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Monthly Archives: April 2020

Good Morning, and a continuing Happy Easter.

We wake to our Sunday Morning services for Easter 3, and we look forward to seeing you at worship this morning via Zoom, or as you take part in the paper resource we link to.

Today’s worship has been curated by Rev Glyn Jenkins who is one of our Supernumerary Ministers from Christ Church in Ross. He is joined by his wife Sheila, and our URC Synod Evangelist Rev Nick Stanyon, who was due to take the service at Christ Church today.

The service sheet can be found here:-
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxoZXJlZm9yZG1ldGhvZGlzdHN8Z3g6NjkxZWJkNTAyMTUwNDViMA

Our S Club Video can be found here :- https://youtu.be/KTR4ajlfnTY

Access to other resources: – https://www.rootsontheweb.com/lectionary/2020/106-march-april-2020-a/easter-3/familiesathome

Our own circuit information can be found at www.herefordshiremethodists.org.uk/connect

Have a great Sunday.

Keep safe, Keep caring, Keep praying.

Regards

Phil

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I think I can still say Happy Easter to you, and hope you are keeping safe and well.

We find ourselves in week 5 of lock-down, and I am still finding it all a bit strange. Although we seem to be finding new routines and patterns for our weeks. Today being Thursday, I have made my weekly pilgrimage to Bromyard in my Community Transport minibus to disinfect the door handles, flush the toilets, run the taps, and an extra excitement this week of emptying and turning off the fridge. Caroline has been out delivering prescriptions as a local Covid19 volunteer. Tomorrow being Friday, we both do a shift Street Pastoring.

Today. also I have been:-
* Pulling together the parts for Zoom worship as prepared by Rev Glyn Jenkins and Rev Nick Stanyon.
* Sending out DVDs of past services.
* Posting Ledbury newsletters out to all of Ledbury’s members and adherents not on email. (We now have our own franking machine to save money).
* Answering many phone calls (its lovely to hear your voices), and preparing for 3 funerals.

Most days there will be at least one Zoom meeting. Yesterday, I found myself hosting and chairing the Churches Together in Herefordshire Standing Committee. Its most bizarre in the middle of a meeting to have to get up and answer the door for a delivery. This mornings meeting was Ledbury’s Ecumenical Weekly Prayer meeting.

Ledbury Churches Together have launched a TalkLine which I have been instrumental in setting up using VOiP – Voice over IP – thats an internet phone. We will be having a rota of church leaders and church volunteers to answer the phone. The number for Ledbury folks is 01531 598007.

We are hoping that a few more people will sign up for the Circuit Choir, and there are two tracks available to record for this Sunday. I know this is not for everyone, but if you have a computer with a microphone, some headphones, and can follow a simple set of instructions you should be ok. All you need to do this you can find at:- http://www.herefordshiremethodists.org.uk/circuit-choir

This Sunday is a more reflective service and we thank Rev Glyn Jenkins from Christ Church for writing it. Thanks also to Sheila and their son for recording parts, and also Rev Nick Stanyon, the URC Synod Evangelist will be joining us. I’m looking forward to seeing how this more reflective type of worship works over Zoom.

All of our previous services can be watched again on our YouTube Channel as well as the S Club videos. – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo21bHRALHEg-S9rB8rOo-Q

Every blessing and Keep safe, Keep caring, Keep praying.

Phil

puppets

Well we are back from the Caravan (in the drive!)

Today has been as a massive day of preparation in editing videos for S Club, and preparing the output for tomorrow. Thank you to Keith who is preaching tomorrow, for Angie who prepared the Powerpoint Slides, the Prayers and the Worship sheet.

The Order of Service for Low Sunday can be found here.
Low Sunday S Club can be watched here.

In particular today, we wanted to learn some new skills for video editing, and to allow some of our other puppets to take part, and still social distance. If you want to see the results of our efforts watch here.

If you don’t get our emails, here is the information that has gone out in preparation for this Sunday:

Circuit Zoom Service:-

We look forward to seeing you all again for worship tomorrow. Please find attached the Worship Sheet for tomorrow for if you want to follow at home, or do your own thing.

