Palm Sunday


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The Gospel of the Palms: Matthew 21.1-11
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 50.4-9a 
New Testament Reading: Philippians 2.5-11 
The Passion Gospel: Matthew 26.14 – 27.66


In St Luke’s story of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the crowds make such a noise cheering the Messiah that the Pharisees object, calling on Jesus to restrain his followers. Jesus replies, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’. It is a scene of jubilation and enthusiasm on the part of a noisy, jostling crowd.Today, Palm Sunday, Christians should be doing the same. It’s what we do on Palm Sunday. We form a procession through the streets, we carry palms, often we follow a donkey. We publicly acknowledge Jesus as Christ our King.

This year it is different. There are no processions. We cannot carry our palms or follow our donkeys. We cannot join in the singing of ‘All glory, laud and honour’ or ‘Ride on, ride on in majesty’. We cannot celebrate the great liturgy of Palm Sunday with the recitation of the Passion story. And if we, the disciples of Jesus are silent, will the very stones cry out? They will not. Our streets are empty, our towns and villages have fallen silent.

How then do we acknowledge Jesus as Christ our King?In St Matthew’s Gospel we read that at the last day, when the King comes in his glory, and all are gathered before him, we will all be told to what extent we have already recognised his royal presence among us. It won’t be a matter of ceremonial acclamations, or processions, the waving of palms or the singing of hymns. Jesus will tell that he was looking for something else. Did you feed the hungry? he will say. Did you refresh the thirsty? Did you clothe the naked and shelter the stranger? Did you care for the sick and visit the prisoner? If you did those things, you were truly acclaiming the Messiah when he came, for that is how he came – in the hungry and the homeless and the sick and the poor.

In the very special circumstances of this pandemic, there are ways open to each of us to serve the needs of one another. We cannot go visiting, but we can still reach out to each other with words of friendship. Those who are fit and able, especially if they have been laid off work, can join the army of volunteers assisting the health service.

On this Palm Sunday, Jesus our Christ and King is still among us. He moves among us, humble as ever, not on a donkey but in the faces of those around us, in the sick and the dying and the lonely and the isolated and the afraid. And one day he will say to us: ‘Did you look out for me on that Palm Sunday in the year 2020?Did you notice me when I went past?’

A final thought, on a practical note. Most of us would expect to have a palm cross blessed today, to take home with us. Make your own palm. It doesn’t need to be made of palm; it doesn’t need to be worked into a cross. It only needs to be a piece of greenery, some foliage, something you can take from your garden if you can. Use that as your palm this year. Keep it at home, as you would do with your palm cross, and let it remind you daily of Jesus, our Christ and our King.

Page last updated: 4th May 2020 1:59 PM
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