Worshipping Together –Apart for Palm Sunday 2021
Here we are again – my turn to put something on the website (or rather to give Stilman something to put on it) that we can use to worship ‘together but apart’ this Palm Sunday. However, as I prepare this, I am hopeful that, unless Mr Johnson’s ‘Roadmap’ has to be changed, we will be able to meet, still masked and distanced of course, in our churches to celebrate Easter next Sunday. Keep your eyes on this website and the church noticeboards.
Today’s service is an Iona Communion Service which is very easy and appropriate for us all to use in our own homes, another ‘kitchen table Eucharist’ and as usual I’ve inserted two ’Passion Gospel’ Bible readings and some thoughts on them. Think of us as you celebrate and be sure we will be thinking of all of you.
With every blessing
Keep keeping separate, keep keeping safe
but remember you are never separated from the love of God or from the prayers of us all
A Service to say at home (adapted from the worship of the Iona Community)
Creator of the cosmos,
Of eternity and time:
Be with us in this time.
Saviour of the world,
Healer of the nations:
Be with us in this place.
Breath of all that lives,
Of people near and far:
Stir within our lives.
Creator, Son, Spirit
God of here and now:
Be present in our worship
That we may find new ways
Of being present in your world.
(Hymn/Song – Sing something you enjoy!!)
Part of the Passion Gospels
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosannain the highest heaven!”
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.
They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
Thoughts on the Readings
We are certainly on a strange journey today, one minute triumphantly shouting hosanna, waving our palms and throwing our coats into the road in a carnival atmosphere, the next seeing the face of the ‘triumphant king’ and wondering at the sadness there, wondering at the strange humility.
Finally we are faced with the realisation that this man is God. God totally emptied, totally humbled, totally human and afraid, for among the cheering masses he also saw the hatred. He knew as no one else did the inevitable outcome of his very public arrival at the Passover feast.
In recent times, not surprisingly, I have become aware again of a need, a message that needs to be given, a comfort that is cried out for, a continuing fear that needs to be addressed, and it is through this crucial and central story of Christianity that we can all, in the end, find comfort.
So many people, Church people, good people, faithful people seem to be living in fear and not just because of our current Health Crisis. They are God fearing but their fear is about ‘not being good enough for God’, and in particular, ‘not being good enough for heaven’. They are fearful in life but even more fearful when facing the inevitability of death.
It was summed up for me one day in a way that I’ve recounted many times because it made such an impression on me. I was on chaplaincy duty in Tewkesbury Abbey, years ago during my training days, when a woman of mature years said to me fearfully,
“I’m not as young as I used to be – I need to start earning some Brownie points with God.”
The discussion that followed, as we talked about the grace of God, the grace – the free gift – of God’s forgiveness, caused an immediate change in her. The message that God has paid the price of her sin, all of our sins, reducing her to tears of both joy and amazement.
Today’s readings, parts of ‘The Passion Gospel’, though they are a hard and often painful read, tell the story of God’s sacrifice through his Son and it is this which brings us the reassurance that, when the time comes, and it may not be for a long time, we may enter heaven, not through our merits but through his mercy and love.
So, as Christ paid the price by obedience to God, the consequence for us here and now is that we must live our lives in thankfulness and amazement at his generous work in dying to save us, and as our own sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving live lives of obedience to him as far as is possible for us, dependent continually on his all saving sacrifice and forgiveness when we fall short.
We pray to the Lord for courage as we continue to walk, together but apart, along the road of life.
In this difficult time, give your Church the courage to give up her preoccupation with herself and to give time to your mission in the world. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.
May the blood and water flowing from the side of Jesus bring forgiveness to your people and help us to face the cost of proclaiming salvation as we work together and apart in your damaged world. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.
Give your world the courage to give up war, bitterness and hatred, and to seek peace and healing for each other. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.
May the shoulders of the risen Jesus, once scourged by soldiers, bear the burden of our times. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.
Give us the courage to give up quarrels, strife and jealousy in our families, neighbourhoods and communities. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.
May the presence of the risen Jesus, his body once broken and now made whole, bring peace and direction as we live with one another. Give us the courage to give up our selfishness as we live for others, and to give time, care and comfort to the sick and those who care for them in ways that are safe for them and for us. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.
May the wounded hands of Jesus bring his healing touch to all who suffer, and the light of his presence fill their hearts and homes. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.
Give us the courage to give up our fear of death and to rejoice with those who have died in faith. May the feet of the risen Lord Jesus, once nailed to the cross, walk alongside the dying and bereaved in their agony, and walk with us and all your Church through death to the gate of glory. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer, here and in eternity.
We pray with confidence as our Saviour has 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 who 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.
A Home Communion
(use some bread or a plain biscuit, some wine or juice)
What we do here in our own homes today, we do in imitation of what Christ first did.
To his followers in every age, Jesus gave an example and command rooted in the experience he shared with his disciples in an upstairs room in Jerusalem.
So now we do as Jesus did.
We take this food and drink, the produce of the earth and fruit of human labour.
In these, Jesus has promised to be present, through these, Christ can make us whole.
The Lord is with us,
And with all those with whom we worship, together but apart.
We lift our hearts together.
We lift them to the Lord.
We give thanks together to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is indeed right, for you made us,
and before us, you made the world we inhabit,
and before the world, you made the eternal home
in which, through Christ, we have a place.
And so we gladly join our voices to the song of the Church,
to those from whom we are separated
on earth and in heaven:
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
lest we believe that our praise alone fulfils your purpose,
we fall silent and remember him who came because words were not enough.
Setting our wisdom, our will, our words aside,
emptying our hearts and bringing nothing in our hands,
we yearn for the healing, the holding, the accepting, the forgiving
which Christ alone can offer.
(we pause quietly for a moment)
Merciful God, send now, in your kindness
your Holy Spirit on this food and drink
and fill them with the fullness of Jesus.
And let that same Spirit rest on us,
converting us from the patterns of this passing world,
until we conform to the shape of him whose food we share.
Sharing God’s Gifts
Among friends, gathered round a table,
Jesus took bread and broke it, and said,
‘This is my body, broken for you.’
Later he took a cup of wine and said,
‘This is the new relationship with God
made possible because of my death.
Take it, all of you, to remember me.’
He whom the universe could not contain is present to us in this food.
He who redeemed us and called us by name now meets us in this cup.
So we take this food and drink.
In them God comes to us so that we may come to God.
(Eat, drink, share the food and drink you have prepared and prayed over)
(We bring to mind all those with whom we would usually share this moment, holding them on our hearts.)
Christ who has nourished us is our peace,
strangers and friends, male and female, old and young, near and far away,
Jesus has broken down the barriers to bind us to him and to each other.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
In gratitude, in deep gratitude for this moment, this meal, these people,
we give ourselves to you.
Take us out to live as changed people
because we have shared the living Bread and cannot remain the same.
Ask much of us, expect much of us, enable much by us,
encourage many through us.
So, Lord, may we live to your glory,
both as inhabitants of earth and citizens of the commonwealth of heaven,
knowing that we do so with your blessing
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
this day and for ever more.