As per usual the details are:-

From your computer, tablet or smart phone visit this website:-

https://tinyurl.com/hsezoomworship  and follow the instructions there.

If you have zoom already installed, then you might find it easier to open it, click join meeting and use:

Meeting ID: 692 983 743 Password: 258374.

If you have an Android Tablet, or iPad visit the play store or app store and download Zoom Cloud Meetings and instal

By telephone

Dial: 0203 051 2874 or 0131 460 1196 listen for the automated voice, and when prompted enter Meeting ID: 692 983 743 followed by # you will then be asked for a Participant ID, or press # to continue. Press # and then you will be connected to listen to the worship. If you are asked to enter the password it is 258374 again followed by hash.

District

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the cancellation of worship services, the District will be broadcasting a worship service at 10:30am on Sunday morning via Facebook Live and it will also be available on the District Website:
https://www.facebook.com/Birminghammethodistdistrict/
http://www.birminghammethodist.org.uk/
If you are unable to join us on your computer, tablet or phone, the service sheet here will enable you to journey with us as we worship together in our homes around the District.

West Midlands Synod URC
The Synod are streaming a service live each Sunday 10:30am on Solihull URC Website here.

Other Resources:-
Methodist – For resources for you to be able to Worship at home or watch a Methodist Live Stream please click – here
URC – http://devotions.urg.org.uk/

To watch our services again, visit Phil’s YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo21bHRALHEg-S9rB8rOo-Q

S Club

Dear S Club families,

Welcome to week 3 of our S Club by video. This week includes a message from Ann, and videos from James, Frankie & Matt, and Wayne and Shakira.

You can watch the S Club video at –  https://youtu.be/DJlNkWC2Zuc

More information and crafts can be found at:-

Roots at home – https://www.rootsontheweb.com/lectionary/2020/106-march-april-2020-a/easter-2/familiesathome

The Bible Reading, that Ann wanted you to read –  John 20:19-31

Here are some extra Songs  (we can’t put these in the Live Stream due to copyright) – Rend Co. Kids – King of Me (Official Music Video)
The Jesus Song

Angie is sending details of the Zoom meeting for our S Club young people by a separate email.

Extra Resources:-

19 Apr 2020 Children’s Sheet.pdf (PDF Document)

19 Apr 2020 Colouring Sheet.pdf (PDF Document)

19 April 2020 Children’s Sheet Welsh.pdf (PDF Document)

19 April 2020 Colouring Sheet Welsh.pdf (PDF Document)

peace_arms.pdf

Our own circuit information can be found at www.herefordshiremethodists.org.uk/connect

 

Coronavirus Psalm

2nd Guest Blog as Phil is on holiday. Stephen Chowns sent me this.

Click on this link to watch the video:- https://youtu.be/fRsOq-SBosg 

Stay home! Save lives! A little choral encouragement from the Quarantine Choir (Leicester UK). Four friends locked down in the same household together… at least we have singing to lift our spirits!

Psalm 151 in a time of Coronavirus

1. O Lord, to whom ǀ hygiene ● be- ǀ longeth: Hear the cry of thy ǀ servants ǀ when they ǀ call.
2. For we lie in self ǀ iso- ǀ lation: And there is ǀ nothing ǀ on T – ǀ V.
3. For lo, the nation ǀ is a- ǀ drift: The princes of the people have ǀ cast us ǀ from the ǀ pub.
4. Thy people do run about the ǀ shops in ǀ panic: They stockpile all the ǀ loo roll ● and the ǀ bakèd ǀ beans.
5. The priests of thy temple sit all day ǀ at their ǀ desks: In the social ǀ distance ǀ of their ǀ hearts.
6. They preside from the altar of their ǀ King ● and their ǀ God: As ǀ if ● they are ǀ on The ǀ One Show.
7. Smite them, O Lord, that washeth ǀ not their ǀ hands: For we each must sing Happy Birthday at ǀ least ten ǀ times a ǀ day.
8. But thou, O Lord, have ǀ mercy ● up- ǀ on us: Endue a goodly heritage on ǀ Netflix ǀ and on ǀ Prime.
9. Restore your people to health and prosperity again, That music, theatre, cinema, community, Test Match Special, afternoon tea, and even The ǀ Archers ● may ǀ flourish: O Lord who hast now delivered us from a ǀ visit ǀ by the ǀ in-laws.

