On Sunday March 29th I led worship at our chapel, Wesley Chapel which was good as I could involve more people in the service. Worship began with the Lenten liturgy when we sang all 5 verses of the Tree of Life hymn. We extinguished the next to the last candle to symbolise pain and suffering in the world. My first hymn was ‘Ride on, ride on in majesty!’ and then I led the opening prayers. I gave a short talk. I described the child who had longed to take part in the school play, much to his mother’s concern as she did not want him to be disappointed, but was thrilled when he had been chosen to clap and cheer! I also read a poem about how many people missed Jesus, as they were looking for a warrior instead of a peacemaker and a King rather than a servant. At the end we were all challenged as to whether we too would miss Jesus, if he did not come as we expected. We then sang, ‘We are marching in the light of God.’
Then we read Psalm 118 responsively with me as the leader and the congregation as the people. Then the entry into Jerusalem was presented as a dramatised reading. We then sang one of my mother’s favourite hymns and mine, ‘My song is love unknown’ before I preached.
The first 3 gospels concentrate on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee whereas in John’s gospel there are at least 3 visits of Jesus recorded. However Jesus must have been a more regular visitor as he became friends with Martha, Mary and Lazarus who lived in Bethany near Jerusalem. Also he must have visited Jerusalem a few times or he would not have been able to make arrangements so that the colt would be available for him when he needed it. Jesus had been preparing all his life for his final spectacular entrance into Jerusalem. Psalm 118 was a psalm of praise and thanksgiving liturgy of the community led by a leader probably the king. It was a celebration of deliverance in battle by the power of Yahweh. It was a conqueror’s psalm. Yet in the midst of the celebration there was a shadow that the chief cornerstone has been rejected by others. It was a pilgrimage to the Holy Place, yet it was the procession of a king and his court. The New Testament writers could think of no one to whom the rejected cornerstone more than Jesus, as he was about to be rejected.
Jesus like the prophets deliberately set up the dramatic action of the procession into Jerusalem, but unlike a victorious king returning from battle he came in peace. It was a deliberate dramatic claim to be the Messiah. However he came humbly riding on a donkey and not on a horse riding into battle. When the crowd greeted him as the Son of David they expected him to lead them in an uprising against the Romans, as they expected that he would shatter the unrighteous rulers and purge Jerusalem from nations that trample her down to destruction. Jesus courageously came in peace on a donkey in contradiction to their expectations. The colt was suitable for a sacred purpose as it had never been ridden before. Jesus wanted to show the people that their idea of the Messiah was misguided. He wanted to turn the people away from their nationalistic ideology to his way of love and peace. Knowing what fate faced him in Jerusalem, Jesus had the courage not to enter secretly but openly feted by the crowd. Having reached Jerusalem he had a quick look around before returning to the peace of Bethany with the twelve to prepare himself for the challenges of the next day. As followers of Jesus we are called to a life of love and service to others. Like Jesus we do not come to conquer people in battle, but to lead others to come to know Jesus so that he can change their hearts and minds and lead them back to God.
We sang ‘For the healing of the nations’ before our worship leader Christine Bunting led the prayers for intercessions. Worship concluded as we sang, ‘I, the Lord of sea and sky.’