Service for Palm Sunday 2020

A prayer of approach

Lord God, let us approach with shouts of praise: hosanna in the highest! Let us draw close to you on this day that caused disturbance and disruption. Let us approach the throne of the one who came as a humble servant, who came to set us free, to change things for ever. Hosanna to the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Amen.


Matthew 21 verses 1-11


As you will be reading this sermon, not hearing it, I can tell you the following story which is much easier to appreciate if seen written down.

One day, the devil, in his infernal kingdom looked in the mirror and realised, to his horror that he was getting bald, so he sneaked up to earth and bought himself a luxurious blond wig. Throughout the next day, as he moved among his subjects, he realised that people were laughing and pointing at him in amusement. The devil was very upset and called a meeting. Standing on a platform in front of the crowds, he announced that if he caught anyone poking fun at him, there would be Hell to pay.

When the Pharisees saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, they knew that if they didn’t handle the situation skilfully, there would be Hell to pay from that Roman authorities because of the symbolism of what Jesus was doing.

By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, he was deliberately re-enacting events that would be recognised by the Jewish people – events of 200 years earlier when their hero, Judas Maccabeus had stormed the city and had been met by crowds cheering and waving branches as he had freed the people from occupation. The Romans would see this as a deliberate provocation and assume that the Jewish religious authorities were complicit.

His actions also reflected the prophesy from Zechariah: “Tell the daughter of Zion, look: your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious: humble and riding on a donkey”.

So the Pharisees had to decide:- was this just a weary, footsore peasant, charismatic but becoming increasingly out of his depth? Or was this a deliberate re-enactment of the prophesy? In some respects, it hardly mattered what Jesus thought. The crowds certainly believed the latter and Jesus did nothing to contradict them. Romans, Pharisees, disciples and crowds, all challenged to make a decision, and it is a decision which has to be made by each one of us today, “Who is this Jesus and what is his relevance for life today?

But we may say this is what we have done – we have seen Jesus riding into Jerusalem and decided for him.  But sometimes we accept one facet of Jesus but ignore others. For example, we may have decided for the Jesus of the miracle stories – who healed, restored and forgave – we can certainly sign up for that! We can accept the Jesus of the parables – exposing corruption and selfishness – challenging us to examine our lives against his. We can admire the sheer physical courage of taking that donkey-ride into Jerusalem knowing what was awaiting him there. But as people who have been disciples of Jesus of Nazareth for many years, we really should be exploring another facet - his SPIRITUAL COURAGE and its implications for our own faith journey.

It's so easy to assume that Jesus knew God’s plan – that he had inside information. But that is unlikely – Jesus needed faith like us – like any human being. He had chosen to demonstrate God’s love and this was leading him towards a cross.

We witness later in the Garden of Gethsemane that he knew that he was about to die and no-one had any idea why – his disciples who were already baffled and bemused would be left none the wiser. They had consistently failed to understand him. So, he had to follow his calling without knowing how God would use it, and this took courage.

Surely, a young man with many years of teaching and healing ahead of him was of more use alive than dead. But because of his understanding of God’s love for humanity, he was prepared to surrender it all.  And this gives us the courage to do the same and not berate ourselves for our lack of faith or understanding. Faith is meaningless if we know what the outcome will be. The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. What Jesus believed in and experienced every moment of his life was God’s all-encompassing, sacrificial love for creation and he was determined to remain true to this belief. It was this, as much as the donkey which carried him into Jerusalem.

Jesus was vindicated. No trust in God’s love is ever betrayed, no hesitant response ever despised, no doubtful self-offering ever spurned – something to cheer and encourage us in these difficult days.


Janice Atfield


A prayer for others

Lord Jesus, we pray for all who give of themselves sacrificially, for those whose lives are dedicated to serving others: parents, carers, foster carers, doctors, nurses… those caring for children or elderly relatives. We pray for those serving in war-torn countries around the world: medics, those who work in missions, the media, NGOs and charities… who bring food, shelter and healing to those in need, sometimes putting their lives on the line. We pray for those in our communities who need our unconditional love: those hurting from broken relationships, abuse, bullying, domestic violence… children and adults whose lives are bereft of love and hope. Amen.

A personal prayer

Jesus, I journey with you today as you journey with me. Let me go where you go. Amen.

Wednesday 1/4/2020 Coffee Morning Service 

We all need a hope to cling to in these strange times. So, perhaps an unusual choice of reading forthis time of year, but hopefully all will become clear.