Chants: S. Wesley; T. A. Walmisley
Psalmist: Not David…

Thank you to Ann MacDonald (Ledbury) for today’s guest blog. Sent to her by one of her friends. Ann says:- “This is the piece,sent to me by a friend, I mentioned earlier, I found it amusing and thought you might like to have it, it might fill a gap sometime. Gill is happy to share it, I checked.”

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Happy Easter everyone.

Our Easter Sunday Service can be seen Easter Sunday here.
Our Easter Sunday S Club can be see here.

Here is my Easter message:-

So again, Happy Easter!

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for their kind comments on the worship that we have been curating on Zoom and on YouTube and via our paper resources. I must admit it has been a hard slog to get it all done and on time, and I want to also thank Caroline for her patience with me, and turning the dining room into a TV studio, the lounge into a print and post room, and the back bedroom into a puppet studio. Thank you also to Angie who is equally pushing out a huge amount of content, reflections, videos, blogs, emails, worship sheets, PowerPoints, letters and cards. We have also been able to use some of our preachers and worship leaders, thanks to Stephen and Gillian for their Maundy Thursday reflections, videos and prayers. Keep an eye out for some more of your favourite preachers in the weeks to come.

Although it’s been a challenge, and at times quite stressful, I have been enjoying the creating of videos, and worship via new mediums. I am now though having to rethink a third of my sabbatical, which was going to be on making videos and blogging!

We’ve also been enjoying the variety of music from Jessica & Michael’s praise band style to David’s many sounds from his magic computer organ, to the elegant piano playing from Stephen. I’m having to write this before I’ve finished the Circuit Choir editing so hopefully that will be good too.

I am finding this such a strange time; my emotions are up and down like a yoyo. My head is all over the place, and the more people I talk to, well, we are all finding we are all in the same or a similar boat. So, one minute, I will be really happy, with a lovely piece of music on the speakers, an edit of a video is coming together beautifully, all is going well, and I think I’m really happy. Then I remember some of our folk who have the virus, or some of our folk’s families who are seriously ill, and I think what right do have I to be happy, as others suffer. Then I watch the news, and there is no good news to be heard. Then I might be driving out to Bromyard, or Ross, or Hereford, and the sun is shining, there is no traffic on the roads, I haven’t shaved for a week, and I’m in “comfortable clothes”, I think I’m on holiday so I smile, and I’m happy, and sing along to the radio, and then I remember why there is less traffic, and no cars in the station car park, and that we can’t visit family, or friends or church members, or give a hug to someone who is in hospital and could really need to share in a hug! Then I am sad. I can’t seem do any job that lasts more than about 20 minutes, without flitting off and doing something else in the middle, I can’t concentrate!

How on earth in the middle of all this strangeness, weirdness, anxiousness, “don’t know when this will all end,?” locked down new dystopic pandemic world can we celebrate Easter.

And then I thought of the disciples at the start of the Easter Morning story. Their world had also been turned on its head. A week before there was such elation, as their friend, rabbi and messiah rode into town on a Donkey and was hailed as a hero, “Hosanna to the son of David”, the crowd had proclaimed. The disciples were happy. Now a week later in fear and anxiety, they are locked in an upper room in fear of their lives. They had been traumatised by rejection of the way, hatred, violence, and then a most barbaric death.

I think today, in week 3 or 4 of lockdown, we have a better understanding of how those disciples felt. We can from our own experiences feel some of the same emotions and anxieties. Our worlds have been turned upside down, we are locked away in some fear of the deaths that are happening all around us. They didn’t know what was going to happen to them, we don’t know what is going to happen to us.

The disciples had spent 3 years with Jesus learning to trust him. While in lockdown, they will have remembered their times with Jesus; telling the stories to each other, “do you remember the time Jesus passed through crowds when they wanted to kill him” or when he prevented that woman from being stoned to death. They will have shared all the stories of how he’d healed the sick, walked on water, calmed the storm, fed the thousands and raised the dead.

