies.
Lord Jesus, gifted Teacher
Hear our prayer.
Jesus, gentle healer, we pray today for those in hospital, who are suffering from this coronavirus and from all other illnesses, and ask for your gentle healing touch to be upon them.
We lift to you all who are working for the hospital at this time, from cleaners, to porters, to nurses and doctors, asking that you will equip them with the strength, courage, and skill they need, and that you will grant them your protection and safety.
Lord Jesus, gentle healer
Hear our prayer.
Jesus, carer and provider, we are conscious of many people, who are struggling for financial survival for themselves, their families and their businesses.
Hear our cry for them that they might receive, all the support and help they need.
We think of those needing basic supplies and ask that the food banks are well resourced and the needs of the community are met.
Lord Jesus, carer and provider
Hear our prayer.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace we think of all who are persecuted for their faith.
Bring peace and courage to them in these days and work in the agencies that seek to negotiate and work with governments, so that freedom to worship might be permitted.
We pray for those who are suffering in body mind or spirit or are anxious and worried for themselves or loved one In the quiet we pray for….
draw near and give to them your gift of peace and comfort Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace
Hear our prayer.
Jesus, the Resurrection and life, you knew that on Palm Sunday, you were riding to your death.
We pray for all on their last journey, that though they be physically alone, that you are with them, and that you will not leave them nor forsake them.
Lord Jesus, the Resurrection and Life
Hear our prayer.
Jesus, our guide and our strength, accompany us as we journey through the unknown and uncertain, filling us with your light and hope.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together As our Saviour has taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
May Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.