Year A, Lent 6 Palm Sunday
That’s yet another thing COVID 19 has to answer for! We at Indooroopilly will not be celebrating Palm Sunday with our usual choral service! And to think that the choir had already begun rehearsals! Not that we were aiming for any great new works; in fact, Wendy had decided to bring back some pieces that we have sung in previous years; and why not, since the message is still the same and will always be so, Corona or no Corona?
Music has always been integral to worship, having as it does the capacity to make real to the soul the deep things of God in ways that even the greatest oratory cannot, and in return express the wide range of feelings with which we respond to His Self-revelation in Christ.
Those pieces which we would have sung present a range of responses to the Good News of Holy Week to which we may respond as it touches us each in our own situation. The first of them is “Hosanna, Hosanna!” published by Exaltation in Ohio – a bright and catchy tune with, as one part of the blurb says, “a distinctive Jewish flare.” Well, I wouldn’t know about that, but certainly, it echoes the sheer exuberance of that first Palm Sunday as Jews greeted their long-awaited Messiah. Yes, there is a place for that kind of worship – but it is only part of the story, as our next offering shows – “The Merchants Carol” by Frank Kendon, a fictional account of twelve Gentile merchants from a distant country who happen to arrive at Jerusalem at the moment of Jesus’ entry on a donkey. It is narrated in ballad form by one of the twelve, who in the midst of all the excitement alone perceives that the only silent one in all that crowd is the very one who is being hailed as king. The merchant catches his eye and somehow understands that, yes, he will be king, but not as people might expect. The story moves on, and finally ends at the foot of the Cross, with the merchant making the final comment, “He was most kingly dying.”
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” is probably a quite well-known work because of its association with J.S. Bach who harmonised a German melody for a tune to words attributed to the medieval monk Bernard of Clairvaux. It is a most poignant reflection on the grief and suffering of Christ in contrast to His former “bright as morn.” And bitterest of all, the realisation that He has voluntarily accepted this state on our behalf: “Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.”
“Now the green blade rises” may or may not have been inspired by Jesus’ words in John 12:24 – “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The theme of dying to bring forth new life is one of the most widely used metaphors of all, so it is hardly surprising that we should find it applied to the greatest dying and rising of all.
May the messages of this music be for us an encouragement to new life during an Easter which does not show many causes for celebrating new life at present.