Palm Sunday 2020 5th April
Today is the third Sunday we have been without public worship. Indeed it is the first time that this has happened since March 23rd 1208 when churches were closed for six years during the interdict imposed by Pope Innocent III. It certainly seems strange to me although I have benefited from the privilege of praying daily in church.
I have always felt there is some confusion on Palm Sunday as to whether we read the lesson telling of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (or colt) or whether we have the reading of the Passion, as is customary here. As we ponder on this it is worth remembering that Palm Sunday itself was outlawed in 1547 under Edward VI. You will not find special readings for the day in the Book of Common Prayer. This was largely on the account of the suspicion towards processions, which were reminiscent of Roman Catholic practice. It is not many years ago that there was a procession from the school on Palm Sunday with singing of “Ride on, Ride on in Majesty”.
This Palm Sunday will seem strange but it is worth remembering that in the troubled history of our church we have remembered and celebrated, or not celebrated as in the early years of the 13th century, in many different and varied ways. The way we do or do not do things does not change the reality of the message of the gospel.
Some of you may have read my reflection for February in the parish magazines, both here and in Icklesham. I wrote about how Jesus becomes for us the very Temple itself, in his own words, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up”. Our Psalm reminds us of this
“The same stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner-stone.”
Jesus himself, humiliated, crucified and risen becomes the place where we can bring ourselves before God, naked, vulnerable, anxious, unworthy, humbled and yet received with love. The passion reading from Matthew reflects this,
“People walked by and insulted Jesus. They shook their heads, saying “You said you could destroy the Temple and build it again in three days. So save yourself! Come down from that cross, if you are really the Son of God!”
We yearn to gather as we normally do during our Sunday worship but it is also right that we remember we are still called to be the Body of Christ, the new Temple, not circumscribed by stone and mortar. Holy week and Easter will seem very strange but don’t forget that we are healed and forgiven where ever and for that matter whoever we are.
So do not fret yourselves. We are a community that seeks to reach out and care for each other and for others. We should not be complacent but we should be thankful. Perhaps this is a time for us to reflect on what our church really means, we long to gather once again and sing your praises in congregation but we can continue to love one another and strive to love those around us.