“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut from the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna!’….. Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything.” From Mark 11:1-11, NIV.
“Now to the gate of my Jerusalem, the seething holy city of my heart, the saviour comes. But will I welcome him?” From Palm Sunday: a sonnet by Malcolm Guite.
It’s a year ago since the national lockdown meant that places of worship had to close and many churches began worship online. Due to the very slow broadband here at the time, St Melangell’s was unable to do this so, last Palm Sunday, I posted a reflection having seen the shadow of what seemed to be palm-like branches reflected onto the kitchen wall. It was just the sun shining through the plants on the windows sill but it gladdened my heart briefly at a time of uncertainty and astonishment – who would have thought that places of worship would be closed throughout Holy Week and Easter?
A year on, it therefore seems appropriate that it was just before Palm Sunday when the Welsh Government announced last Friday the easing of some restrictions including the freedom to travel within Wales and use self-catering accommodation. Just as Jesus rode through the open gate of the city of Jerusalem, so the gates and doors of some previously closed places can now begin to open – albeit on a restricted basis. Other UK countries have not been able to make the same decision and it’s not yet possible to travel to Wales from England but it’s clear that a cautious emergence is underway here – though not in many other countries abroad where coronavirus still rages.
In St. Melangell’s church today, as can be seen in the photo, the sanctuary rail which is normally closed has also been opened as a reminder that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and then the temple happened then and still happens now. The procession of palms and all the things that make up the customary liturgy of Palm Sunday can’t happen in all churches yet – but are happening in modified ways elsewhere. Today, instead of using the traditional imported palm crosses, many will bring what they have fashioned from foliage nearby, just as those crowds did at the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Like those crowds, we too will shout Hosanna – although for many this will initially be in a solitary way at home before being echoed online. Technology means that people can still gather virtually, that worship can happen and prayers can still be prayed as well as concerns and hopes shared. Where there’s a will……
Today’s Gospel reading indicates that, after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the welcome of the crowd, Jesus entered the temple and just looked around at everything at that stage. In the coming days, we may not be able to be part of a crowd yet but there will be opportunities in all that lies ahead to prepare his way in the smaller steps and acts that may – or may not – be possible. This Palm Sunday, as the triumphal entry of Jesus is observed in the cities, communities and places of worship of our day, is he still made as welcome? And, as Jesus seeks entry to the temple of our hearts and looks around at everything there, what does his gaze reveal?
With my prayers,
A prayer for Palm Sunday
God of Love, as the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus draws close, and he prepares to face capture, trial and death, your Gospel calls our attention to the donkey: the humble, patient, loveable creature carrying Our Saviour into Jerusalem. Give us the same patience, obedience and humility to hear your calming voice amidst the concerns we face this week, that we may trust you as our Guide, and know you as our Saviour. Amen. Canon Carol Wardman