Year A, Lent 6 Palm Sunday

Isaiah 54:4-9a
Psalm 118:1-2,19-29
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 21:1-11

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.


A group of Israelites are being “escorted” from their former homes in Jerusalem, now totally destroyed, to exile in distant Babylon.

Year A, Lent 5

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

A group of Israelites are being “escorted” from their former homes in Jerusalem, now totally destroyed, to exile in distant Babylon. They pass a field strewn with the whitened bones of those who had died vainly defending the city. To one of those captives, a young Ezekiel, these bones are a vivid symbol of Jerusalem; once strong and powerful but now dead, with no hope of ever living again. Suddenly, it seems that a voice speaks to him;

“Mortal man, can these dry bones live?”
“Come off it Lord! You know quite well they can’t! They’ve been too dead for too long.”
“Hmm, perhaps. But humour Me for a moment will you; prophesy to these bones.”
“Yes; say to them, bones be joined together as once you were, and let there be ligaments, muscle, and with skin over them.”
“Well, alright, but only because You say so.”

So he prophesies, there is a great rattling, “the knee bone joined to the thigh bone,” etc, etc, etc, etc, with flesh and skin as specified, until instead of dry bones the field is covered in bodies.

“Yes, Lord, very spectacular, but what use are a whole lot of cadavers?
This isn’t medical school, You know!”
“Patience, young man, I haven’t finished yet. Prophesy again, this time to the wind ( that’s “breath “ or “spirit “ in case you’ve forgotten your Hebrew – My breath, My Spirit) and say, “Breathe into these bodies that they might live.”

So the wind comes, the bodies stir and stand up and once again an army is ready to do battle for the Lord’s people.

“Mortal man, as I did for these dry bones, I will do for My people Israel:
not today nor tomorrow, and it will be a long hard slog, but it will be done; for I the Lord your God not only give life;
I am life, and I need no residual life in bones or anywhere else to act as a starter pack.”

Centuries later, Jesus gets word that His dear friend Lazarus is mortally ill, but strangely, seems in no hurry to get to his side. Indeed He positively dawdles until He is certain that Lazarus is dead. When He does get there, He finds that Lazarus has been dead and buried four days. Now it was a common belief of the time that the spirit of a dead person hung around for three days, during which time they might, just might, be somehow revived, but after that – no way! So Jesus walks into a scene of grieving and is greeted characteristically by Martha: “Lord if You had been here…” (Ie, “Where the dickens were you when we needed you?”) Jesus asks to be taken to the tomb, then causes further consternation by asking that it be opened. Again, Martha-the-Mouth expresses the concern of all – in the delightfully earthy rendition of the King James Version: “Lord, by this time he stinketh!” But Jesus calls aloud, “Lazarus, get out here!” And Lazarus gets out here, grave clothes and all, to the crash, no doubt, of many jaws dropping at once! “Get those off him,” says Jesus. “He doesn’t need grave clothes now!

Jesus the Son of God is Life, and shortly will give that Life – give Himself – so that we all might live.


In the days before radio, cinema and TV, people, especially in rural communities, had to rely for entertainment on travelling musicians, actors and other artists.

Year A, Lent 4

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

In the days before radio, cinema and TV, people, especially in rural communities, had to rely for entertainment on travelling musicians, actors and other artists. A popular figure, particularly in the USA, was the elocutionist, whose forte was the declamation of poetry, famous speeches, passages from the Bible and other such. One such person came to a country town and before a packed audience recited passage after passage to thunderous applause. Finally, he concluded with a rendition of Psalm 23 which nearly brought the house down. But a little old man near the front raised his hand and asked, “Do you mind if I say that psalm now?” “Not at all my friend, go right ahead.”
This time there was no applause, only a reverent hush broken only occasionally by what could have been a stifled sob. At the end the elocutionist, with tears in his own eyes, walked over to the old man and shook his hand, saying, “My friend, I may know the Shepherd Psalm, but you know the Shepherd!”

