Rev. Andrew Cunnington
28th March 2021
Public Worship Starts With a Hosanna

There is no finer way to resume public worship together than with a Hosannah cry! For we are back as St Matthew’s and Christ is at the heart of lives.

Palm Sunday was the day when people came pouring out of their homes and places of work to greet the arrival of the new king. Riding provocatively on a donkey. Who had seen the like?

Their religion had been in lockdown not for weeks – but for years.

Regulations about where you could go, what you could say and who you could meet had become so ingrained as to be commonplace.

But on this day glorious change is in the air. This king is promising a one man invasion of love on Palm Sunday morning and the people just can’t wait. This is a day to consider fresh possibilities for faith and start to put them into practice.

So blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosannah in the highest.

And if you look at Mark’s Gospel, from which we read just now, you will see that today marked a big turning point in Jesus’s own ministry too.

Until this Palm Sunday morning, so much of it had taken happened in out of the way places. Around the lake. In the desert. On the mountains. Touching the lives of the one off ,obscure, edgy sort of individuals who no one else would be remotely interested in.

He drew crowds out to where he was. He did not go in search of them. There is a case to be made that on the evidence of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus may not have ever been to Jerusalem at all. Until today.

But his reputation had gone before him. For this was a hero’s welcome of chanting and singing and banner waving. He was a dream come true to those who cried out on that day.

This one man invasion. This invasion of such mighty love that it would overthrow all that purported to be love but was just a charade of its true meaning.

Jesus took the sacred law of the day and invaded it with this love.

He took the arguments of the scholars and the scribes and questioned them until they could take no more with the invasion of His love.

He drew around himself no like minded followers – but rather made a place at his side for all sorts and he invited them to share the common bond of invaded love.

But even by nightfall on day one – brows were starting to become furrowed.
In anger he had gone straight to the temple precincts and cast out those who brought and sold. Driving them off with a whip of chords.

For this invasion of love would put every one under the microscope and would mean that everyone had, within a matter of hours, an important decision to make.

This was an invasion of love that was hard hitting and cutting edge and only the few would be able to stay with it.

And maybe this is why…

A parcel arrived at the vicarage the other week – rather larger than the usual deliveries. Inside was a brand new shredding machine to replace the one I had gummed up months before, and I was told it was going to be a time to get ruthless. The machine was plugged in and was starting to whir alarmingly.

Two piles of everything – Alison said. Keep or chuck.

I quickly crept away to hide the football programmes and the music magazines and I made sure that the enormous collection of sermon notes dating back to when I first started were kept out of reach.

Keep it or chuck it – you see this was the ruthlessness of Palm Sunday in the mind of Christ. Keep it or chuck it. This was the only expression of love he knew was authentic.

This was what turned the Hosanna cries into crucify shouts by the end of the week. I mean look what he did.

Profit making in the temple precincts – keep or chuck.

A fig tree not bearing fruit – no matter the season – keep or chuck.

Authority that had become so corrupt you could no longer find the godliness in it – keep or chuck.

The tax system. The divide between clean and the unclean, the master and servant, the condemned and the forgiven and the balance between them all. Keep it or chuck it?

The cherished Passover was turned into a Eucharist and foot washing duties were removed from the slaves job description.

Within a few days this invasion of love was demanding more than the people could cope with, so when Pilate asked the question of the man Himself. keep or chuck – they cried out that he might be chucked.

Love clears the decks so that grace can flow.

Love banishes hateful talk so that peace can be given a chance.

Love makes us each think beyond ourselves so that selfishness starts to wilt.

And love goes right to the heart of suffering rather than skate ineffectively over its frozen surface.

This was ever the journey of Holy Week into Easter- but this year it is ever more poignant and urgent – for so much that has occupied us and even defined us is up for keep it or chuck it.

This year has begun to show us what truly matters and rather uncomfortably has shown us what we thought mattered and actually doesn’t.

And faith matters and church matters more than I ever quite knew.

I think within our church family and beyond it there is a new relevance and purpose waiting to be claimed. Gaps emerging in lives which can only be spirit filled.

The roots of the Gospel are going down deeper, the foundations are hardening.

Keep it or chuck it. No more than a week to decide.

Do our hosanna cries descend now into crucify and there it ends – or have you got a voice in you to raise in Alleluia this time next week.

MARK 11: 1-11