Here Comes Our King

CALL TO WORSHIP: Open the gates! Line the road! Why? What’s happening? The king is coming!
Cut down branches and throw down your cloaks. Who is this king that is coming? It is Jesus. Let’s welcome Him now.
Almighty God, we thank You because today we celebrate a God who comes to us. We think of Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, close enough to be touched, and to hear the voices of those around Him.
As we come to You to offer You our prayers, help us to remember that in Jesus, You first drew near to us. May we offer You our worship in thankfulness, knowing that You hear the words on our lips, and the thoughts of our hearts. For Jesus’ sake.

HYMN 265: RIDE ON, RIDE ON IN MAJESTY!-StF

ADORATION: Dear God, thank you for sending your Son and paving the way for our lives to be set free through Jesus' death on the cross. Thank you for what this day stands for - the beginning of Holy Week, the start of the journey towards the power of the cross, the victory of the Resurrection, and the rich truth that Jesus truly is our King of Kings.

"Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord..."

We give you praise and honour for your ways are righteous and true. We give you worship for you are holy and just. We will declare that your love stands firm forever. For your loving kindness endures forever.

Thank you that your ways are far greater than our ways, your thoughts far deeper than our thoughts. Thank you that you had a plan to redeem. Thank you that you make all things new. Thank you that your face is towards the righteous, and you hear our prayers, and know our hearts. Help us to stay strong and true to you. Help us not to follow after the voice of the crowds, but to press in close to you, to hear your whispers, and seek after you alone.

We praise you, we bless you Lord! Thank You that You reign supreme and we are more than conquerors through our King!

In the Mighty Name of Jesus.  Amen.

TALK FOR ALL: CHEERS TO JEERS

Do you have a favourite sports team? I have always been a big fan of football. Who can remember the year Leicester City Football club won the Premier League? A few years ago when Leicester City Football club won the Premier League, everyone was calling them "The English Champions." Everywhere you looked you could see boys, and even some girls, wearing Leicester City t-shirts. After their victory; there was a city parade in Leicester and as the players rode through the streets of Leicester, the people cheered and waved. Now, just a few years later, Leicester City is not so popular. Their fans expected them to win the Premier League every year and the players just aren't living up to what the fans expected of them. The cheers have turned to jeers, and many of their once-faithful fans have forsaken them to cheer for another team.

Did you know that the very same thing happened to Jesus? Do you know what I am holding? This is a cross made from a Palm tree. In the country where Jesus lived, Palm trees were everywhere. The branches of the Palm were a symbol of victory and joy. During the time of Jesus, people used to wave Palm branches as they cheered in celebration when an important person such as a king rode through the streets of town. On the Sunday before he was crucified, Jesus rode through the streets of Jerusalem on the back of a small donkey. As he rode along, people waved Palm branches and shouted and cheered. They shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" The people cheered Jesus as their King.

Just a few days later, Jesus was arrested, tried, and led to a hill called Calvary to be crucified. The cheers that he had heard on Sunday now turned to jeers. Many of the people who just a few days before shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" had now turned against him. They were now shouting "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! He is not our king. We have no king but Caesar." They were even offered the choice of whether to free a criminal named Barabbas or to free Jesus. They chose to free Barabbas and crucify Jesus. Many of His once-faithful followers had forsaken him.

You and I have to make a choice. We can choose to follow Jesus and make him the King and Lord of our life, or we can choose to forsake him like the people who cried, "Crucify Him! He is not our king!" Will we be found faithful?

Blessed Jesus, today we choose to make you King and Lord of our life. Help us to be strong, and to follow you, even when all others have forsaken you. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING: GRAHAM

READING: MATTHEW 21:1-11 (JASMINE)

SERMON: “HERE COMES OUR KING” (Matthew 21:1-11, Psalm 118)

Today could have been a day of celebration! Have you ever been a part of a big parade? Have you ever found yourself caught up in a cheering crowd? It is an experience unlike any other, to be surrounded by such positive energy and blissful joy. It is a rallying cry and unifying moment for many, all pointed in one direction. Our gospel text from this morning paints this amazing picture as Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem to a cheering crowd. They roll out the red carpet for Jesus, laying their coats on the ground. It is an entrance fit for a King, and indeed that is how Jesus is welcomed.

It is significant that he is entering Jerusalem, the city made great by his ancestor David. The shepherd boy who was anointed by Samuel? He went on to become one of the greatest kings the people of Israel had ever seen.

Under David and his son Solomon, Israel experienced the greatest period in her history. The country was united; all twelve tribes under one king . . . David. So respected did David became the “hoped”-for future deliverer, the messiah, was expected to be a “son of David,” a new David, indeed greater than David. And this new David, this son of David, would rule a restored kingdom from Jerusalem.

But, instead of singing “We Are the Champions,” this crowd has another chant – “Hosanna!” This is a unique word in Aramaic, found only in this story in the gospel accounts given by Matthew, Mark, and John. It is a shout of praise, but literally means “save (or help), I pray.” It is a phrase that would have been familiar to the Jews as a part of their worship practices, described beautifully in Psalm (Psalm 118:25).

