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Vicar's Musings for Palm Sunday

24 March, 2013

The Palm Sunday narrative presents us with a bitter-sweet start to Holy Week. The Jerusalem crowds are in a frenzy as political rumours of a Messiah spread like wild-fire. Will this preacher and healer from Nazareth save us from the oppression of Rome? Is Jesus the One? And as we know so well, the adulation and carpets of cloaks and palm branches will all too soon turn into anger and calls for crucifixion. The nineteenth-century Danish theologian and social critic, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) famously ran in the face of the popular movements of his day, equating the crowd with untruth:

There is a view of life which holds that where the crowd is, the truth is also, that it is a need in truth itself, that it must have the crowd on its side. There is another view of life; which holds that wherever the crowd is, there is untruth, so that, for a moment to carry the matter out to its farthest conclusion, even if every individual possessed the truth in private, yet if they came together into a crowd (so that 'the crowd' received any decisive, voting, noisy, audible importance), untruth would at once be let in. For 'the crowd' is untruth.
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I have to confess, it has been a bitter-sweet week for your Vicar. There is something truly mystical about the ancient stories of Holy Week and Easter. As we enter into them devotionally, they mysteriously enter into us. Anyone who has seen Jesus of Montreal (1989) will recall how exquisitely this truth is depicted by Denys Arcand, the film's writer and director. Again and again I find myself at this time of year re-living the scriptural narrative of Jesus' Passion and Resurrection. Last Sunday we had a political upheaval of our own in the parish, such as we've not had for some time (one parishioner noted that if we'd sold tickets it would have removed any budget deficit for the year). After the 11am High Mass we said farewell to Fr Tom Brown, thanking him for his eight years of service to the parish in a variety of roles, from Priest-in-charge to volunteer at the Lazarus Centre. Sadly we also had an impromptu farewell to Guy Churchman, who has served faithfully in the St Peter's sanctuary for 23 years, and is now moving to All Saints, St Kilda, a "Forward in Faith" parish at the more traditional end of the Anglo-Catholic spectrum. Unfortunately Guy gave his farewell speech before I arrived for morning tea, which I found hurtful, especially given the synopsis that I later received from those who were there. Guy and I spoke after Evensong that night, however, and thankfully came to a place where we could shake hands. So I hope we part as friends rather than enemies, and as our Head Server said to Guy: "it is impossible to resign from the St Peter's Servers' Guild — once a member, always a member."

As we now enter into the most holy of weeks in our liturgical calendar — in search of truth — may God grant us the strength to endure all challenges we encounter along the way, and plant deeply within us the seeds of hope and resurrection. Amen.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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