Monday, 19 March 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 25 March 2018,
Palm Sunday

The entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday … an icon by Theodoros Papadopoulos of Larissa, who is leading a workshop in Knock, Co Mayo, later this year on 8 to 13 October 2018

Patrick Comerford


There is a complicated set of readings in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for next Sunday, Palm Sunday, 25 March 2018.

For the Principal Service, the provided readings for the Liturgy of the Palms are: Mark 11: 1-11 or John 12: 12-16; and Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29. And for the Liturgy of the Passion, the readings are: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 31: 9-16; Philippians 2: 5-11; and Mark 14: 1 to 15: 47, or Mark 15: 1-39 (40-47).

As many of us, due to tradition, probably going to mark next Sunday with the Liturgy of the Palms, these notes look at the two Gospel readings for the Liturgy of the Palms, which continue the readings from Saint Mark for Year B, which we have been following this year and the readings from Saint John we have been following this Lent. There is a separate note at the end of these notes about the Feast of the Annunciation, its celebration this year, and how it is transferred in the Calendar of the Church of Ireland.

Mark 11: 1-11 (NRSV):

1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately”.’ 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

John 12: 12-16 (NRSV):

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!’
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15 ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!’

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

The Entry Into Jerusalem ascribed to Fra Angelico (1387-1455) in Saint Mark’s, Florence

Reflecting on the readings:

I suppose that, like me, many of you wake up each morning to talk radio, and to the early morning warnings about traffic hold-ups and traffic delays.

Many of our parishioners, I am sure, find themselves wondering are these delays going to get in their way, going to delay them, are they going to get stuck, to be late.

We live in a time when time is precious, when time is money.

And so, when we hear traffic warnings in our own area, we think of ourselves but seldom think of the problems they create for those at the heart of them:

A mother trying to get her children to school and late for the job she is desperately clinging onto. Maybe her car has had a brush with someone else’s, she has to wait for the gardai; now she is worried about her children, her job, and someone is behind, hooting.

The bus driver who has a full load of passengers, each of whom complains in a nasty way because the bus has broken down. But who thanks him when he is on time, or when he squeezes in a few more people, even if it means breaking the rules.

A young business man, trying to clinch that export contract. That traffic warning leaves him fretful, worried that he is not going to get from here to the airport on time. He is going to miss his flight and lose that contract.

An elderly man with a heart complaint, stuck on his way to hospital. He is worried he is going to miss his appointment, and worried his worries are now compounding his heart problems.

But, by now, I am stuck behind one or more of them. I am wondering why they are not moving.

Did the lights not change to green 10 minutes ago?

Why am I stuck here?

Do they not know I am late?

Do they not care?

We have all been there, stuck in that traffic jam, stuck in that car.

We all know how selfish we can become, how self-centred, how self-focussed we can be. My priorities come Number 1, and everyone else should know that.

If Christ was to enter the city this morning, I could imagine he would create the same problems.

Just imagine it. Telling two of the disciples to go down the road, say to Mungret, where they can find a fairly new car, a 2015 car, waiting for them.

The owner is delighted to hand it over. He has the highest regard for Jesus, they went to school together, worked on great projects together. He even thinks this Jesus is special.

And so the disciples happily fit out the car, and off they head with Jesus into Limerick.

As they continue along the Dock Road, the crowds are gathering. This is a big show. They follow him in a convoy, whooping and hooping. By the time they arrive at the hospital, AA Roadwatch is already warning people that bottle necks are building up on every road into the city centre.

Well, that only helps to bring out more people to see the show. Some people come out to see who is this crazed preacher who has arrived from west Limerick or north Kerry?
They wonder:

Did anything good ever come from Tralee?

Why can they not just move on, and let us get on with the busy demands of daily life?

Can they not see I am trying to get to see my mother in a nursing home?

Do they not know a big match is on in Thomond Park today?

Do they not know we are still recovering from celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day – why do they bring religion into everything?

Others want to give Jesus the red-carpet treatment, today’s equivalent of cutting down branches and spreading them out before him.

If you can imagine a scene like that today in contemporary Limerick, then your imagination allows you to know also why the Gospel writer tells us that on that first Palm Sunday in Biblical Jerusalem, ‘the whole city was in turmoil.’

That chaos, that turmoil in Jerusalem, in the days immediately before Christ’s death, echoes the chaos in the city in the days immediately after Christ’s birth.

The last time there was such a fuss in Jerusalem in the life of Christ was just after Christmas. Saint Matthew records that Herod became seethingly jealous and outraged at what the Wise Men said when they called to visit him. He tells us: ‘When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him’ (Matthew 2: 3).

So, in the first Gospel there is a link between the birth of Christ and the death of Christ, between the arrival of the three kings in Jerusalem after Christmas and the arrival of Christ as king in Jerusalem before Easter.

That link between birth and death, between Christmas Day and Good Friday, between Epiphany and Easter, is captured succinctly by TS Eliot in his poem, Journey of the Magi:

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

With Palm Sunday, we enter into the last week with Christ in the days before his Crucifixion. In Saint Mark’s account, Christ arrives in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to great solemnity.

Saint Mark’s description of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem sounds the note of majesty and kingship before the Passion narrative begins. But the Gospel writer gives us hints too that we should be also looking forward to Christ’s second coming.

Palm Sunday begins on the Mount of Olives (verse 1) but it points to Mount Calvary. Yet it also points to the second coming of Christ (see verses 9-11), for the Messiah was expected to arrive on the Mount of Olives, and to sweep down through the Kidron Valley and up into the city, taking with him in his royal procession the living and those who were raised from the dead.