Although they remembered all the stories, and rehearsed them over and over again, it doesn’t seem to have mattered how many hints Jesus made, in the things he did, and the things that he said; they still did not expect him to come back alive! When the women arrive at the tomb that first Easter Sunday morning they were “perplexed”, baffled, puzzled they had not expected this at all. They returned to tell the 11, and suddenly lockdown is over, and they run to the tomb and are amazed at what they see. At this moment, they still don’t know what has happened, but I wonder if they are starting again to see some hope and beginning to put together some of the things that Jesus has been saying all these years.

So what can we learn from God’s story to inform our story. Stay safe by staying in lockdown, remember the stories of the good times we’ve shared together – do you remember that time Phil fell off the communion platform, we laughed…Do you remember that wonderful sermon so and so preached… it was a joy. Do you remember, baptisms, weddings, services, social events, parties… remember them all. Remember too the stories of Jesus – “Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear; Things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here; Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea, Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.” Remember that the Disciples had learned to trust Jesus from the times they spent with him. Let us too learn to trust Jesus because of the time we have spent with him, in prayer, in worship, in fellowship, in communion, in hearing his stories and pondering on his word. And as we learn to trust him, we will begin like the disciples to see the bigger picture and understand the hope there is in Easter for us all.

So how do we celebrate Easter – well as best as we can, with our Easter eggs, our TV, our worship, and in remembering and telling each other the stories of Jesus, and in pondering how Jesus’ story intertwines with our story leading us to hope for the kingdom, and Jesus returning alive for us. We are celebrating by decorating our windows with Jesus’ story.

As the Queen said in her broadcast, we will come through this, one day the lockdown will be over, and we will come out from our upper rooms, and we will be amazed. Happy Easter, Jesus has risen – He has risen indeed. Amen

Good Friday

Good morning everyone, I do hope you’ve managed to get hold of some Hot Cross Buns for today.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all as we commemorate this solemn day in our Church calendar, and I do hope that our online and Zoom services are helping you to connect as church. We had a number of positive comments on the Maundy Thursday service, thank you.

We have prepared a service for you to follow, which is available for streaming from 9am. The traditional time for this service is 3pm, thought to be the hour of Jesus death, but you can watch it at anytime, or follow the service yourself quietly, as the whole content today is in the Service Sheet – available here and on the circuit website.

Our Good Friday Service can be seen be following this link:- https://youtu.be/LhUCwLe8Rig

If you didn’t see our other services, links are below:
Our Good Friday Service can found here and the service sheet is available here.

Maundy Thursday Service can be found here and service sheet here.

Message from the manse can be found here.

Spiritual Communion sheet here.

The edited version of our Palm Sunday Zoom Service can be watched here and Order of Service can be found here.

Palm Sunday – S Club Video can be found here.

www.herefordshiremethodists.org.uk/connect

Message from the manse 9-4-20

A video version of Message from the manse can be found here.

During my ordination at Shirley Methodist Church, I was asked if I believed that I was called to be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. It was something I firmly believed, and still believe, that I was called to by God to such a ministry and more.

So it is with a sadness that I have to tell you that we are not sharing in communion today, or on Easter Sunday or indeed until this pandemic is over, lockdown is over, social distancing is over and we are allowed once more to open our churches.

We are indeed at the moment a church without walls, we the people are the church, separate and yet together. United by loving God and being loved by God.

So let’s reflect a moment on communion. Communion is a gathering of people to remember Jesus as he commanded us “Do this to remember me”. The gathering together in one place is one of the most important things for me, and also for me that moment in the distribution of the bread to be able to look our good people in the eye and say to each one personally “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ given for you.” This is my opportunity to remind those that I have the privilege to serve, that God loves each and every one of them.

The Methodist Conference has 2 reports on our understanding of communion that you might like to read at some point whilst we are in lockdown, and I will post links to these in my blog, the first is called “His presence makes the feast” from 2003, and the second a report from the Faith and Order Committee to Conference 2018. The decision was that “the Conference adopt the policy that presbyters and other persons authorised to preside at the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper may not be permitted to use electronic means of communication, such as the internet or videoconferencing, in order to invite those not physically present at the celebration of the sacrament to participate by using their own communion bread and wine.”