Yes, one of those sickly sweet stories so beloved of a certain kind of evangelical Christian – not a kind of story I myself would normally set much store by; but in this case, it does emphasise the fact that anyone who truly knows Jesus Christ in a living, personal relationship has about them an air, a power and a serenity hard to mistake. Such a relationship is open to all of us, because Jesus offers it to all, but most of us, while knowing Him to some degree, have not yet gone all the way with Him because to do so requires discipline sacrifice: putting ourselves on the line. Today’s OT reading is our first introduction to David, youngest son of Jesse the Sheepman, whose family held him in so little regard that until Samuel insisted they hadn’t even bothered to call him in to share in the family feast which the arrival of the Prophet had occasioned. And even Samuel seems to have been a little surprised that it was David and not one of his brothers whom God had put His finger on for the next king. But God knew that it was out there among the sheep that David had come to know and trust God, when he had to face lions and bears in defence of his father’s sheep, and later in that same trust faced the Philistine giant (17:34-37).

To this same relationship of trust, we are invited as we proceed through Lent.

Lent and Easter 2019

Introducing their collection of resources (many of them original) for Lent and Easter 2019, Joy Kingsbury-Aitken and Linda Cowan of the Canterbury Lay Preachers Association write:

We thought it might be helpful this year to look at the days that make up the 46 days of Lent as well as Easter Day and the days beyond, and explore some of the special events along the way as well as looking briefly at the significance of Lent.

Download your copy of this resource-packed CLPA newsletter here.

Palm Sunday Prayer of Confession

Palm Sunday Prayer of Confession

donkeyJesus riding on a donkey
We hail you as our king.
Your way is our way,
You are the man for us –

Or at least you are the man for us
until your way becomes too hard.
When it starts to leave us isolated,
when it costs us money or sleep,
when it all gets too tough
then we put down our palm branches
and join the other crowd,
the ones who cry “Crucify”.

Lord, forgive us because we are so fickle.
When we make the commitment to walk in your way,
when we acknowledge you as King of our lives,
help us to do this knowing that the way may not be easy
but that you will strengthen us for the road ahead.
Help us to know that after crucifixion comes resurrection
and this is the way we walk with you.

Jesus riding on a donkey
we hail you as our King.
Your way is our way – whatever the cost
because we know we walk with you.

© Linda Cowan

Palm Sunday – Opening Prayer

palm sunday 02

Palm Sunday: Opening Prayer

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.
(Zechariah 9:9)

As the people spread their coats palm branches on the ground to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, so we welcome him into our lives this morning. King of Glory, King of Peace, Servant King, reign in our hearts and lives this day and all days, that we might praise your holy name.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
ALL: Hosanna in the highest

From http://www.faithandworship.com/liturgy_Palm_Sunday.htm#ixzz1mVljBQRp

Proclaim Him King, by Joy Kingsbury-Aitken

Proclaim Him King

by Joy Kingsbury-Aiken

[A full script, in pdf, for this Palm/Passion Sunday drama can be obtained here.]

Dramatis Personae

Shelah (owner of the donkey)
Peleg (owner of the oil press at Gethsemane)
Messenger (servant of Simon the Leper)Martha of Bethany
Mary of Bethany
Simon the Leper
Simon Peter (disciple)
James son of Zebedee (disciple)
John son of Zebedee (disciple)
Judas Iscariot (disciple)
palm sundayThomas (disciple)
Jesus of Nazareth
Lazarus of Bethany
Andrew (disciple)
Philip (disciple)
The Crowd

Scene One
The Village of Bethphage. Two men (Shelah and Peleg) are admiring the new donkey that Shelah and his family have just acquired.

Peleg: He’s a nice looking donkey, Shelah. He’ll serve you and your family well for many years to come.

Shelah: I hope so. I had to pay a substantial part of last year’s harvest for him. He’s a young one, never ridden, but seems to have a placid temperament.

A messenger approaches the men.

Messenger: I’m looking for Peleg the owner of the oil press in Gethsemane. I was told he was visiting his friend Shelah in Bethphage. Do you know where I might find him?

Peleg: I’m Peleg, and this is Shelah my friend. What do you want with me?

Messenger: I have an invitation to a dinner party for you, and for your friend too.

Peleg: Who is having a dinner party?

Messenger: Lazarus of Bethany and his family. The prophet from Galilee and his disciples will be there. Lazarus wants all his friends to meet Jesus.  ….


A full script, in pdf, for the Palm/Passion Sunday drama can be obtained here.