Opening Prayer

Today we come into the presence of God. We come to worship in a different way. But we come.
So, draw near to us, Lord. Come and open us to your loving Spirit, and free us to worship you in spirit and truth. Jesus Christ who, by your death and resurrection, opened the gate to salvation for all, we worship you today, recognising that we need you. Holy Spirit, mediator and energiser,
come amongst us. Come amongst our friends and family, so that the gate of heaven may be opened and lives transformed by your power and to the glory of God. Amen.


Reading: Matthew 21. 1-11

They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’
The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’
(Matthew 21. 7-11)



Palm Sunday is typically known as the Sunday on which we celebrate Jesus’ entering into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. And, we sing and shout ‘Hosanna’, waving palm crosses. What does ‘Hosanna’ mean, then? That word Hosanna means ‘Save us’, but it is, in a sense, a cry which recognises two things; a need for help and that Jesus is the one who can meet that need.
And, Jerusalem was the city of which the needs were countless and the people were suffering in various ways. It was not a peaceful city, not a prosperous city. And, it had got a history of repeated invasions and attacks, from everywhere. And it is still the same. It was a city, full of rumours, threat, divisions, and discontent. And, there, the poorest had to suffer most, and cried out for a change. And also, because of their political situation, they all had been desperately waiting for the Messiah to deliver them from that Roman occupation, perhaps thinking of sweeping them away with military forces.

Then, what about the city we live in, and other cities in this world?

It seems that the actual situations people face, haven’t changed a lot. We still see the people with all sorts of problems in the city: homeless, jobless people, powerless and hopeless people, struggling to survive in the endless competition of everyday lives, in their business, in their relationships, or in their social status. And, currently, most of the cities in the world are
struggling with COVID-19 pandemic and experiencing unusual practices, such as social distancing and self-isolation. In this time of turmoil, we see some of the so-called ‘key workers’ suffer more. For example, NHS staffs, those who work in food shops, those who deliver the mail, those who collect our rubbish, and so on.

Now then, in this unprecedented situation, are we all waiting for the Messiah coming into our city? 2000 years ago, many people in Jerusalem, maybe most of them were waiting and waiting for a great leader, a warrior hero, to save them. And, at that time, rumours spread all through Jerusalem, that Jesus might be that leader. So, they were quite excited about his entry into the city. But, they were wrong! They completely misunderstood who Jesus was, and why he was entering the city. And, even his disciples didn’t understand what he was going to do.

As we move into this week, the Holy Week, we see Jesus give us the New Commandment – ‘Love each other’ at the last meal with his disciples, and we see him arrested and eventually crucified. This picture of the Holy Week seems to challenge us in the present circumstances to love our neighbours in a new way by staying a bit away from them. Amen.

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. (Prayer, written by Dudley Coates)