We as a district have been considering what we do, and considering whether we could do something as our folk are currently deprived of communion. I did wonder about whether we could “perform” a communion service over the live stream and just Caroline and I share, but our chair of District (Ian) reflected back to me that this would just be exercising clerical privilege, and in reality our people would still be deprived of communion.

So I started to wonder if we should fast from communion at this time, then I came across this scripture:- Luke 5:33-35 (NRSVA) “The Question about Fasting – 33 Then they said to [Jesus] him, ‘John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.’ 34 Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’”

No, I’m not suggesting Jesus is no longer with us, he is alive indwelling within us through the holy spirit, but we are not able to partake of the “body” of Christ as a community, so I think it would be the right thing for all of us to fast from communion until this pandemic is over. Fasting will sharpen our minds, and give us something to look forward to when we are back together.

So what do we do to follow Jesus’ command “Do this in remembrance of me”. On Easter Sunday Angie is bringing us an Agape, it’s a traditional early Methodist celebration for a community that were not able to access communion locally, so we stand in solidarity with our Methodist brothers and sisters across the centuries and share in this love feast.

There is also a paper resource called “Spiritual Communion” which I will send out for you to reflect upon.

Also very simply, we can all everyday remember Jesus when we break or eat bread, and if you don’t eat bread, just remember Jesus everyday and give thanks whenever you eat and whenever you pray.

Lord help us in this time of fasting from communion, to remember that you love us dearly, help us also to remember you daily as we break bread or eat our food. Grant us some of your grace, strength, joy, hope, love and peace as we journey on towards the kingdom, even in this time of Pandemic. In Jesus name we ask this. Amen.

Sunday ended up being quite a stressful day, we had a number of technical issues at the beginning of our live worship. I’m used to making mistakes I know, and can normally get over it quickly, but we had the added problem of not knowing what was wrong. We had control dialogues appearing on the wrong screens, and we could not hear the music for the hymns. Eventually we found some work arounds and the worship continued.

Then in the afternoon as I was editing the video my computer kept crashing, and at one point I thought I had lost everything. But in the end, all was well, the video was uploaded, and I’ve burned another 10 DVDs to send out this week.

In all of this, I need to remember what was important on Sunday was we were able to worship, some 86 of us gathered in our homes, and sang, and prayed and listened to God’s word. Through our use of technology, 2 worship leaders, 2 local preachers, 2 ministers and 1 organist were able to take part in leading the worship, even though we are all in separate locations. Caroline said today, that “Church Without Walls” must have been a prophecy, and we are truly being Church without walls at the moment.

Tomorrow we will send out 10 DVDs to some of those who have not been able to connect to our live worship, or watch it later on the internet. If you know of someone who would benefit from a DVD, please let Angie or I know. We will also send out pastoral letters from the Lunch Club team to the Ledbury Lunch club attenders, and we will offer that to the Christ Church and St John’s Lunch Club teams too. I believe it is incredibly important for us to keep in touch with as many as we can in all the ways we can at this difficult time. I’ve also tried sending some pastoral cards to those we know that are in hospitals, and it will be interesting to know if they get through.

Today I have had a better day, I suppose there has been an incredible amount of effort gone into setting up the systems and moving equipment, re-arranging the house to get us to the point we are and in being able to operate as best we can. So today, I think was the first day I have been able to relax, as best as I could with the news that surrounds us all the time.

Today, I tidied the house, today, I baked some bread, today I did some colouring. Today I watched some films, played my Ukulele and had an afternoon nap. Today seemed almost normal. Today we connected with the family and read Eric and Flynn some stories. Today was a good day.

If you want to have a go at the colouring yourself, you can download from part way down the web page you can find by clicking here.

bb_at_home_website-720x474

For 26 years before coming into the Ministry, amongst other things I was a Boys’ Brigade officer, captaining the 36th Bristol Company, and also a Battalion Vice President. I still follow the BB on Facebook and get involved in one national BB event every year. Monday was BB Night, and I was very impressed to see the resources the BB are putting out each week. Take a look at the resources and show them to your children, grand children and great grandchildren, there are some excellent resources. See here 

The motto of the Boys’ Brigade is “Sure and Stedfast”, it comes from Hebrews 6:19 in the old King James version of the Bible. (BB was founded by Sir William Alexander Smith in Glasgow in 1883, so the KJV would have been the bible of his time).

