Service at Home on 28th March 2021 - Palm Sunday
for Bolton Road Methodist Church, Christ Church Ramsbottom and Edenfield Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 28-03-2021
As usual, the entire service can be followed on this YouTube playlist without the need to look at these sheets. However, you may want to use these sheets if you prefer to read the words.
Welcome and the Lent Cross
Watch: Welcome and the Lent Cross
Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home. This is Palm Sunday and the sixth in a preaching series for Lent, which is looking at the nature of Jesus. During this series, church leaders in the Ramsbottom area are taking it in turns to provide the teaching. This Sunday, Paul Sumsion, the Rector of Holcombe and Hawkshaw, looks at “Jesus – a humble King”.
Lighting of the Lent Cross
Today we are nearly at the end of our Lenten journey as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. This coming Holy week, we remember that Jesus will face the reality of the cross, as well as triumphing over it. Let us think for a moment about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, his disciples and friends around him; the crowds shouting and waving and laying their cloaks on the road to make a path for him, caught up in the excitement of the moment.
Six candles are lit.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, we will hear today how you came to Jerusalem, welcomed as a king. You knew that the people who welcomed you that day would abandon you by the end of the week. We are sorry for the times we have turned against you and found it difficult to say that you’re our friend.
Help us to grow closer to you and stronger in our faith. Amen.
Watch: Hosanna (Praise is Rising)
Watch: Opening prayers
Lord Jesus, you rode into Jerusalem in triumph on this day, welcomed as a king and praised by crowds of people. Now you are here with us Lord. Accept our welcome and our praise. You are indeed the King of Glory. Rule in our hearts and minds today and always.
Lord Jesus, we know there have been times when we have let you down.
By not doing something that we knew you wanted us to do
By saying or doing something that was contrary to the way you want us to speak and act. In a few moments of quiet now we remember how we have failed you and we ask for your forgiveness -----
We thank you Lord that through your sacrifice our sins are forgiven. We thank you that your forgiveness is complete and that although we let you down, you remain faithful to us and continue to trust us to carry out your plan. We thank you also that you have given us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us in the work you have called us to do. Amen.
And now say the prayer that Jesus taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name;
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayers of intercession and Gospel reading
Prayers of intercession led by Kathy
Although we are worshipping in our separate homes, we are bound together as one family by the Holy Spirit. We pray together for the needs of the world.
Loving Lord, we remember all the people who do not know of your love for them. We pray that you will use us, both as individuals and as a church, to introduce more people into your family. We pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us the courage we need and the words to use.
Lord, we bring before you everyone who’s ill, in pain, frightened, worried, lonely or grieving for a loved one. We pray for Edna’s family and friends.
And, in a short time of silence, we think about our other friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbours who we know are unwell, unhappy, worried or lonely and lift their names before you now …..
Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to bless each one of these people with your healing power. Help them to feel your presence and to experience the love and peace that only you can bring.
We pray for our church and for our sister churches in our local area and in the Bury circuit. Help us to work together in Your name, bringing your love, hope and healing to our community.
Lord we pray in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the world who are persecuted because of their faith in you. We pray for your followers in North Korea. Please comfort, strengthen and help them, especially those who are in prison or in labour camps. We pray for your protection for all North Korean believers and for those who are working to support them.
We remember all those suffering from famine, war or other disasters. We pray for the people of Yemen where conflict and violence have pushed more families into poverty and deprivation. We pray for the aid agencies, including UNICEF, who are helping children who are suffering from malnutrition. We pray that all children will receive the food and medical help that they need.
We remember before you all refugees. We pray that those who seek asylum here will be housed in safe, comfortable and appropriate accommodation and treated with dignity and compassion.
And finally, in a moment of silence, we think about our own problems and concerns and lift them before you now.…..
Send the Holy Spirit upon us now to heal, protect, strengthen and guide us.
We ask our prayers in the name of your dear son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Bible reading: John 12:12-16
Watch: Ride on, ride on in Majesty
Sermon and prayers
Watch: Sermon and prayers
Sermon by Paul Sumsion, the Rector of Holcombe and Hawkshaw
So here we are! Palm Sunday, the start of Holy week and the last of our current series of sermons looking at different aspects of Jesus and his ministry from different church leaders in Churches together in Ramsbottom, or more properly, the church together in Ramsbottom.
