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In touch: Celebrating now?

Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues.

How can we celebrate joyfully at this time (Mark 11.1-11)?

 

Context

In a review in the Independent we read that there is a need for extravagance and the writer recommends the eight best luxury chocolate eggs to indulge in.

In response to the plight of the Uighur Muslims, sanctions are imposed by the UK (and others).

The BBC reported that about 28 million people in the UK had been vaccinated. They also reported that a year had passed since the first UK lockdown was announced.

 

Ideas for sermons or interactive talks

  • In Emma Henderson’s article in the Independent she explains how, as a result of the pandemic, we all need a celebration. For the Jews at the time of Jesus there was a desire to find a reason to celebrate. They were a people under occupation who were heavily taxed and did not have full liberty. It is interesting to contrast their desire for and glimpse of liberty and how they celebrated that, with our response today as we look towards the liberty that Jesus offers through his death and resurrection. Is it appropriate to celebrate Easter this year with a £37 egg? Would that be an extravagant celebration like those who threw down their cloaks?
  • While we long for liberty from the pandemic and freedom to meet other people and enjoy life to the full, others simply long for freedom. Those who took part in the carnival entry of Jesus into Jerusalem celebrated in different ways. The impact of God’s love in Jesus is often felt most acutely by those who are oppressed. In order fully to celebrate perhaps we need to enter into suffering. Traditionally that has been a way in which Holy Week has been observed.
  • The people celebrated in expectation of deliverance. They were cheering for what they anticipated Jesus would achieve. However, there is a strong awareness of God who has been with them in their plight, who has promised freedom; and a strong expectation that God will keep his promise. As we look back on a year of lockdown, we should be equally aware of the presence and promises of God.
  • Palm Sunday is a day for mixed emotions as we remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem which we call the Triumphal Entry. However, without any spoiler alert we know the rest of the story. It is not easy to celebrate extravagantly when we know that before the end of the week we will be remembering Jesus’ death. Today there are many mixed emotions in relation to the pandemic. There is fear of the third wave; sadness for those who have and are suffering; concern for those whose lives have been disturbed by the economic impact. However, amid all this it is still right to give thanks especially for the vaccination programme.

 

Questions for discussion

  • Who did the people in the crowd think Jesus was, and what were their expectations of him?
  • As we approach Holy Week who is Jesus to us; what is our relationship and what are our expectations?

Stuart Wild is a Superintendent Minister in the Lancashire Methodist District.

 

Check-in

Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people.

This week has marked the first anniversary of lockdown. A full year of restrictions due to the global coronavirus pandemic; a time to mourn for those we’ve lost and reflect on how much has changed in our lives. At the same time, the end of term is coming, and lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease. The vaccine rollout continues apace and with the clocks going forward, summer is on the way. These feel like small signs of hope.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowd cried ‘Hosanna!’ and threw down their cloaks and branches on the road in celebration. This was a hopeful time too where many joined in praising Jesus. What words and actions might we use to praise God this week?

When the crowd laid their cloaks on the ground, this was an extravagant gesture as part of celebrating the hope that Jesus brings. During this pandemic, we’ve seen incredible new acts of generosity, through extraordinary efforts to raise money for our health services or to support the vulnerable. Familiar giving still happens too, such as the fundraising event for Comic Relief last week. What opportunities might you have this week to be extravagant in your giving to others?

In the coming days you may travel a little further, or see a few more people and these experiences will be both new and familiar. Take time to look around, ask God to help you notice familiar faces and places, paying attention to new feelings or experiences. How can you be generous towards those you meet, perhaps taking time to show thankfulness to friends or family that you may not have seen for some time? And how can you continue praising God as you notice these things and journey towards Easter?

Written by Simon Hill, Youth Officer for Worcester Diocese

 

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