Homily for Palm Sunday 2020

Well, people certainly seem to have noticed Jesus arriving in Jerusalem – as we heard crowds, came out to greet him!

When did you first notice Jesus?  Was that in a crowd, at school, maybe, as a family group in church?  Was it something you heard or saw – the breath-taking beauty of creation, a piece of music, the birth of a child.

How did Jesus make his presence known, how did he make his entry into your life? Was it, perhaps, a slow dawning, a sudden realisation, or a knowledge that just always seemed to be there?

However it happened, how extraordinary it is to know we are loved by God, how wonderful to have that joy to share, that knowledge in our hearts to sustain us through challenging times.

And, yes, it is, of course! 

But It seems to me that there are also times when things become too difficult, too uncertain, too fearful, and we can lose sight of God.  Fear of the unknown wrestles with love, belief ebbs away, doubt flows in, what we hoped for seems hopeless……..and we turn away.

Remember the crowds who welcomed Jesus with Hosannas and strewn palm branches - they soon melted away as the initial excitement ebbed, soon found more amenable and less challenging bandwagons to jump on in the run-up to the Feast of the Passover. They turned away and lost sight of God.

As the week went on, even his loyal disciples who thought he really was the Messiah, the Christ, travelled a road that is all too often trod: from believing to doubting, from doubting to denying. And so, they too, turned away and lost sight of God.

But it didn’t mean Jesus wasn’t there in Jerusalem – he was - didn’t mean he wasn’t walking our path, shouldering our burdens and fears, bearing our sins – he was doing that, too;

- and in a way that is still difficult to comprehend, difficult to understand, difficult even to believe.

How could God love me so much that he was prepared to die on the cross for me?  As our last hymn put it: O who am I, that for my sake, my Lord should take frail flesh and die?

Our journey through Holy Week this year has a particular poignancy, as we find ourselves isolated from some of our family, our friends and colleagues.  We are being forced to rely on our own resources in a way that for many is, if not unknown, then unfamiliar and almost wholly unwelcome. 

There is though solidarity in the shared experience, the knowledge that only by a united effort can we find a way through the pandemic.  By sharing one another’s burdens, by loving our neighbour, we can - not just find a way through - but find a way that better reflect lives of faith, hope and love.

For Jesus’ first disciples, the shared experience of being with him, listening to him, breaking bread with him, laughing and crying with him certainly gave them unity amongst themselves;  but it was the shared experience of fear, doubt and denial that changed their lives.

It was through that harrowing, testing experience that they encountered and were transformed by the unconditional love and forgiveness of the risen Christ.

Like them, we may sometimes turn away from God, but as they discovered, he never turns away from us; he knows us better than we know ourselves, is always here, waiting faithfully and hopefully for us to turn back, that he may embrace us in his unfailing love. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Amen