Palm Sunday St Pauls and Cotham 2018

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So-we move into Holy Week.

The week in which we see every human experience -expectancy and hope, betrayal, confrontation, abandonment, loss, waiting in grief, despair – culminating in Easter Sunday – the reversal of all we ever anticipated- new life and freedom from our deepest fears.

How can we absorb this- how can we be faithful to Jesus’ irrevocable and inevitable journey during Holy Week?

This journey starts a long way back in his ministry with the disciples “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke 9.51. Early on in Luke there is the challenge that he sets his disciples- “Who do you say I am?” Even then he perhaps he knows that his mission is to be betrayed and to die for what he holds so dear. – but also, to be raised to find his home with God- paving a way for us all to follow.

This week- Jesus enters in paradoxical triumph- surrounded by crowds who see him as the answer to their dreams-and he sits astride a donkey

This week- he meets the most powerful and influential leaders- religious and political- he maintains his integrity and offers them his vision of the kingdom of heaven. And they say no.

This week his followers- who have accompanied him, loved him and offered to die for him- turn away- abandoning and betraying him

This week- his followers realise the enormity of their betrayal – and just a few wait painfully at the foot of the cross

This week the disciples face the loss of all their dreams- witnessing the death of the man who held the hope of the world.

This week death is overcome and unbelievable hope breaks through the barren emptiness of our loss.

And this week we must face the uncomfortable truth that this is not a story that happened a long time ago to someone else – but it’s a story that tells us the deepest truths about ourselves and about who God is.

During Lent I have been reading a collection of poems by Malcolm Guite who sums up the drama of Holy Week.  “In a daring and beautiful reversal, God takes the worst we can do to him and turns it into the very best he can do for us.’

So, this week is unlike any other week.

And perhaps we can just try to glimpse the depth of what is happening by treating it seriously.

I think what we are asked to do is to stay with this extraordinary story, not to cut off, be too busy. To try and allow some space to stop, to look at our world with its cruelty and violence- and also with its kindness and hope. God has created it, and perhaps we need to offer it back to God with prayer for its healing and reconciliation.

And perhaps as part of that healing we can try to react in love without judgment- to ourselves and to those we meet.

We cannot shortcut this journey and just jump to Easter Day, for that would mean abandoning Jesus as well.

In the words of the former Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard.  “Tread gently through this week. Jesus needs his friends to go with him”