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The elders of the church met on the 8th February and agreed to the continued closure of the church up to and including Sunday 14th March. The elders meet again on the 8th March and will review the situation and we will let you all know of the outcome, especially with regards to Easter.
We are meeting on a Sunday morning for online services via 'Zoom' with our friends from St.Georges and Crosby URC. You are most welcome to join us online or by the telephone as zoom can be accessed both ways. We have produced a guide to getting on zoom and if you need further help simply drop us line. The information for the services is published in the weekly notices or again just drop us a line for the details.
Zoom is helping us through these uncertain times and we have included a Lent Bible Study on a Wednesday morning (10:30am) or a Thursday afternoon (2pm). Again if you would like to join the Bible Study just drop us a line and we will be delighted to let you have the details.
Finally realising how some people in our church family and communities are struggling not having contact with their friends we are introducing a new Coffee, Chat and Craft morning on Zoom this takes place on the 2nd Tuesday of the month and starts at 10:30am. You can pop in and out or stay for the duration of the meeting again if you need the details just drop us a line.
I will continue to hold you in prayer. If you need help during this time please contact myself or an Elder and we will try our best to support you. My contact details are below. We will keep you informed via the weekly notice sheet.
Take care, stay safe and God bless.
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.
Mark was the first to write his Gospel and like many of the stories he tells, he records Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in a straight forward manner. His whole account of Jesus life has been fast moving and as a result the tension and expectation of what to expect when Jesus and the disciples arrive in Jerusalem has been building up. On the way there has been miraculous healings, controversy, challenges, movement and forewarnings about Jesus’ imminent death. But beneath the straightforward words, Mark hints at something more, and we need to dig deeper into the text to avoid reading this simply as a nice story when Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem. So, let’s take a closer look.
When we read beyond the verses in today’s text we find out that it was the time of the Passover and the city was very busy with people on pilgrimage to the Temple. The Passover was the festival that marked the liberation of the Children of Israel from the oppression of the Egyptians. Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem at this time would have heighten the expectation of the crowds. If Jesus was the Messiah, then what better time to liberate the Jewish people from their current oppression by the Romans.
Chapter 9 is seen as the turning point of Mark’s Gospel and since then Jesus has been on his way to Jerusalem. Already there have been clashes with the Scribes and Pharisees and now Jesus was entering into Jerusalem. This was where the Temple was located, it was the place of pilgrimage, it was considered a place at the centre of Jewish faith. This was the place where the living God had chosen to place his name and his presence. This was the place where, through the regular daily sacrifices, God assured Israel of forgiveness. This was the place where the people could encounter God’s very self and was a place of hope. Jesus’ ministry had challenged the way the law was interpreted and practiced so coming to Jerusalem during the Passover would have been interpreted as a direct challenge by the to religious authority.
But there is more. During the Passover, the Roman Governor, who would normally resided in Caesarea, would also be in Jerusalem. Responsible for crowd control, experience had taught the Governor that huge gatherings of people gave some the opportunity to vent their frustration against the Roman occupation. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem would have also been seen as a challenge of political authority.
The majority of our reading is taken up with information about the colt and we have to wonder why Mark took time to tell us this. The details suggest that Jesus entry into Jerusalem was not a spur of the moment decision, but an event that Jesus had thought through carefully and had taken time to put meticulous plans into place. This part of the story is significant for two reasons.
The first is its link to the Old Testament and the prophecy of Zechariah. Mark does not mention this prophecy directly, but the messianic text would have been well known to both the people present and the first readers of the Gospel. The prophecy was addressed to “O daughter Jerusalem” and talked about “your king” arriving triumphantly but humbly “riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey”. Jesus seized the opportunity to enact a prophetic parable, clearly rooted in Zechariah’s promise and proclaiming true kingship. A kingship that was humble, non-violent and non-coercive.
This leads us to the second point about the significance of the colt. Some have seen the fact that the colt had never been ridden as a commentary of Jesus’ unprecedented purity as its rider. But it is probably more a reference to the fact that an unridden colt would be unable to lead the charge in battle so the entry into Jerusalem is not one of military might, contrary to the messianic expectation of the people.
As Jesus entered the city, many people gathered along the roadside to cheer and their actions tells that this was more than just a warm welcome. There are echoes of Psalm 118 in the words that they spoke, a psalm that was sung as the faithful entered the temple. The shouts of Hosanna, were a call to ‘save us’. “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David”, words laden with hope and expectation because the crowd knew David’s great kingdom was built on bloodshed and military might. Placing your coat on the ground as the crowd did was a recognised way of welcoming a king and a sign of allegiance. The words and the actions made this a highly charged scene as they greeted the person they hoped was the Messiah, come to free them. Their expectations remained high despite Jesus’ warnings that he would die in Jerusalem, despite the fact that this new king, entered humbly on a colt, and the only blood that would be shed would be his own.
