It is Palm Sunday as I write. I have listened to several reflections on the events of what is now known as Palm Sunday. A common thread has been about crowds, relating the crowd in the Bible story to more recent events where crowds have stood for things they believe in. Crowds often gather in protest. Sometimes the gathering is peaceful and quiet, while at other times there can be rowdiness, noise, even aggression. It is not difficult to find evidence of either type of protest which has taken place in recent months in various parts of the world. A gathering of people creates a corporate mood, but in any gathered group mood can change, sometimes rapidly . It is hard to predict, and hard to control. The crowd that gathered in Jerusalem and saw Jesus ride into the city on a donkey, was celebratory, welcoming and cheerful. By the end of that week the mood changed as the crowd – many of whom were quite possibly the same people – turned against Jesus, and those representing the ruling Roman authorities [Pontius Pilate] found themselves in a tricky position. Pilate was in Jerusalem to keep the peace during Passover. He did not want to deploy his soldiers and stir up more aggression, risking further animosity towards the invading Romans from people already downtrodden and resentful.
So, his reaction, or inaction, set off a chain of events which took Jesus to his human death on a cross, a death which in turn triggered the beginnings of the Christian religion. The early followers reflected on the earthly life of Jesus, his charismatic nature which drew people to him, his ability to heal and comfort; above all his concern for those on the margins – the poor, the weak, the suffering, those treated unjustly. It was these areas of concern which were integral in forming the foundations of the faith, and which still, for many, is part of the driving force for action to support need, and can be found across the world.
In a very few days we will be focussing on the events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday, which can give rise to a wide range of emotional responses, changing as we reach Easter Sunday, into jubilation and joy as we learn afresh about Jesus’ resurrection. We may not all be able to celebrate in ways we would like for a second year, but that does not alter the amazing happenings of the first Easter morning which is something to cherish.
In the ongoing celebration of Easter, many of us have held an Easter Offering service in the weeks after Easter. Methodist Women in Britain have organised the writing of a service and offered it to the whole British Methodist Church as a gift, that could be used freely in churches. It has been used to share information about work in the global Methodist Church, and to support those working for the Churches mission across the world. The support has extended to any financial donations made. These have been gathered and sent to the World Mission Fund in their entirety. This year the MWiB Executive have recorded a simple version of the service which is available on YouTube for anyone to use, because ongoing Covid 19 restrictions will prevent many congregations gathering as has been usual. You can click on the link below to access the service, or via www.mwib.org.uk
May your Easter be a time of refreshment and blessing.