5th April

Week Commencing Sunday 5th April 2020

Dear Friends,

I hope you are keeping well. In this update we begin to explore Easter as we reflect on Palm Sunday, and in next week’s update we look at the significance of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This update includes a message from Edwin Cottingham about Palm Sunday.

 

Palm Sunday

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:9)

Shout for joy you people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you- triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey” (Zech.9:9)

Today is Palm Sunday. We think of Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Joy and praise filled the air as the crowds welcomed him as king.

Let’s also praise Him today:

 

Hymn. ‘Make Way’ Graham Kendrick

 

Make way, make way
For Christ the King
In splendour arrives
Fling wide the gates and welcome Him
Into your lives

Make way! (Make way!)
Make way! (Make way!)
For the King of kings
(For the King of kings)
Make way! (Make way!)
Make way! (Make way!)
And let His kingdom in

He comes the broken hearts to heal
The prisoners to free
The deaf shall hear, the lame shall dance
The blind shall see

And those who mourn with heavy hearts
Who weep and sigh
With laughter, joy and royal crown
He'll beautify

We call you now to worship Him
As Lord of all
To have no gods before Him
Their thrones must fall!

 

 

 

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus we do worship you as King this morning. With the crowds praising God for you this Palm Sunday we too give you our praise. We praise you for your wonderful works- liberating the prisoners, causing the deaf to hear, the lame to dance, the blind to see. You are a servant king indeed, who truly loves His people.

We thank you for the greatest act of humble service shown to mankind. Something the crowds that day did not appreciate. You resolutely entered Jerusalem, knowing this would lead to the cross. This is where your mission was truly fulfilled. There you served us in bringing us a salvation we could not merit. Through your death we have life, so we gladly have you rule over us, our Lord and Saviour.

Be pleased to lead us by Your Holy Spirit this morning. Hear our prayers, receive our praise, encourage and challenge us through your word. You have shown us the way of humble service, the way of true greatness. Lord Jesus help us to follow. Amen.

Reading. John 12:9-19

Sermon:

 

It was headline news, the talk of the town, a man called Lazarus, who had been dead and buried for four days had been brought back to life by this man Jesus, known as the carpenter’s son from Nazareth. Then the word went out; “Jesus is back in town”. The crowd gathered, they had come for the Feast, it was after all festival time, but now there was an added attraction- Jesus and He was on His way into Jerusalem. The word went out and the crowd reacted: - They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” Fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: - Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. So, let us look at the characters we read about and see what they can teach us today.

 

The Colt, the Foal of a Donkey.

 

This animal was untrained, unbroken, not used to anything on its back, facing a crowd of cheering, branch waving people, what would be the natural reaction of the animal to that? Naturally it would have reacted by throwing off the burden and running. Yet, in the presence of Jesus, it remained calm, totally unmoved by the fearful events it was facing. Jesus was in control. What is the lesson we can learn from this donkey?

No matter what burden you are bearing, no matter how fearful the situation you are facing, God is still in control. In the presence of Jesus, we can remain calm and unmoved by the situation around us: - Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus.  Hebrews 3:1

Hebrews 12:2: - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 

Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the Disciples and others healed by Jesus.

 

These had all had a life changing experience of Jesus, Lazarus particularly! They had a relationship with Jesus. They could never go back to what they had been before that encounter nor would they ever forget it. They recognised Jesus as the Son of God.

 

The Crowd.

 

They were curious, they were emotional and typical of all crowds, they were fickle. Today they shouted “Hosanna, blessed is the King of Israel”, one week later they shout “Crucify Him, Crucify Him we will not have this man to reign over us”. They rejected Jesus.

 

The Pharisees and Chief Priests.

 

These religious leaders planned to kill Jesus and get rid of Him. They had religion but not a relationship with Jesus. In spite of all the miracles, signs and wonders, Jesus did not fit into their perception of the expected Messiah. In their eyes, a carpenter’s son from Nazareth could not be the long-awaited Messiah and they would not believe in Him. They had set ideas and wanted to put God in their box. He also was a threat to their position and power base.

