Sunday March 28th 2021
A warm welcome to everyone to our Palm Sunday service. Wherever you are worshipping from – at home or back in a church building after many months away, you are welcome.
Hymn 364 All glory, laud and honour
Prayer of Approach
Living God, as we step into Holy Week,
open our hearts and minds.
May this coming week be holy for us.
May we live this time expecting that in some way You will meet us.
In whatever way we live this week,
give us the times and spaces to ponder again,
that You know and understand suffering
and You offer to meet us and hear again – our struggles over this past year and old pains that have not healed for us.
Inner struggles that never quite seem to go away.
May this week help us to name and offer to You our wounds.
Help us to ask and tune in to Your wisdom and response to us.
Loving God, we may not have the words for our prayers.
We may not understand ourselves as much as we would like, but we step into this week trusting in the tradition of which we are part –
that by pondering Your walk towards the cross,
by focusing on Jesus’ last journey;
Somehow You will speak to us on our journey.
You will honour our effort and intention
and draw us closer to You.
So, in the quietness of our hearts now – we speak to You of our intentions for this Holy Week…..
And hear us as we further pray together, saying….
Anthem: God so loved the world (Stainer)
Reading: Mark 11:1-11
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,
“Hosanna! 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.
Hymn: 367 Hosanna, loud hosanna
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
A couple of weeks ago David and I were out walking Lolly along the edge of a field when we suddenly began to hear plaintive noises in the sky above us. We looked up and soon spied a single lone goose flying round and round in ever-expanding circles and honking ceaselessly in a very upset and distressed way.
I was rather surprised at this because usually one sees large numbers of geese in impressive flocks darkening the sky overhead or resting in fields or by the shores of a lake, seeming to be the very models of community spirit and togetherness. That aspect of their behaviour is striking in a number of different ways.
For example, when geese fly, you will have noticed that they fly in a V shaped formation. This is not accidental. In fact, an article in Wikipedia tells me that this is a perfect example of something called “vortex surfing” and it goes on to say: “Studies show that birds in a V formation place themselves roughly at the optimum distance predicted by simple aerodynamic theory.” In other words, it’s easier to fly that way and the birds know it. As each bird flies along, the air currents it creates help to give lift to the bird behind it. So each goose, except for the lead bird, uses less effort and can fly further. Working together means they can accomplish much more and the geese obviously know that.
And they cooperate with each other, so if the lead goose gets tired, since it is doing more work than all the others, it drops back and another bird takes its place. The flock deliberately shares the load, and no one has to do all the hard work all the time.
In addition, if one goose gets injured, or is ill and has to drop out, two other geese leave the formation and go down to stay with it until it recovers and is able to fly again. So they support the sick in the community.
Finally, if you have ever seen geese fly in formation, you will have heard a great deal of honking. You might think that this is rather a waste of energy, but scientists think it actually serves a very important function. The honking comes mainly from the birds at the back, and it seems that the purpose is to let the lead birds know that the rest of the flock are still following on and to encourage the leaders with the knowledge that their efforts are succeeding. The geese seem to know instinctively that everybody needs encouragement.
So geese have a lot to teach us about living and working together, and it is no wonder that the poor lone goose that David and I saw circling above us was distressed: it must have been well aware of how much more difficult things would be if it had to fly on its own for the rest of its life.
As we watched it we couldn’t help wondering if its honks were saying “You’ve left me behind! Please come back and look for me.”
At one point the lonesome goose saw a curlew and thought maybe it had found a friend. It tried to catch up with the curlew, but the curlew didn’t want to know and was able to fly faster, being a lighter bird. The poor goose went back to flying circles over the field, honking disconsolately.
It was quite sad really, seeing how distressed the poor creature was. And then suddenly 2 more geese appeared. The lonesome goose got very excited and honked eagerly, flapping furiously as it tried to catch up with the two other geese. They soon let it join them and the next thing we saw was the three geese flying in a little V formation and making their way together to the nearest stretch of water. Harmony in the natural order had been restored. What a relief!
As I thought later about this little drama and particularly about how upset the lonesome goose was to be abandoned by all its friends, it made me think about the events of that first Palm Sunday, long ago. On Palm Sunday, we remember the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We think about the crowds cheering him and laying Palm branches before him. We think about the disciples who had played an important part in this great occasion, going to get the colt for Jesus to sit on. On Palm Sunday, Jesus was surrounded by friends. Everyone wanted to know him.
Then we fast forward a few days to Good Friday. What a difference. Here we see the crowd baying for Jesus’ blood. Even his closest friends abandon him. Judas betrays him. Peter denies ever knowing him. And as he hangs dying on the cross, Jesus feels that even his Father in heaven has abandoned him as he cries out “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”
Abandonment. Betrayal. Loneliness. Realising that he was alone must have brought intense psychological suffering for Jesus, who after all, was the supreme figure in all of history who devoted his life entirely to others and tried to teach the world how people should care for each other.
His sense of complete isolation must have been compounded by the knowledge that this was, in part at least, the result of deliberate choices by other people to abandon him. But even if that had not been so, the sense of isolation and loneliness would have been just as acute, because human beings need each other at least as much as that solitary goose needed its companions.