You have had different styles of sermon, different voices, slightly different emphases, but one heart running throughout – we want to see the church in Ramsbottom to grow in number and faith and to grow increasingly close to and dependent on Jesus, our Lord and King.
And Lent this year, the forty or so days leading up to Easter, leading to our celebrations of Jesus dying on our behalf and then rising from the tomb on the third day, Lent this year, most of it in Lockdown has been a wonderful opportunity to pause, take stock and recommit ourselves to following Jesus. But just in case you’re listening to this and thinking, “you must be joking – I’ve never been busier!” then I’ve got a few things to help us to make the week ahead a bit more special.
We’re going to think about what Palm Sunday tells us about who Jesus is – both King and Humble, how he travelled, and our response.
With being the last to preach in this series, I’ve been thinking about and praying through this sermon for about 8 weeks. Initially I had some great plans about using a green screen to do lots of video editing around waving palm branches, creating a crowd and other things to have a big visual impact – because on one level, that is just what Palm Sunday was – a great procession, announcing a king, praising God – and that first Palm Sunday would have been an amazing sight to see. But over these weeks, life has got surprisingly busy again (more on that in a bit) and also it dawned on me that to just see the spectacle was to miss something else going on here.
The theme that went along with this week’s reading is ‘Jesus – the Humble King’. You’ve just heard the reading from the Bible in John 12:12-20. In our Bible study this week we will pick up a bit on the different ways the four gospels approach this moment in the life of Jesus.
In John’s gospel there is a big crowd that come out of Jerusalem to welcome him into the city. Perhaps a bit of history will help us out: at various points in the Old Testament and in the history of the Jews (including various of the Maccabee dynasty from around 200BC), when kings have won themselves a victory they parade into the capital city to take the throne they have won. This gets picked up by the Romans, who have victory parades for their conquering generals. A great celebration, the king or general on an impressive war horse, the people doing the equivalent of lining the Mall and waving their union flags. The band playing, food, celebration, holiday festivities.
So when the people shout out Hosanna (which means something like ‘He saves’), Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, here comes the king of Israel, this is nothing short of revolutionary talk. And Jesus, riding in with the people’s cloaks providing a sacrificial carpet and palm branches being waved, allows this to continue, and affirms their sense of what is going on – the King has come.
Meanwhile, another bit of history is also being played out. Zechariah prophesied about the coming messiah: Zech 9:9 – ‘Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey….’
So as Jesus rides the donkey into town, he is quite deliberately fulfilling a prophesy - this says a bit more about who Jesus is. He is coming as a King, but in humility - this is not what is expected from Kings! However, there is something here of Jesus’ mastery over all creation as he rides an untamed donkey, apparently without mishap! It reminds us perhaps of him stilling the storm, healing the sick and so on. In Luke’s account when we find the Pharisees complaining, Jesus’ response there is that “if the crowd were silent, even the stones would cry out” – the rocks along the path would shout his praise at this moment – and so we see all of creation joining together in proclaiming Jesus as King. All of creation reacts to his coming Kingdom; Jesus’ death and resurrection redeems it all!
So Jesus comes as King, and according to John, a significant crowd came out to hail him as the conquering hero - but the crowd a few days later would be shouting words of condemnation instead. What sort of King are we willing to accept? Will we let him be ‘king’ provided he keeps to our agenda, or are we willing to let God be God in all of our lives? Do we say ‘yes’ to Jesus provided he will keep to the limits of a sort of constitutional sovereignty, and be a king on our terms only? What parts of our lives are we less willing to offer to Jesus? Will we listen to his word, and truly allow the living Word to shape our thoughts and plans, even when that goes against the flow of our culture? In saying yes to Jesus we need to let go of those identities based on our sense of duty or our desires, and instead let Jesus reign in all of our lives, finding a new identity as his subjects.
Yet, amazingly, he offers even more: that we can be not only subjects, but children of the Father, welcomed into his counter cultural, awesome royal family.
In thinking about who Jesus is, the good news is that he is not just the King but the Humble King. Jesus rides a donkey into the city. Donkeys are not well known for their turn of speed, but of keeping going for the long haul, slowly and steadily. When he gets there, Luke says he had a look around in the temple and then went out of the city again.
Just an aside, it is worth noting that the different gospels give some interesting variations to the story of Palm Sunday.