19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.

The veil of the temple hid the holiest of holies, the place where God was. At the moment of Jesus death on the cross the veil of the temple was split in two and God was accessible to all. I like that hope is our anchor, and that hope is sure and stedfast, like the biggest anchor ever held on the biggest rock ever, solid, unmovable. Let’s hang on to that solid anchor, lets hold on to that hope. As the Queen reminded us yesterday, we will come out of this, in the meantime lets hope and pray.

Please pray for those of our folk in hospital, and lets pray for Boris in hospital, and lets pray for all the NHS front line workers including our daughter Theresa.

we stay at work for you

Theresa works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, she can be seen at the leftmost side holding the “We” sign.

The message the NICU staff want us to understand is “We stay at work, for you, so please stay at home for us.”

Keep safe, keep caring, keep praying.

Phil

Palm Sunday

Here we are on Palm Sunday, Lent 6, 3rd Sunday of Covid19, and our 3rd Zoom service. The gremlins got to us this morning, and we had a few technical issues, mainly affecting the control of muting and unmuting participants, and the music for the hymns; however, we worshipped, we heard God’s word and we shared fellowship together. Worship was never meant to be a polished performance, but what we share together and offer up to God in the best of our efforts and abilities.

This Sunday we launched a video service for St John’s S Club, and that can be seen here.

Here is the Palm Sunday Service for Herefordshire (South & East) this is the edited version of this weeks Zoom worship session it contains the full service.

The readings are:-
Philippians 2: 5-11 read by Mrs Rosemary Lloyd – Local Preacher
Matthew 21: 1-11 read by Mr John Thompson – Local Preacher
The service was led by Revd Phillip Warrey and Deacon Angie Allport was the Preacher.
Mrs Christine Guy – Worship Leader led the prayers
The organist was Dr David Baldwin.

The text of the reflection is here. (Thank you Angie).

The key themes of the reading from Philippians are love and unity.  Even though Paul was writing from prison, the letter is generally considered to be one of joy.  It is addressed to the church in Philippi, in Macedonia, the first European church founded by Paul, and made up largely of Greeks.

The passage we heard can be divided into two parts: verses 1-5 are seen as rules for love and verses 6-11 as a hymn.  Paul’s intention is to make the readers realise that if certain things are true in their lives, then the logical consequence of that is that they should behave in a certain way.   Christ elicits love in us which, in turn, should produce a spiritual fellowship towards unity, a putting of others first.   Those who are in Christ should share the love, compassion and sympathy which come from him, and behave appropriately towards one another.  Those who share his mind will do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but will behave with humility and concern for others.   Unity flows from having the attitude (or mind) of Christ, an attitude which should pervade the whole community.   

Paul does not say, ‘give me joy’, but make my joy complete, the implication being that the Philippians have begun to flourish but need to progress.   In verses 2-3, Paul spells out what he means.  Two attributes, namely selfish ambition and conceit, are to be shunned, and others are to be regarded as better than ourselves.   The Philippians are called to observe how Jesus behaved and follow his example, not imitating Christ in the sense of repeating what he did, but in the sense of being Christ-like.

Verses 6-11 are a prime example of an early Christian hymn, sometimes referred to as the ‘Christ Hymn’.  Looking at the style, vocabulary and doctrine of the hymn has led many scholars to query whether Paul actually wrote it.  Regardless of whether he did or merely imported it, it’s an integral part of the letter because Paul uses it to provide the Philippians with the basis of his appeal to emulate Christ.   The hymn establishes a model for Christian imitation.  Jesus was in the form of God but did not reckon or count himself above God, and therefore did not seize the position of equality with God.  Rather he emptied himself and took on the form of a slave.  Then, being in the form of a human being, he humbled himself further by his obedience that led to his death on the cross.  Yet the one who did not grasp at equality with God was honoured by God and exalted as Lord.  He is greeted and worshipped as Lord by all creation.  Hence, Jesus is a model to the Philippians of how they should not grasp after equality by seeking their own interests, but serve one another with the expectation that, like Jesus, they will be honoured and glorified by God.