This past year has brought that home to us, and the loneliness of Jesus on the Cross comes as the most extreme expression of what many have experienced to a lesser degree during this pandemic. So many people have struggled with feelings of loneliness. It has been hard, if not impossible, to see your friends and your family. Supporting one another has been difficult because it has always had to be done at a distance. Talking on the telephone, or seeing people on a computer screen is just not the same as being able to meet in real life, and touch and hug.
So the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week have a particular poignancy this year when we ourselves feel so much more acutely what it means to be alone. In a year when we have been largely separated from one another, we can perhaps understand a little better the sense of separation that Jesus felt, even from his Father in heaven.
And that may serve to bring home to us just how great the sacrifice was that Jesus accepted for the sake of bringing salvation to humanity. The loneliness of his sacrifice on Good Friday laid the basis for the great community of Christians that was brought into being by Easter. From his solitary sacrifice grew the possibility for the reconciliation of human beings with God and with each other.
So the suffering of Good Friday was not the end of the story. Relationships were rebuilt, life was given new meaning, hope was restored.
And in these distressing and depressing days, that outcome should offer us the vision of better things, not only for a future without the restrictions of the plague but also a future in which our human capacity for fellowship and community plays an even greater rôle in all our lives.
Hymn 536 May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession (by Gwen)
Lord Jesus Christ,
We come together this day, thanking you for Palm Sunday, for coming to all your people; coming openly, humbly, prepared to face everyone, unafraid yet knowing where the road ahead was leading.
The people welcomed you, they cheered you, they hailed you their conquering hero. They carpeted the road with their cloaks and tree branches and waved palm fronds to welcome you; yet they didn’t understand. At the time no-one did. They thought you had come to overthrow the Roman oppression but as God’s Son you came to take on the sins of the whole world; to die for our sins and set us free. You entered Jerusalem in quiet humility, taking on the form of a servant, prepared to even die on a cross to pay the ransom for our sins.
Somehow saying “Thank you” seems too small for what you did for us, for a debt we cannot repay.
Come afresh to our troubled world, with all its needs, its tensions, its problems and its evil. Come again now and establish your kingdom.
Bring healing where there is division, love where there is hatred, and hope where there is despair. We have hope Lord, with the numbers being given the first vaccination against Covid, but now governments are arguing over who is and who isn’t allowed the injection, playing politics with people’s lives. Come again now, bring peace and sense to the argument, and establish your Kingdom.
Bring joy where there is sorrow, confidence where there is fear, strength where there is weakness, healing where there is sickness and life where there is death. We pray for all those who have lost loved ones, for those who are sick and in particular we pray for those who lie heavily on our minds this day in whatever their circumstances whom we name before you in the silence….
We pray for those who are finding life difficult due to our world changing with the pandemic, and we thank you for the safety nets we have in our country and for those people who put themselves at the forefront of the networks in order to help those who are in need.
We pray especially for those who have lost income and for those around the world struggling to feed their families where there is no safety net or food bank or furloughing. We pray too for the refugee whether through economic reasons or from the wars raging in their homeland. We pray for all those in trouble and especially for those whose lives are less than they should be.
Lord Jesus Christ, reach out to your Church and world, despite the weakness of our faith, and the rejection of so many. Teach us that we all need to pull together to help each other; make us kinder to one another, showing the love and compassion you showed. May your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Come again now and establish your kingdom, for in your name we pray,
Hymn 365 Ride on, ride on in majesty
Go into Holy Week,
Walking in the footsteps of Christ
May facing hard things allow transformation of your being
That Easter light might be born in you
And may the blessing of the God of light,
Creator, Guide and Inspirer, rest and remain with you,
Now and forevermore, Amen
Closing voluntary: Beethoven’s Ode to Joy
Church buildings reopened
A reminder that our church buildings reopen for worship today, March 28th, with a service at Gatehouse at 10am, Twynholm at 11:30am, Kirkpatrick Durham at 9:30am and Parton at 11am. However, worship is still under the same restrictions as it was before the current lockdown, with social distancing so numbers are limited, no singing allowed, hand sanitisers at entry and exit points, and face coverings must be worn.
Reflections will continue to be provided for all 4 congregations so that those of you who are unable to return to worship in a church building at present will still be able to worship at home.
Holy Week services
As we won’t be having any Holy Week services this year, the Moderator of the General Assembly, Rt Rev Martin Fair will be providing worship all through Holy Week at 8am in the morning. (They can be watched later in the day for those for whom 8am doesn’t exist!) Each episode features a short reflection presented by the Moderator of the General Assembly, together with the appropriate daily reading from John’s Gospel, a prayer and a piece of contemplative music. Colleagues from across the Church have contributed to these various elements.
These can be viewed on the Church of Scotland webpage and other Church of Scotland channels. For those without internet access, you can call 03333 409 200 and listen to each day’s reflection from 8am. Local call charges apply.
Easter Cross: Members at Twynholm are reminded to bring a flower for the Easter Cross, next Sunday, April 5th. We will decorate the cross during worship and then move it outside so that those of you who don’t feel able to return to worship yet can put a flower in the cross later on in the day.
Gatehouse and Borgue intimation
Retiring offering in memory of Dr Stewart Hunter
The retiring offering for the church in memory of Dr Stewart Hunter made an excellent total of £740. Thank you very much indeed to everyone who contributed.