Luke 2 : 25 – 38


Simeon – “Now. Lord you have kept your promise....I have seen your salvation”
Anna speaks to – all the people who were hoping for God’s salvation
They are both HOPING for the salvation of their people and believed that this new-born child wasthe answer to their prayers.
In Luke’s account, what Simeon has to say is given to us in some detail. As he addresses God, hemakes sweeping claims about what the child will become, and what he will go on to achieve. ForLuke to write of this he must have found a witness who was there at the time and could remember
the words that were spoken.
But no speech of Anna’s is recorded, probably because Luke could not find a witness to testify to her words, there is just a hint of her hopes for her audience. This would suggest Luke felt that her witness was important but did not stoop to fabricate a speech for her, as other less scrupulous
historians might have done. So why bother to record her contribution at all.
Look at this pattern of stories which Luke puts together :-
Luke 15 : 3 - 10 - A shepherd loses a sheep - a housewife loses a coin
Luke 13 : 18 – 21 - A farmer sows mustard seed – a woman kneads yeast into her bread

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth story :-
Gabriel visit Zechariah and Mary
Two songs are sung one by Zechariah and one by Mary
There are these two witnesses in the temple
Throughout his gospel Luke emphasise this aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came for men andwomen. Apparently, there are 27 sets of stories similar to the above. One of the stories focuses on aman, and the other on a woman.
So here, in our passage of the presentation at the temple, Luke needs a man and a woman. Although he only has sketchy details of what she said, Luke makes sure that Anna’s part in the account is given
its rightful place.

Simeon and Anna met Jesus, and having met him, were filled with hope not just for themselves but as Simeon says :
“With my own eyes I have seen your salvation
Which you have prepared in the presence of your peoples:
And a light to reveal your will to the Gentiles...”
And that hope is what we can take comfort from in this hour of need as we live in physical isolation
from one another - we can never live in isolation from God –
“And I will be with you always, to the end of the age” - Matthew 28 : 20


Hymns x 2
The first is by John Campbell (a URC minister and former principal of Northern College) and is basedon Simeon’s testimony, but I believe also probably reflects Anna’s thoughts.

The second one is from Daniel Thambyrajah Niles (4 May 1908 – 17 July 1970) a slightly more exotic source. Rev Niles was a Ceylonese pastor, evangelist and president of the Ceylon Methodist Conference, and it is the latter one which right at the end of the last verse puts our hopes for the future into their full

First John Campbell’s hymn (If you want to sing it then use the tune for Good Christians all,rejoice)
Simeon’s predictions
Good Master, though I've waited long,
I raise my voice in joyful song:
now your slave, at last, can be
from all service here set free;
in my arms I hold the one
who's born to be salvation's sun!
He must set me free! He must set me free!
For, through the child we welcome here,
your full salvation will appear;
should this ancient temple fall,
he'll still shine for one and all —
Jew and Gentile, all the same,
he'll make us welcome in your name.
He can save us all! He can save us all!
And second the hymn by D.T.Niles
On a day when men were counted,
God became the son of man;
That his name in every census
Would be entered, was his plan,
God, the Lord of all Creation,
Humble takes a creature's place;
He whose form no man has witnessed,
Has today a human face.

When there shone the star of David
In the spangled eastern sky,
Kings arrived to pay their homage
To the Christ, the Lord most high.
Yet not all, for lo there soundeth
Through the streets a fearful cry,
For a king who will not worship
Has decreed that Christ must die.
Yet it's Christmas, and we greet Him,
Coming even now to save;
For the Lord of our salvation
Was not captive to the grave.
Out of Egypt came the Saviour
Man's Emmanuel to be,
Christmas shines with Easter glory,
Glory of eternity.


And there, in those last two lines, is the Easter HOPE that we can all partake in, whether gathered at church or in our homes.

A prayer – this came introduced by Nigel Harris CEO at Tearfund
'Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he ismy fortress; I shall not be shaken.' (Psalm 62:5-6)


At Tearfund, we strive to be an organisation that is fuelled by hope. Not a hope of wishful thinking or
false optimism, but one that is grounded in the certainty of God's goodness. Read this prayer by
Rachael Adams and open yourself to the God of hope.
I come to you God and I place before you my dreams, my hurts and fears, my failures and my
doubts, I lay them down at your feet, where I know they are held.
It may look foolish to the world, it may not make much sense, but I know the bigger story, I know
what's to come.
In this world of fear, I choose hope,
In this world of anger, I choose forgiveness,
In this world of exclusion, I choose love,
In this world of distraction, I choose you.
Remind me of your truth Lord, especially in the waiting, when times are hard and I'm struggling to
hear your voice. Fill me afresh with your presence, of your great plan, and let the truth
sink in, that I need only you.

At the end of our short service I usually say – “May the Lord bless us and keep us as we go out into his world” so –
here is your homework - complete the following –
“May the Lord bless us and keep us as we don’t leave the house but instead.......”


Take care and God bless, Richard

'Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.' John 14 v 27