Verses 6-8 can be seen as a contrast between Jesus and Adam, who succumbed to the temptation to grasp at equality with God.  Jesus freely emptied himself from his exulted position and took on Adam’s condition; he humbled himself and died.  The hymn reminds the Philippians that by virtue of being in Christ, they have the power to live together in the way God wants.

The vexed question of Christianity’s relationship to Judaism rears its head during Holy Week.  It has, at least in past centuries, been a season marked by hostility, and sometimes violence, on the part of Christians towards their Jewish neighbours.  This was partly generated by the reading of the Passion narrative in Matthew’s Gospel, which is this year’s lectionary Gospel, because of its suggestion that the crowd present at Jesus’ trial had willingly accepted blood guilt for Jesus’ death.  Notably that reference is not in any of the other three Gospels, and its inclusion in Matthew may owe more to Jewish-Christian tensions at the time Matthew’s Gospel was written than to historic authenticity.  The highly charged atmosphere of Holy Week also led to several instances of the ‘blood libel’ – the accusation that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood in the making of the unleavened bread for Passover.  Ridiculous as this libel may now seem, it led to several instances of deadly attacks against Jewish communities in the Middle Ages.

More recently, such sentiment is expressed in teachings that Christianity has ‘superseded’ and replaced Judaism.  Across the church’s history, Matthew 21, the first part of which we’ve also heard read today, has been interpreted not as God’s rejection of Jerusalem’s leaders, but as the rejection of Israel as a whole from God’s story of salvation.  Regularly, the chapter’s scenes have been allegorized to underscore the passing of God’s favour from Israel to the church.  Even the entry-to-Jerusalem scene was so read, the mother donkey being seen as the sin-bound, law-yoked Jews, and the colt as gentiles who leave Jericho to enter the church.

Verses 10-11 of Philippians 2, however, recall Isaiah 45: 22-25, which speak of the gentiles coming to the God of Israel to be saved.  Paul expected the redemption of the world to include the reunion of Jewish and gentile peoples, and believed that the gentiles were confessing the God of Israel through Christ and becoming part of the saved community.  With such a fraught history of relationships, we, as Christians, need to be aware of Jewish sensitivities and acknowledge that the passion provoked by the Passion can be upsetting, if not dangerous and subject to misuse.

What then is the message for this Palm Sunday, when those who do not know God, are perhaps crying out for help, crying out to be saved.  Can we be a people who open the gates of the Kingdom?  Looking at the story as Matthew tells it, the crowd did three things:

Firstly, they cut branches from trees and used them to welcome Jesus.  The waving of branches was an integral part of the ancient Jewish Festival of Tabernacles.  Matthew’s original readers would have made the connection between branches and worship, and recognised that the man riding humbly on a donkey was someone to be worshipped.  When we offer ourselves to God in worship something happens which speaks of the presence and the glory of God, and can open the gates of people’s hearts.

Secondly, the crowd shouted ‘Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’.  They recognised that Jesus was the one they needed.  Sometimes the gates which have to be opened are the gates with which we fence ourselves off from any sort of need.  The culture of today can lead us to think we must be strong, we must be perfect, we must be self-sufficient and able to cope with anything.  But the truth is that we are not supposed to live like that – we are supposed to live in relationship with a God who will supply all our needs. Shouting ‘Hosanna’ (‘save us’) today is one way to open those gates and let God into our lives.

Thirdly, the crowd answered questions and pointed others to Jesus too.  When the whole city asks ‘Who is this?’ the crowd replied ‘This is Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee’.  Put like that it sounds easy, but we’re not always very good at doing it, at answering questions openly, being willing to say ‘It’s Jesus who makes the difference in my life.  Come and meet him.’  Yet it is in these challenging times in which we find ourselves that I’m sure a number of folk are thinking about life, mortality and whether there’s anything more.  They may be curious as to what keeps us going, what sustains us?  Are you ready with your answer?

On this Palm Sunday, let’s open the gates we find in ourselves and be ready to open gates for those who are pushing at them, so that the King of glory can truly enter in!

Deacon Angie Allport