In the 1960/70s there was a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in the churches and many lives were changed forever, people had experiences that changed them from religion to relationship with Jesus. It became known as the Charismatic movement. Sadly, it split churches. Those whose lives had been changed wanted others to share the experience, but did not always handle things sensitively. Others were moved by the emotion of the day but, like the crowd, were fickle and eventually fell away. Others like the chief priests and Pharisees held on to their traditions, some saw their position threatened, they put God into the box they had made for him and rejected this move of the Holy Spirit thus limiting what God could do in and through them.

 

In the 1980/90s there was another move of the Holy Spirit, known as the Toronto Blessing. The same thing happened again, some lives were changed, miracles happened, and relationships with Jesus forged forever. Some were moved emotionally but later fell away whilst others rejected it or felt threatened by it.

 

On the day of Pentecost, the Disciples had an experience of the Holy Spirit which changed them forever, they were never the same after that. Where once they were timid now, they were bold and under the power of the Holy Spirit they changed the world!

 

On this Palm Sunday let us each one consider where we would fit in with that crowd:

 

Will you be like the foal, calm in the presence of Jesus in spite of the unexpected burden on its back and the clamour and chaos around it? If you have a relationship with Jesus, if you have trusted in Him for your salvation, as this pandemic rages around us, will you face it with the calm assurance that whatever happens, God is still in control, His promise is never to leave you or forsake you, (Hebrews 13:5) even if the virus should attack you, it cannot take your life until God chooses to call you into His presence, which, as Paul says, is far better.

 

Will you be like Mary, Martha and Lazarus, having a relationship with Jesus Christ that can never be shaken because you know Him as your Lord and Saviour and have the assurance of sin forgiven through His sacrifice on the cross? (If you are unsure talk to the Minister)

 

 Or Will you be like that crowd, fickle, wishy-washy, crowning Him King of your life one day and crying out “crucify Him I will not let Him reign over me” the next, insecure in a relationship with God just following the crowd and public opinion?

 

Or will you be like the chief priests and Pharisees having religion but no relationship with Jesus. Putting God in the box of your own making following your traditions, rules and regulations, limiting what God can do in and through you, instead of following the call of Jesus to “take up your cross daily and follow me”. (Luke 9:23)

 

Always remember God is an unchanging God but He is nevertheless a God of Change. Jesus did not always heal in the same way, he did not follow a set formula. In the same way, the Holy Spirit touches us in different ways, giving different gifts, and calls us to different purposes so it is imperative that we follow His leading if we want to see the power of God at work in our lives. God says: - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Whose plans are you living by, do you have religion or a relationship?

Edwin Cottingham. April 2020.

 

Prayer of Confession

 

On Palm Sunday, the crowds worshipped Jesus; on Good Friday they shouted for Him to die. Let us who also worship him, confess that we sometimes reject Him, and ask His forgiveness:

Lord Jesus Christ, you come to us in peace, but we shut the door of our mind against you. In your mercy forgive us and help us.

You come to us in humility, but we prefer our proud ways. In your mercy forgive us and help us.

You come to us in judgement, but we cling to our familiar sins. In your mercy forgive us and help us.

You come to us in majesty, but we will not have you reign over us. In your mercy forgive us and help us.

Lord, forgive our empty praise, fill our loveless hearts; come to us and make our lives your home forever.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

Hymn.

 

 

Ride on, ride on in majesty
as all the crowds 'Hosanna!' cry:
through waving branches slowly ride,
O Saviour, to be crucified.

 

Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, your triumph now begin
with captured death, and conquered sin!

 

Ride on, ride on in majesty
the angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

 

Ride on, ride on in majesty,
the last and fiercest foe defy:
the Father on his sapphire throne
awaits his own anointed Son.

 

Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, your power and reign!