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Vicar's Musings for Palm Sunday

13 April, 2014

Jesus was not a conservative Rabbi. He exhorted his followers to keep the Law and the Prophets, yes, but all the records we have of his life and his teaching suggest that he was primarily about change. Change to the way we view God; change to the way we understand scripture and tradition; change to the way we treat people. The crowds who thronged the streets as he entered into Jerusalem knew this. Many of them misunderstood quite what form this change would take, but they fully understood that Jesus was preaching a radical gospel of change, that's why they came in such numbers. Jesus' message was never designed to be comfortable, or to please people, or to keep the status quo, or to defend any legacy, or to grow synagogue numbers. Jesus' gospel message was carefully designed to disrupt and provoke his hearers into thinking more deeply about God. Jesus' aim was to challenge people, especially religious people, to reconsider how they relate to one another and how they relate to their neighbour.

The issues of our day are very different from those of first-century Palestine. We cannot put Jesus' gospel into a box and say: this is what happened then, so this is the answer for today. Jesus' gospel is more elusive than that. We have to work it out for ourselves in each generation and each context. Looking at the Bible as a whole, however, we can probably draw out an underlying touch-stone: God cares first and foremost for the marginalised, the oppressed, the poor, the sick, the needy. This is certainly the gospel message of Jesus. People have been aware of this message for centuries; some choose to ignore it and resist the profound challenges it brings, others embrace it and allow the winds of change to fill their sails.

What do you see this Palm Sunday? What winds of change are blowing through your life? How is God challenging our common life as a church or as a society at this moment in time? Today's gospel message for us may be political, or ecclesiastical, or existential and deeply personal. In your prayers today, ask God to speak to you, to challenge you, to equip you to embrace the changes that are demanded of the followers of Jesus. One thing is clear, the way ahead will not be an easy one; it is the way of the cross.

When Jesus 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." (Matthew 21:10-11)

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

Illustration for Palm Sunday Musings

Manuscript illumination. Lombard, c. 1500. Wallace Collection, London.

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