Jesus entry into Jerusalem, at this time and in this way had awakened a longing in the people for the promised reign of God. That longing generated an electricity that coursed through the city when Jesus was riding in. There was hope, a deep and abiding hope that the prophetic promises would be fulfilled and the kingdom would be restored. But the expectation of the people and the ministry of Jesus were misaligned. Jesus fulfilled the prophetic promises and brought hope but not through military power. Jesus brought hope by bringing the people back to God and by renewing their relationship with their creator and it was this that would change the world.
As we read once again the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, I wonder what your expectations are for Jesus and are they aligned to what Jesus called his disciples to do?
This is a serious question, for us as individuals to ask ourselves and it is a serious question for the church to ask itself. Hopefully, there will be a time this year when we can get back to some resemblance of normal, a time when we can catch up with one another over a cuppa, where we can gather in worship and sing hymns of praise to our God and a time when our buildings will be once again a place of welcome to different groups. I long for those days and I am sure I am not alone, but this passage challenges us to stop and think and consider whether we want to or even should go back to doing what we did before.
This is the time for us to ask, what is God calling us to do in our communities to build for the kingdom? We as people have changed over the last year, the needs of our communities will have changed over the last year and maybe God has something else planned for us as communities of faith. This is our chance to pray, to listen, to reflect and consider that what we do moving forward may not be what we did before.
The crowds in Jerusalem have their own ideas but in reality, they missed the signs that showed them what Jesus mission was really about. Jesus taught the people to think about God and practice their faith in a different way, Jesus showed them by example what it meant to love God and their neighbour, Jesus spoke about his death and his resurrection, Jesus came into the city on a colt and not a war horse. The signs were there but the people stuck to their false ideals and hopes. The crowds were looking for Jesus to make a difference and failed to see that he was making a difference, just not the way they expected.
I can see myself reflected in the crowd and I wonder if you can too. I can think of times when I have wanted Jesus to make a difference in a situation and have failed to recognise that I am Jesus’ hands and feet in the world today. I can see times when I have lamented over the decline of the church in Britain but have missed opportunities to share my faith with others or invite them to come to church with me. I can see the times when I have prayed for change but have been unwilling to change myself. Can you think of times when your expectations of Jesus are more aligned with the crowds than with Jesus teaching and actions?
Jesus’ ministry was about freeing the people from oppression but spiritual oppression. Jesus ministry was about bringing about change, a change to the way people related to God. Jesus ministry was about justice, justice for the poor and the weak, the people who had no voice. Jesus ride into Jerusalem was a challenge to those who held political power, it was a challenge to those who held religious power, it was a challenge to the people who stood in the crowd and supported him.
Jesus ministry today is no different. We are his disciples, and we are called to act out his ministry today. I ask you again - if this is what Jesus ministry is about are our hopes and expectations aligned to Jesus? Is our work as the church aligned to Jesus?
I pray that as we think about this question that we will respond to Jesus not only with words that ask Jesus to save us, but words that ask Jesus to guide us, word that ask Jesus to encourage and challenge us, words that ask Jesus to align our hopes and expectations with his that we may be effective in bringing about God’s kingdom in our world today.
• What Jesus might be calling the church to be or do as we think about life after lockdown?
• Pray for those who have struggled over the last year – physically, mentally and spiritually.
• Give thanks for the life of the congregation, for all the ways in which we make a difference to our local communities.
• Pray that God will show us new or renewed ways of being the disciples of Jesus today.
Red, yellow, tan, copper, light green, beige, Different trees, different colours, Some branches bare, some still laden with leaves, Lord, the changes in the trees remind me of the changes in me, I am not the same now as I was this time last year, I am not the same in the morning as I am in the evening, At times I want nothing more than to come into your presence and worship you, At other times I go on my way without a thought for you.
Lord, as the trees become bare and the leaves flutter to the ground I know that this is temporary and new life will follow after a period of rest, Lord, this reminds me that there are parts of my life that need to die so you can become a greater part of me.
Lord, the evergreen trees remind me of your faithfulness Faithfulness through the different seasons of my life Lord, I thank you that you are evergreen.
Lord I thank you for Autumn and the lessons that it teaches. Lord I thank you for the colour change and the promise of new life that it brings But I thank you most of all for the evergreen……