On Sunday April 13th our minister Trevor Dixon led worship using a form of worship originally from America for Palm Sunday. It was a service of Lenten Cross a meditation on the Passion. We sang all 5 verses of the Lenten Candle Liturgy – Tree of Life. We closed our eyes and imagined Jesus preparing to go to Jerusalem and we were asked if we would follow him to the cross. Jesus lived in close fellowship with God that the light which shone from him became too much for those around him and led to his death. Many forces today also conspire to put that light out. The candle was extinguished as we acknowledged the darkness and pain of illness and disease in the world. A prayer was said to encourage us to travel to Jerusalem to the cross and beyond.
Trevor then led prayers before the first symbol; the palm branch held up as I read the first reading from Matthew 21v1-11 and then a member of our congregation fixed the palm branch on the large wooden cross after the reading had finished and we sat in silence, before we sang, ‘Children of Jerusalem.’ The second symbol: the bread and wine was held up as Matthew 26v26-29 was read. After a period of silence we sang, ‘Be known to us in breaking bread.’ The third symbol was the money bag and was displayed as above whilst we heard Matthew 26v14-16. We sang, ‘Christ is the world’s life, he and none other’. The fourth symbol was the towel and basin and the reading was John 13v1-14 followed by singing, ‘Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love.’ The fifth symbol was the crown of thorns and purple robe displayed as Mark 15v16-20 was read and we sang, ‘O sacred head, sore wounded.’ The sixth symbol was the whip and was displayed as we heard John 18v38-19v1. We sang 2 verses from ‘There is a green hill’, ‘we may not know, we cannot tell, and he died that we might be forgiven’.
The seventh symbol was the nails and hammer. Matthew 27v15-30 was a dramatised reading with various parts to play, including Pilate, the crowd, Pilate’s wife, Soldiers and Priests. I found all the readings and the hymns we sang helped me to feel I was taking part in the last week of Jesus’ life. Finally the nails were one by one nailed to the cross in appropriate places.
Trevor then led a reflection based on the thoughts of 3 people in the crowd of 2 to 3000 people assembled in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Jesus was coming acting like the Messiah making a public entrance into Jerusalem. The whole place erupted as they sang, ‘Hosanna’, which was always sung on the way up to the temple. The first person in the crowd knew that was sung every year but this time everyone seemed to be singing it as though they meant it. What were the disciples doing? It was completely unexpected and they had been scared stiff of the prospect of coming to Jerusalem. They knew Jesus had upset the authorities enough and they had told him so. They thought they would slip quietly into Jerusalem but all the crowd were singing and making such a fuss.
What would the Pharisees think? They would think the waiting is over, the promised Messiah is here, so we will no longer be needed?! Therefore the Pharisee had signed the death warrant.
At the foot of the cross the metal worker, who made nails for crucifixions, had a good contract. The people had cried so many tears and waited so long for Christ. Joshua, whose name meant he who saves, had been in Bethlehem when Jesus was a baby and his 2 year old son had been killed. He had never seen such misery before. He vowed he would see Jesus dead as his wife had subsequently died in childbirth and the child had been stillborn. Finally the pain and bitterness of all the years since, was being avenged as he watched the nails being hammered into left and right hands for his wife and his son. He cried out and thought he would gloat and feel satisfied when Jesus heard him cry out. Jesus raised his head and he was not proud or self satisfied, but the metal worker saw that his face was etched with so much suffering, as though he was in some way carrying the suffering of the world, including his suffering. He felt some heat going through his breast and all the years of bitterness burned away in a moment. He did not think it was possible to forgive and be forgiven at the same time, but that was exactly what happened and on opening his eyes again Jesus was dead.
We had a time of silence before we sang the concluding hymn, ‘In the cross of Christ I glory’ and said the grace together. I found that time of worship very moving.