Collect and Readings for The Sunday next before Easter or Palm Sunday – Liturgy of the Palms: Luke 19.28-40, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, and the Liturgy of the Passion Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm31:9-18, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 22:14 – end of 23The Prayer for today 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 your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
It is no accident that the Isaiah reading, the Psalm, and the passage from Philippians prepare us to hear the Gospel narrative of the Passion with our hearts as well as our ears. They have been chosen to work on our understanding and bring us to the point where we sense deep truths and echoes of hope, right in the centre of the gruelling and disturbing events of the Crucifixion. And even before these readings we will have joined with the crowds in waving our palm branches and celebrating Jesus' entry into the city. It is a day of mood changes and can feel quite emotionally draining.
The Isaiah passage introduces us to the concept of the Saviour being a vulnerable, suffering servant, obedient to God's will, and utterly faithful to his calling, in spite of the rejection he receives and the way his mission is misinterpreted. Then the Psalm expresses firm trust in God's loving goodness which continues for ever. This is not a shallow feel-good factor, but a steady pulse of assurance which works in our bewildering and distressing times, as well as the times of relief and light-hearted happiness.
The letter to the Philippians focuses our attention on the amazing generous nature of Christ's humility. With the Isaiah passage fresh in our minds, we realise that Jesus is taking on that suffering obedience of the loyal servant which is bound to bring with it rejection and worldly failure and misunderstanding.
So, when we come to the story of the Passion in today's Gospel, all echoes from Isaiah, the Psalm and Philippians are there, enabling us to grasp something of the cosmic proportions of what we are witnessing; something of the extraordinary love and provision, gracious humility and total faithfulness of our God.
How did reading the story of the Passion make you feel?
Was there any way the suffering and death of Jesus could have been avoided?
From reading the account of the Passion, what do you think we learn about the nature of God?
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev'd Fiona Robinson