- Published: Saturday, 04 April 2020 09:37
Fr John's Reflection for Palm Sunday
Recently as I returned home following my daily exercise with 'Wesley', we found ourselves being pursued through the village by some fourteen donkeys and half a dozen horses! They were evidently making their way back to Hilltop, and no doubt disappointed at not having been fed by visitors - in fact, the Verderers tell us not to feed them at any time.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday and a donkey features prominently. St Matthew's account describes how, as Jesus and his disciples reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, he told them to go into the village to collect a donkey and a colt. Having fetched them, the disciples place their cloaks on the animals. Jesus rides into Jerusalem, the crowd laying down their cloaks and placing palm branches. The biblical scholar, bishop Tom Wright, reminds us that cloaks and palm branches had a particular resonance in Israel's history - a triumphant Judas Maccabaeus had been welcomed in similar fashion into Jerusalem. 'Hosanna to the son of David', the crowds shout as Jesus rides on. Surely the Davidic king had at last come to terminate his peoples' oppression. Jesus has come into the holy city – remember, a destination over which he shed tears – but he won't be enthroned like David or Judas Maccabaeus; rather, his throne will be a common criminal's gibbet.
This Sunday we were to be gathering at the village school from where we would have embarked on a donkey-led procession. Such processions are now out of the question, and the distribution of palms. Be assured those palms will be available when once again we can be together.
Thus we embark on the beginning of Holy Week, in which both the glory and tragedy are bound in together, for overshadowing the splendour of the welcome to the Messiah is the shadow of death to come. The 'Hosannas' of Palm Sunday give way to the cries of 'Crucify him!' at the end of the week. Appropriately, our palms are shaped into crosses – a reminder of the fleeting nature of the welcome that Jesus received. Just so, the enthusiasm of the crowds, as they surrounded and cheered Jesus, seated meekly on a donkey – the sign of peace, not war, changed and faded. By the end of the week he would be crucified, and many of the same people were in the crowds that mocked and assaulted him.
As I type this, I look out of the window; a lovely day outside. And as I look out, I become aware of those thin lines running vertically and horizontally through the window panes; the window defined, marked, by the cross. I look outwards to the village, my community, my world, as it were through the cross. Divine love was lifted up on a cross, so that everyone, each of us, might be united with that wonderful and self-sacrificial offering.
May I suggest a task for this Sunday – make yourself a simple little cross; a couple of sticks, bind them together with sellotape or cotton. And at 9.30am precisely set off on a mini-procession around your garden, or indoors if you like. I'll walk around the Rectory garden at the same time, and in faith and imagination we'll be with those Jerusalem crowds. As you walk, see your Lord riding on a donkey, and say those Palm Sunday words that are so familiar to you: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest”.