Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Triumphal Entry

21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

The talk

I have found this morning’s short sermon really hard to write. Here we are on lockdown and self-isolating due to the Covid 19 virus which can kill as easily as it can just cause mild symptoms. It’s just that how do I encourage you that everything will be alright in the end?

Here’s Jesus on a donkey riding into Jerusalem. We know the story of events really well, he’s on a donkey and he is applauded and mobbed by the people as the messiah, as their saviour. They tear palms off of the trees to make a carpet for him and shout like a bunch of frenzied fans at a pop concert.

What did the people expect? What did they think he was going to save them from?

The common theory is that they expected some sort of revolution to release them from the rule of Rome, some revolution which would help the people to throw off the invaders who taxed them and told them how to live their lives. The Romans made the rules. They had to treat the Romans with respect, or else the consequences were death. The people needed some type of intercessor to help them fight the Romans, even if they didn’t do it themselves. Isn’t it typical, people always want someone else to ‘do it for them’? Nothing changes does it.

It’s pretty certain that many had heard of this Jesus, heard that he was a miracle worker, it’s pretty certain that the people had heard the rumours of how he had made the disabled walk, healed the lepers, brough the dead back to life, I mean in the time line in the bible it was only a few days ago that he had raised Lazarus. And in a time when there was no TV or Radio ‘word of mouth’ was pretty much how you got the news. And as we know, rumours travel quickly. So let’s not be surprised when the people turn out by the hundreds to praise Jesus as he rides a donkey into the city. So what were they expecting?

When you read this, aren’t you struck by how human everyone is? Aren’t you struck with how very much these people who lived over 2000 years ago are just like us?

They wanted something to happen to change their lives and if we look at it in its basic human emotion, they wanted someone else to do it for them. Here was Jesus, he would do it, he would lead this revolution to free them from oppression.

As we know, He didn’t do what they expected, he didn’t suddenly stand up in the temples shouting ‘viva le revolution’, not least because he wasn’t speaking Spanish, but mostly because the revolution he was leading was one of LOVE. Jesus had come to free people from the oppression of hate, he had come to free them from fear. He was all about Love.

He wasn’t saying anything about overthrowing the leadership, he wasn’t going to lead a fight for liberty, he was there to tell us about how to live our lives in Love for God, and for each other.

I don’t know if you have been touched by the stories of love you heard this week in the news. I have been moved by the death of doctors and nurses who have stood between us the public, and this virus. Did they have love for us that made them do that? Do the doctor’s nurses and hospital staff even think what they are doing is action born out of love for us?

I donno the answer to that, but the love that the public has shown by standing in the street clapping and making noise for hospital workers and front-line staff is deep seated in Love. I’m interested that in this world at the moment, in its fear of the C19 virus and the fear that any one of us might not be able to survive this illness, I’m interested that we have tapped into an emotion to help us get through this, and we might not even realise and that emotion is Love.

There’s the love of volunteers who have stepped up to help their communities, volunteers who have gone to help distribute food, the doctors and nurses who have signed up to go back into the NHS, police officers recently retired or left who are going back to help keep our communities safe, do they even realise what they do is born in the deep emotion of love for their fellow human being?

As we live through this dreadful period in our lives and history ,let us as the Christian community who know the love of Christ in our lives keep praying for everyone let us share our faith through love, lets keep in touch with everyone by phone or Facebook or face time or zoom chats, but lets show our love for each other , Jesus came to make a revolution of love in the world, lets join in the revolution and share love with everyone, so that when we do meet again in church, we can have a great celebration of that love in praise and song and invite those who we speak to now to come and share it with us so they can discover for themselves where that love comes from and how we live our lives in love through Christ each day. Amen.

Sermon for National Association Retired Police Officers 25th November

Ecclesiasticus 44 1-15

Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations. 2 The Lord apportioned to them* great glory, his majesty from the beginning. 3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and made a name for themselves by their valour; those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;    those who spoke in prophetic oracles; 4 those who led the people by their counsels and by their knowledge of the people’s lore; they were wise in their words of instruction; 5 those who composed musical tunes,    or put verses in writing; 6 rich men endowed with resources, living peacefully in their homes— 7 all these were honoured in their generations, and were the pride of their times. 8 Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise. 9 But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them. 10 But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; 11 their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children.* 12 Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake. 13 Their offspring will continue for ever, and their glory will never be blotted out. 14 Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation. 15 The assembly declares* their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise.

Ecclesiasticus was apparently written by Jesus, grandson of Sirach, sometime between 190 and 170 BC. He was a philosophical observer of life who lived in Jerusalem and was well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures and traditions. 

I suppose that after 30 years of being a police officer and now nearly 14 years retired and a member of NARPO I should really begin this talk with these immortal words from Police Sergeant Dixon of Dock Green, “evening-all

Many of my old colleagues ask me ‘so after being a copper how’d you end up a vicar?’, my only answer is to say, “God knows”, coz to be perfectly frank, even I don’t know. Suffice to say like all police officers, when the guvnors direct you to do something, as long as its legal, we just do what we’re told.

We tend to forget that being a police officer isn’t just a job, it’s still what we refer to as a vocation, it means we do it because we have a sense of community spirit, a sense of justice for all, a sense of helping others a sense of standing up for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves. That’s why it’s called the ‘thin blue line’, but by god that thin line seems to be getting thinner all the time doesn’t it.

so how does that link with our purpose of being here today to remember the 190 Bedfordshire Police officers who served in the Great War of 1914-18, …….22 who gave their lives in that conflict and 168 who also served and came back, probably changed men. many probably with injuries, both physical and mental so much so that some died years later they returned home from the effects of the injuries they received.

I read the Bedfordshire police web page by Keith Jackson remembering some from the police service who served and as he said that details of the service history of some of those who died or served is still a mystery, but let me remind you of a bit from our reading today

10 But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; 11 their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children.*

We might not know, but I firmly believe that ‘God Knows’.  All those officers are all know to God. I read somewhere many years ago that police officers were amongst the largest number of volunteers to answer the call up in 1914, those were the days before ‘reserved occupations’

Their sense of vocation and sense of justice and sense of protecting others would have perhaps been a deciding factor in their doing their duty for King & Country, perhaps they were used to being the thin blue line even then, and decided that they would join up and become the thin khaki line against the foe , continuing the sense of vocation from their civilian role into the military role to defend the country.

I would never use the phrase that they were ‘ordinary men’ who joined up, because every soldier then and now is an extraordinary person, when I was in the army I met many extraordinary men and women, when I was in the Metropolitan Police for 30 years I met many more.

Our soldiers are all men and women together doing extraordinary things standing between those who sought to invade and those who just wanted to live in peace at home.

The spirit of those extraordinary people still lives in the person of every man and woman who comes after them

the reading says 11 their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children. *

Their wealth is evident in the character of those who still seek the vocation of being a police officer, it is still evident in the purpose of preserving life and limb, it is still evident in the bravery of police officers who stand between the law breakers and those who are victims of crime, the prevention and detection of crime, you might say I’m being fanciful in saying that, but I bet you, there isn’t a copper out there who isn’t working their socks off to do their duty to the best of their ability and who knows, with proper funding and proper resourcing and with more officers, the police could well begin to beat the changing trends in crimes rather than playing catch-up all the time.