So when Jesus rides slowly into the city amid great exultation, he creates a parody of the generals and kings who have gone before him. Politically he carefully squanders the opportunity of the moment because he has a better plan. Jesus slows things right down and spends the next few days teaching - but mainly teaching his disciples.
Over the past six weeks I have been reading a book entitled ‘The ruthless elimination of hurry’. Now some of you who know my challenges with time keeping might think that this doesn’t seem like a bright book to read but it is about slowing down enough, clearing the decks enough to spend time with Jesus. And that is a good plan. Ironically, I was sort of hoping to have finished the book by now. The title is based on a quote from a conversation between the writer and church leader John Ortberg (author of many excellent books!) and his mentor, Dallas Willard. It went something like this:
John: “What do I need to do to, to become the ‘me’ I want to be?”
There’s a long pause…
Dallas: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
There’s another pause as John scribbles that down in his journal. This was pre-twitter…
John: “Okay, what else?”
Dallas: “There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
And that’s the end of the story.
Let me explain: in our hyper connected world, most of us are rarely more than a couple of seconds away from our phones. We hear them ping or buzz and glance to see what the message is that has just come in. We wonder what the capital of Mongolia is, and ask Google or Siri for a quick update. We schedule meetings back to back, and with the wonders of technology, we now don’t even need to allow time to travel between them. Most critically we tend to accumulate responsibilities that means we rarely have time to pause, and when we do, we go for the escapism of Netflix or Bakeoff.
Having stuff to do is fine. Technology is fine too. But having so much to do that we have to race between to fit it all in, and have to do those important things with one eye on the clock and the other eye on the latest messages coming in on our phones is not good for us at all.
Jesus told us that the most important things are to love God and our neighbours, but love takes time, so being too fast stops us from loving those around us as we should.
How does that compare with Jesus’ priorities as he went into Holy Week?
Jesus made time to be with his disciples. He made plans to worship, sharing the Passover meal with those closest to him. Jesus made time to pray, and submitted to his Father’s timing and will (Garden of Gethsemane). By taking a slower, less travelled path, Jesus wins a victory and a kingdom that utterly eclipse those of every king or general that ever came before him.
So my suggestion for Holy week this year is that you embrace lockdown enough to spend time praying. Take time to breathe in the gospel accounts, letting God, by His Holy Spirit, speak afresh into your soul. If you are able, take a walk. Find somewhere to stop, and pause. Listen and pray. Listen to God’s heartbeat for those around you. Listen to the Spirit’s words into your life and its direction. Listen to our heavenly Father’s affirmation of who you are in Him and the identity that He puts on your life. Reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross, for you. In short, slow down, and embrace this moment and opportunity to do so.
So this Sermon has not got any greenscreen, palm waving, action packed moments. Instead I am writing it in a week that has been full of the painful grittiness of real life. Hospitalisations. Unwanted diagnoses. Grief. Life is sometimes thoroughly overwhelming.
And these are the moments we need to know that Jesus is alongside, and so I am so grateful that I have been able to walk through Lent with the intent of slowing down, even if the reality didn’t always follow. I found the gift and blessing of pauses in the day to spend half hours here and there for time in prayer or in worship. You might reasonably expect that as a minister these will always be there - the reality is that for me as for anyone else, it is all too easy to see them pushed out by busy-ness, other responsibilities, weariness or escaping into the TV.
As we see Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem, we receive His call to let Him be King of all of our lives, rejoicing that his kingship is gentle and humble, enabling us to become all we were created to be under his patient generous rule. We see him coming along the road with the gratitude of his palm waving disciples, but slowly. We see him take time to be with the ones he loves.
And he longs to do that with you today.
A prayer in response
Lord, this week help me to walk with you like it was the first time. Help me to know you more and share you better. Help me to love. Help me to rest in you. Help me not to hurry. Help me to allow you, Jesus, to be my Humble King. Amen.
A prayer of blessing
Lord Jesus, bless me as we walk with you through this Holy Week. Help me to make the time to learn more about you throughout the week. I pray that I will learn more about your humility on Thursday, more about your sacrifice on Friday and more about your power on Sunday. Speak to me this week, Lord, and draw me even closer into your grace and love.
Lord, protect me from anything that could distract me from my walk with you this week. Keep me close to you at all times, surrounded by your love. Amen.
Watch: Crown Him with many Crowns