The Revd Canon John Patrick, Subdean

Blessings on him who comes as King in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven, glory in highest heaven!

Palm Sunday is a strange mixture. On the one hand, we have the sense of rejoicing, the sharing of the great surge of joy and triumph with which the crowds greeted the arrival of Jesus at Jerusalem, and his entry into the city. They laid their garments in the road, they cut branches of palm to wave, they sang and shouted at what seemed to be the beginning of a new era: Blessings on him who comes as King in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, glory in highest heaven! The people’s understanding is that now all will be well, everything the prophets had promised would begin to happen! Hosanna is the triumphant cry that goes up from those who greet Jesus as he comes into Jerusalem.

But then a few days later the cheering of the crowds turns to bitter reproach and hatred. Crucify him! Crucify him! is now the shout. The hymn reminds us of the poignancy of that entry into Jerusalem and its aftermath:

Sometimes they strew his way,
and his sweet praises sing:
resounding all the day
hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify!”
is all their breath,
and for his death
they thirst and cry.

What happened?

The crowd cheered and laughed, and shouted to the Son of David when he, their Leader, came through the city gates and up to the Temple, upset the tables of the money-changes and scared away the dealers in birds and animals for sacrifice. My house shall be a house of prayer, he said to them and how they must have cheered and laughed all the more. This was the sort of Messiah that they wanted: first to The Temple and it must only be a matter of time till he went to the Roman Fort and sorted them out as well. There must have been a sense of anticipation, excitement and joy. Here was their King who might well liberate them from their much-resented oppressors, the Romans.

That was not how it was to be. A victory was to be won, yes, but not in a way that any could then envisage.

The Gospel writers tell us, Day by day he taught in the temple. And the chief priests and lawyers were bent on making an end of him… That sense of anticipation and excitement must gradually have diminished as they saw Jesus, not carrying a sword, but teaching in the Temple. At the same time the Chief priests and lawyers must have been getting the rumours going in the background – intent on destroying this man who undermined their precious authority and comfortable lives.

We can only presume that Jesus knew that all this speculation and plotting was going on, the dangers he was well aware of, after all, it was He who only a few days earlier had said to his disciples: the Son of Man… will be handed over to the foreign power. He will be mocked, maltreated and spat upon. They will flog him and kill him. And of the third day he will rise again. Jesus knew that although He was by many being hailed as a king, He was riding into the centre of a storm. But He was not going to deviate, the Way of the Cross lay before him.

This year we are unable to process with our palm crosses: the roads will be quiet and there will be no one to watch a procession from Castle to Cathedral. But I do encourage you to create your own cross and place it in your window to indicate our involvement in the Holy Week story. (There are instructions on how to make paper crosses on the Lincoln Diocese website). By so doing we show ourselves, in our own small way, to be followers of Jesus today.

In these very unsettling, and for many fearful times, we hear the story proclaimed, and in our hearts and minds follow Jesus Christ seeking, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to imitate his courage and his devotion to God the Father. As St Paul puts it we are to be, in Christ, that is incorporate with him, united to his truth, his obedience, his love, his courage.

As we start Holy Week and the shadow of the Cross draws near let us pray that God will continue, whatever may trouble and concern us, to be the individuals, the community and the church that He wants us to be; and let us keep our minds, our thoughts and prayers fixed on the lonely road, the Way of the Cross, the cruel path our Saviour treads for us and for the redemption of the world, ever mindful, that through Christ, comes redemption and hope and light and healing.