5th April 2020

Dear Friends, I have written and re-written a reflection this week but nothing I have been happy to share.  I came across the following within the Roots material which sums up what I have been thinking and so share it with you now.  As we enter Holy Week, be sure that each one of you is in my thoughts and prayers.  For those who wish, I have a resource available to guide you in your reflections as the week goes on.  Please send me a private message with your email address and I will send it over to you. In the meantime, please stay safe and strong in faith.  Aileen

 

Reflection
The story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem features a community on the move and a city in turmoil. As we look around us, we see not just a city but a whole world in turmoil (and a community stuck at home!).

After their long journey from Galilee, Jesus and his disciples finally reach Jerusalem. They must have been fearful. For, however enthusiastic the reception was as they approached the city gates, this was the place where both secular (Roman) and religious (Jewish) authorities had their headquarters. Not everyone is a fan of the film, but Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ does seek to show, in horrible detail, the brutality of the Roman occupation as well as the deep unease of the religious leaders of that time and place.

In our time and place, most commercial flights cancelled, many people are still seeking to make difficult journeys home from far flung places; and others have cancelled holidays or long weekend breaks. Indeed, travelling of any kind is now denied for most of us (except for local exercise and ‘essential’ journeys).  Also denied to us are the enthusiastic welcomes from families and friends we expected to see over Easter.

In these circumstances, it is hard to imagine the enthusiastic welcome which Jesus received. But did the claps and cheers for NHS workers on the evening of 22 March perhaps reflect something similar? Do the many skilled people returning to jobs in the NHS give us another image of similar enthusiasm? And can we all take a moment to remember and thank the many who are keeping essential services running in these challenging times? Among them are those who work in food shops, those who deliver the mail, those who keep the electricity flowing and the broadband functioning, those who collect our rubbish, who drive the trains and buses so that essential workers can get to work. Then there are those keeping the children of key workers safe in nurseries and schools, and those working with the older and vulnerable in care homes. And more…

Not long after Jesus and his friends entered the city, came the fateful week – leading to that last meal together on Thursday, Jesus’ arrest, his trial and the horribly brutal punishment of crucifixion. The disciples were fearful. Most of whom were nowhere to be seen as the final events unfolded. Yet among that fear, someone lent them a room for the Last Supper. And it was during that week (according to Matthew 22.34-40) that Jesus gave the teaching on the greatest commandments, which together with the ‘new commandment’ (John 13.34), has so influenced the development of our faith. And, just before he begins the story of the Passion, Matthew reports Jesus as telling the story of the sheep and the goats (25.31-46),  including the words: ‘as you did to one of the least of these…you did it to me’ – another image and message which many of us hold dear, and which seems so resonant as we are each challenged in the present circumstances to love our neighbours in new ways by staying apart from them.

Whether you are using this reflection alone or with your household, consider how you might mark this most solemn week in the church’s calendar in these most extraordinary times. Perhaps you have a garden where you might cut or gather branches, and display them for others to see – have a look at these ideas – to mark the day when people ‘cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road’ (Matthew 21.8).

Whether we receive a palm cross today or not, and however we are forced to spend Holy Week this year, we can all spend some time this week reflecting on Jesus’ Passion, on the Cross, and on its significance for us.

Prayer

Pray for those who are ‘key workers’, noting that many of them earn little more than the minimum wage.

Use a cross, and if you have one a candle or nightlight, as a focus for prayer. Read Psalm 22, the psalm from which Jesus quoted on the cross. Then pray:

Holy God, as we enter this most solemn week in the Christian year,
in these extraordinary times,
help us to lament with the psalmist.
As we are restricted in what we can do
and must worship in households rather than in church buildings,
help us to remember that the church is not closed –
for church is people not buildings.
We pray for all with whom we normally worship Sunday by Sunday…
God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Holy God, we pray for those in authority as they grapple with the unexpected.
Guide those who are giving the world’s leaders knowledge and expertise in these times.
Give wisdom and courage to all in leadership,
and when this is all over may humankind emerge strengthened.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Holy God, as we hear and see the news
and exchange thoughts on social media,
help us to remember all those less fortunate than ourselves, among them:
those who are lonely,
those who are angry,
those who are distressed,
those who are at their wits end,
those who are struggling to get home,
those who cannot get the help they need…
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Holy God, we remember all those who are working to keep things going:
those working in the NHS and those around it helping to keep things working,
those keeping our streets clean and collecting our rubbish,
those harvesting, delivering and selling the food in our shops,
those keeping us secure and our utilities functioning,
those looking after the children of key workers,
those helping to care for the elderly and vulnerable,
clergy of all religions seeking to minister in difficult times…
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Holy God, we remember those who have died,
whether from Covid-19 or from other causes.
We pray for their families and friends
especially as they arrange funerals so different from what they expected.
We pray that they and we may come at the last to find peace in your presence.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

 

Dudley Coates is a Local Preacher in the Yeovil and Blackmore Vale Methodist Circuit and a former Vice President of the Methodist Conference.