Cruden Parish Church
Online evening service
Sundday 5 April

A celebration of Palm Sunday!


Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti:

God’s steadfast love endures forever!

This morning begins the Great Week of the Christian Year. Although churches all round the world are closed, we are joined through the Holy Spirit with Christians of every denomination and language to call to mind, and to express in word and action the centre of the Easter mystery: our Lord's Passover from death to life. Christ entered in triumph into the Holy City to complete his work as Messiah: to suffer, to die and to rise to new life.
Today we commit ourselves to walk the way of the cross, so that, sharing his sufferings, we may be united with him in his risen life.You might like to read the following hymn slowly. Think carefully about the meaning of the words as you do so.

CH4 367

1. Hosanna, loud Hosanna
The little children sang
Through city street and temple
Their joyful welcome rang
They shouted out their praises
To Christ, the children’s friends
Who welcomes all with blessing
Whose love will never end.

2. From Olivet they followed,
A large exultant crowd
The victor palm branch waving,
And chanting clear and loud;
Bright angels join the chorus,
Beyond the cloudless sky,
“Hosanna in the highest!
Glory to God on high!”

3. “Hosanna in the highest!”
That ancient song we sing,
For Christ is our redeemer,
The Lord of heaven our King.
Oh may we ever praise him
With heart and life and voice,
And in his living presence
Eternally rejoice.

The language of that hymn describes a celebratory processions entering the city of Jerusalem, making its way towards the Temple. It paints a very different picture to our quietened cities and our deserted streets. No pilgrimage from Tarves to Barthol Chapel this year. And yet as we approach Easter, the most significant festival of the Christian year, today’s psalm reminds us that God’s steadfast love is not for a moment or even a life-time, or even a generation, but forever

Psalm 118:1-2, 5-14

1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!
2 Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’ …
5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.
6 With the LORD on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?
7 The LORD is on my side to help me;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to put confidence in mortals.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to put confidence in princes.
10 All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
they blazed like a fire of thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.


Psalm 118 is the psalm suggested by the Church for Palm Sunday. However I’ve chosen to include in our reading different verses. These verses describe the Psalmist’s battle against powerful enemies, enemies who threaten to overwhelm him, swarming around him like killer bees or blazing like a wild fire. In the face of these enemies, at a time when his strength is at its lowest ebb and he is about to collapse, the psalmist discovers that all is not lost. God is his strength and salvation. The psalm continues with the more familiar celebration of God’s life-giving victory in which the psalmist and all the people are invited to share.

The psalmist discovered that it is not enough to place our trust in other human beings, however powerful they may seem to be. And perhaps there is a message here for us as criticism of government grows and people place a huge burden of expectation on our NHS staff. Many heroes are emerging during these difficult days. Yet time and again we look, not simply for human heroes, but for human saviours.

Is this not what the crowds were looking for as they welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday – a great human leader who will rescue them from the Romans and bring them freedom? Below is the account of that event as we find it in Matthew’s Gospel.

St Matthew 21:1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’


On that first Palm Sunday, the crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as a hero. Here was the strong and powerful leader that God had promised, the one who would save them from their enemies. But things don’t go in the direction in which the people hope. There is no armed uprising against the occupying Roman forces. Jesus refuses to indulge in shows of power and strength. The people want someone they can follow blindly, and then no doubt blame when things go wrong. But Jesus insists that they cannot abrogate responsibility for their own share of the mess and muddle that they are in.

When we read on in Matthew’s Gospel we find that through story and action Jesus sets out the priorities of God’s kingdom. He insists on giving the last and the least, the hungry, the thirsty, the poor and the stranger their proper place. He teaches people about God’s values, values that speak of faith and hope and love beyond our imagining. And he challenges them to think about what it means to live and die by these values. This is not what the people are expecting. And four days later the crowd who shouted Hosanna are shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Today there is no doubt that in the coronavirus we face a formidable enemy, an enemy that is rampaging through our world like a swarm of bees whose hive has been destroyed, or a wild fire driven by the wind. It has taken occupation of our minds and thoughts. It has robbed us of our freedom to go about our daily lives. And we look for deliverance. But to whom do we look?

Yes we need leaders in government, planning a response to this virus. And yes we also need health care and other essential workers to look after us when we get ill and keep us supplied with food. All who perform these jobs are giving sacrificially of themselves. They are heroes and we applaud them for it – but as I have said already, they are also fallible – because they are human beings like us. Ultimately our salvation is not their responsibility and we should not burden them with it.

In contrast to this, Jesus offers a different kind of salvation – the freedom that comes from knowing that whatever the circumstances we are known and loved by God. We know this because God in Christ was prepared to share our human death that we might share his risen life. And he invites us to lay our burdens on him. Sometimes it is only when we are at our lowest ebb, in the place of deepest loneliness and isolation that we can truly appreciate the strength and power of God’s love, a love which is stronger than even death itself, a love which will not let us go. In the words of that familiar hymn by George Matheson,

O Joy, that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be”.

Today as we enter Holy Week some of us already have candles and rainbows and teddies in our windows. But I am inviting you to add to that collection a green branch – a sign of the life that Christ offers. And as you follow Jesus through a Holy Week marked by the struggle against Covid 19, let that green branch be a reminder to you that beyond, and yes even in the midst of pain and suffering and sorrow, God’s love is present and will not let you go.

Prayers for Others

Lift to God now in prayer
• Those who are ill or in hospital around the world
• All NHS staff and essential workers
• those who are seeking to manage and fight this global pandemic
• family, friends and neighbours
• other people and situations God has place on your heart today.
• the Church that we might offer a faithful witness to Christ through this time

The Lord’s prayer

Our Father in heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil
For the kingdom the power and the glory re yours, now and forever.


CH4 365

1. Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
Hark! All the tribes “Hosanna” cry;
O Saviour meek, pursue thy road
With palms and scattered garments strowed.

2. Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.

3. Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
The winged squadrons of the sky
Look down with sad and wondering eyes
To see the approaching sacrifice.

4. Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father on his sapphire throne
Awaits his own anointed Son.

5. Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain
Then take, O God, thy power and reign.

Closing prayer

Merciful God,
as we enter this holy week
and gather at your house of prayer,
turn our hearts again to Jerusalem,
to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
that, united with Christ and all the faithful,
we may one day enter in triumph the city not made with hands,
the new Jerusalem, eternal in the heavens,
where, with you and the Holy Spirit,
Christ lives in glory forever. Amen.


God of all,
you gave your only-begotten Son
to take the form of a servant,
and to be obedient even to death on a cross:
give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus
that, sharing in his humility,
we may come to be with him in his glory,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.