The Cross on our backs
Preacher: Revd Samantha Ferguson
Readings: Philippians 2: 5-11; Matthew 21: 1-11
This morning marks the beginning of a very special liturgical week in our Christian Calendar.
The rest of the world may be fretting about tests and masks and whether there is enough toilet roll,
But we as Christians have the chance to lift our eyes above the horror that has engulfed our entire world whose name is Covid 19, and to focus heavenwards and inwards as we once again journey, spiritually with Christ towards his cross.
Today, we heard again the start of that journey with the story of our Lord’s triumphant arrival to Jerusalem with palms and singing.
I must confess that this is the first time I have EVER in the last 18 years of my ministry preached on Palm Sunday.
In my own Anglican tradition, usually today is a day when the preaching gets put to one side, sorry Donald but tis an Anglian truth, and the focus becomes upon the narrative.
As one fellow priest put it to me this week, after one of the Lentiest Lents ever known, we may be fasting on the sacrament but we are certainly feasting on the word.
So in my Anglican tradition today we would normally have a dramatic rendition of the gospel story of the final week of Jesus’ life is read out by the congregation.
During the service you hear the story of the next few days in the voices of the people who were present.
And then it ends suddenly with the death of Jesus on his cross. There is no resurrection.
We go from the highs of Jesus entering Jerusalem to great acclaim on the back of that precious donkey to the lows, Christ’s betrayal, his trials, his death, his entry into hell and the darkness of beyond death.
This single service every year is one that always brings to me to tears because it reminds me of why it is so important to remember what happens to our lord in the next few days of Holy Week. Of what he suffered, of what he endured and why.
We, of course, as Christians are Easter People and we always now hear this story knowing how it all ends.
We know that a week today we will be back in our seats, eating our Easter eggs, if we haven’t eaten them already, and changing our chants from Hosanna to Alleluia. Alleluia Christ is risen he is risen indeed.
And yet, to get from here to there, we must travel with Jesus on that Donkey, and, with Jesus, we must walk towards that hill with the cross on our backs before we are lifted high and die a shameful traitor’s death.
Last week, in a normal world on a normal Sunday in Chapel, I should have had the great delight in welcoming an old school friend of mine and fellow Guernsey Islander– Jayne Ozanne the LGBT Evangelical Warrior. Please come and see her preach in October.
When you grow up on a small 9 miles by 3 miles sized island, 70 miles south of England and 20 miles west of France with 60,000 inhabitants, you get to know people pretty well.
Wherever I travel in this world of ours and wherever I seem to end up living, there is always a fellow Guern popping up to say hello.
And we are a peculiar bunch. We like tomatoes, ormering, flowers and singing Sarnier Cherie sitting on the Harbour in St Peter Port eating bean jar on Liberation day, 9th of May.
Now of course that is a massive generalisation! Although what unites all us Guerns is that we hate anyone from the other island. Jersey.
Whilst Jersey people are fondly known as crapauds, that is toads in Normandy patois, the local language of the Channel Islands, we Guernsey folk are lovingly known as donkeys, which is quite appropriate to mention on this Palm Sunday.
Us Donkeys are stubborn, dedicated, loyal, loving and always have a sense of humour. And one thing that you may not know about donkeys is that on every single one of them there is a cross on their backs marked in their fur.
I must confess to you all that I only recently found out about this little nugget.
Apparently, scientifically, it has something to do with DNA and breeding, but allegorically it is because it was a donkey that bore pregnant, labouring Mary to Bethlehem that first Christmas Eve.
It was, of course, a donkey as we heard this morning that bore Christ for his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday before the tide turned, the crowd and politics went against him, and as a result the following Friday he was lifted high on his cross.
From the cross on the donkey’s back to the cross on Jesus’, Christians all over the world will unite together as we walk alongside Christ this coming week in safety from our sofas and our homes.
Observing, listening, feeling, lamenting, mourning and, at last, at long last weeping tears of joy and wonder.
A safe place to express the rollercoaster of emotions that we have all be experiencing over the last few weeks.
However you choose to journey with Christ this coming week, please know that the cross on your back, on all our backs is one that Jesus himself knew all about, lived through and survived.
Whatever your cross this week means to you, anxiety, grief, uncertainty and sadness. Know you are not alone.
All of us Christians, in a way perhaps never ever before and maybe never ever again, will journey this week with our gaze fixed upon Easter Sunday whilst carrying the cross of living life with Covid on our backs.
May God bless you, those who you are worrying about, those whom you love and those who love you this day, this holy week and beyond the resurrection.