This cry is familiar to us, too, especially in these final days of Lent, a time in which we are even more aware of the many places in our lives that need saving, this time of fear surrounding every home, every country and the whole world-COVID-19. We shout Hosanna: for all that we personally need to be saved from in this world. For our own personal sins, the mistakes we have made, the things we have left undone, all the ways we have failed to be the disciples we claim to be. We shout Hosanna: for the sins of the world that need divine presence – whether we are directly involved or indirectly watching from a distance. For the ways we have exploited our natural resources and have caused harm to the earth. For the ways we have failed in our pastoral support, for the ways we have failed to forgive others and for the ways we have failed to love our sisters and brothers.

For the ways in which we have failed to care for our neighbours and have abandoned the least of these. We shout Hosanna: For all of this and more, the things we dare not say out loud, but in our Lenten journey have discovered in the dark corners of our lives. Our cries built, gently and humbly at first, penitent, then turn into shouts with an energized passion and deep longing for something to change. Palm Sunday is no ordinary parade. It is the climax of who God’s people are and a cry out for what they need, both in the first century and today.  “Save us” is a powerful thing to shout. It’s not the usual cheer at a celebration rally. It points to a much deeper truth about the crowd and what it is looking for.

Did we pay attention to His instructions to the disciples and how He comes into the city? Riding on 2 animals: a donkey and a colt. It is a funny image to consider. Mary Hinkle Shore suggests that it “resembles a circus trick more than a royal procession.” The description of his entry suggests layers of meaning. Shore continues to compare the entry into Jerusalem as:

“...an event that today we might call performance art. Jesus enacts a prophetic word that looks toward the arrival of one who will rule God’s people in a time of peace”

In contrast to expectations, and other processions of Roman guards and governors, Jesus enters on humble animals – both of them. It is a dramatic statement, meant to send a message about what kind of king he would be. It is meant to make us think, even among our cheers, that we should probably begin to expect something different than a mighty warrior. In this act, Jesus flips the script, and those in leadership begin to take notice. The brightness of the parade is contrasted to the shadows that begin to appear bad, foreshadowing for where Jesus is heading.

Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice tried to convey this in their magnificent rock opera, Jesus Christ, Superstar, which debuted in 1971. The story is loosely based on the Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life, but highlights and brings out a lot of political and interpersonal aspects that go beyond our text, which in some circles made it quite controversial. Nevertheless, the depiction of his entry into Jerusalem is a great picture. As the title suggests, the whole show plays with the idea of Jesus being a celebrity with rock-star status.  It also balances the unfamiliar nature of the crowd and their hopes combined with something bad is about to happen. It captures what Matthew describes in verse 10, with “the whole city was in panic or confusion.” Or should I say “the whole world is in panic or confused due to “CORONAVIRUS”.  Take a look, and imagine yourselves again in this parade with this scene from the more recent film, produced in 2000.

Is there more to the one who enters Jerusalem than just some superstar status. Matthew’s gospel closely connects Jesus with the Jewish understandings of the Messiah from the Hebrew Scriptures. Here, he includes reference to Zechariah. Chapter 9, Verse 9 indicated the two animals (donkey and a colt), symbols of peace and reconciliation. Reading further from the prophet, we find that the rest of the Zechariah passage details what kind of king this will be. Verse 10 reads, “He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations (Zechariah 9:10).

Rather than a mighty warrior king, Jesus is the kind of “King” who brings about peace. Our king enters the homes of those that have being isolated due to the CORONAVIRUS pandemic. Our King enters, the homes of those that have lost loved ones and cannot say a final goodbye at the grave or cream. Our king enters our churches that are empty, our King enters our streets that are empty, our King enters our empty air and sea ports. My dear Christian friends, our King enters the homes of our elderly loved ones that we can’t visit all because of CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.  It has being painful and very inhuman for me making telephone calls to elderly (OAP) members who are in isolation and loved ones nor ministers can’t visit. I AM SURE OUR KING CONTINUES TO ENTER THOSE HOMES AND ROOMS,  LEAVES THE HOLY SPIRIT WITH THEM TO FEEL AND EXPERIENCE HIS PRESENCE.  

The crowd of Palm Sunday represents the height of the excitement over who Jesus was on earth, and hints at the possibility of what his kingdom might bring. Those who gathered along the sides of the road that day longed for a saviour. There was so much in the world from which they needed redemption and peace. This was more than just good fun on a Sunday afternoon; it was an urgent plea for their very lives. This is what Palm Sunday is all about. A PEOPLE’S DEEP LONGING FOR SOMETHING MORE! That’s what we are all longing for and for our King to enter and end this pandemic.

It is a story rich with drama and full of spirit, the perfect text to usher us into this Holy Week. Of course, we know where this story leads – by the end of the week our King will wear a crown of thorns. And yet, with this knowledge we still dare to praise him and lift him up above all others. We share in the hope of the people gathered that day long ago, because we are those people, too.

This is why we still shout, “Hosanna!” And we rejoice that our shouts will not just echo into the abyss. For God has given us our King who wants to enter in our hearts, homes and the homes of our loved ones. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. The Messiah has entered the gates triumphantly, and goes before us.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Amen.

HYMN 272: FROM HEAVEN YOU CAME HELPLESS BABE-StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: DOUGLAS

HYMN 262: ALL GLORY, LAUD, AND HONOUR TO THEE, REDEEMER, KING-StF

BLESSING