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is the entry of the king into his capital. And the crowd acclaims him as king when they say: ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’ This phrase from the Psalms was used as a title for the Messianic king (Psalm 118: 26).

Many in the crowd expected a new liberating king. But did anybody on that first Palm Sunday really realise who Jesus truly is?

Their expectations of him are high, but deep down their attitude towards Christ is unchanged. For most of them, he may still be a prophet in their eyes, but that is less than he actually is. He may be a king, but they want a king who will deliver what they want, not what he has come to give them.

The crowd that welcomes him in is soon to turn him out. He is an outsider coming in, and if he disappoints them, if he fails to give them what they want, rather than what they need, then it is inevitable that they are going to turn on him.

When he fails to meet their expectations, he loses his popularity. When he refuses to accept the expectations they lay on his shoulders, they force him to carry the cross on his shoulders. When their hopes die, he must die.

Christ choses the way he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But he abandons all choice about how he is going to be taken outside the city to die a few days later. And Christ, who receives a lively welcome into the city on Palm Sunday, is taken outside the city and crucified on Good Friday.

● Christ upsets our priorities.
● Christ makes demands on our time.
● Christ makes demands on our commitments.
● Christ challenges us about where we are going.
● And yet, Christ offers no quick fixes.

Christ steps into the comfort zones of the people in the city, and offers no quick fixes for the masses. They change their attitude, and there is a rapid, radical change in the social climate in Jerusalem that first Holy Week.

Things get out of hand, and Christ has no control over what happens. God in Christ has emptied himself of all choice and control.

So often we want to be in control, we want to have the choices. And yet life is not like that. When we find we cannot control the agenda, we get upset, we get frustrated. It happens every morning in traffic.

When we can control the agenda, when we have the choices, so often we act in our own interests, rather than in the interests of others. But, you know, we are never fully human when we are alone. We are never fully human without relationships.

Some years ago, I was taught a lesson when I saw the community in Skerries in north Co Dublin showing its true humanity, its true capacity to love, it showed Christ-like priorities, when the people gave, shared and abandoned their own priorities to search for two missing fishermen who were drowned at sea.

The images that came to the fore from that community throughout that search reminded me constantly of the Good Shepherd and his search for the lost sheep.

I am least like Christ when I put my own selfish interests, my own gain, my own immediate demands, before the needs of others.

When we value relationships, when we consider the needs of others, when we show that community matters and show that relationships lead to love, we become more like Christ.

Palm Sunday teaches us about getting our priorities right. Good Friday shows us how God gets those priorities right.

Good Friday appears to be the end. But it is only the beginning.

As TS Eliot says at the end of East Coker, the second of his Four Quartets:

Home is where one starts from …
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter ...

Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
… In my end is the beginning.

Palm Sunday seemed like a triumphal beginning. Good Friday seemed like a frightening end. But in the end we find the beginning, our hope is in our Easter faith.

Easter gives us the hope that when we get our priorities right, when I turn from me to us, from self to relationship, then I not only become more human, but I become more like Christ-like. And, when we become more Christ-like, we become more like the person God created us to be.

Palm Sunday depicted in a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical colour:

Red (or Violet):

Penitential Kyries (Passiontide and Holy Week):

Lord God,
you sent your Son to reconcile us to yourself and to one another.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
through you we put to death the sins of the body – and live.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Palm Sunday):

Almighty and everlasting God,
who, in your tender love towards the human race,
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
Grant that we may follow the example
of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction to the Peace:

Now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of Christ's blood; for he is our peace (Ephesians 2: 17).


Through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who, for the redemption of the world,
humbled himself to death on the cross;
that, being lifted up from the earth,
he might draw all people to himself:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.


Christ draw you to himself
and grant that you find in his cross a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven:

Suggested Hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Sixth Sunday in Lent (Year B), Palm Sunday, in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

The Gospel (Mark 11: 1-11 or John 12: 12-16):

217, All glory, laud and honour
347, Children of Jerusalem
570, Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning (omit verse 1)
(Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising)
125, Hail to the Lord’s anointed
124, Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes
714, Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might
715, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Lord Almighty
223, Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest
131, Lift up your heads, you mighty gates
431, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour
134, Make way, make way for Christ the King
231, My song is love unknown
238, Ride on, ride on in majesty

Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29:

683, All people that on earth do dwell
326, Blessèd city, heavenly Salem
(Christ is made the sure foundation)
327, Christ is our corner stone
714, Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might
715, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Lord Almighty
334, I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart
678, Ten thousand times ten thousand
78, This is the day that the Lord has made
493, Ye that know the Lord is gracious

Palm Sunday ... an icon of the Triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem

A note on the Feast of the Annunciation:

In the Church Calendar, the Feast of the Annunciation is normally celebrated on 25 March, nine months before Christmas Day. Because 25 March falls on Palm Sunday this year, many may wonder when this feast is celebrated this year. This question may arise in parishes where this feastday is marked by the Mothers Union, or in parishes with a church named Saint Mary’'s.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) advises: ‘When ... the Annunciation of our Lord falls on a Sunday in Lent or in Holy Week [it is] observed on the Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter or at the discretion of the minister on another suitable weekday in the same week’ (page 21). The Church of Ireland Directory 2018, therefore, recommends transferring these celebration this year from 25 March to Monday 9 April.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment