Palm Sunday, coronavirus, forever changed.
The above picture is a shot I took from St Nons Retreat Centre, during my ordination retreat last June. This year as I prepare to be Priested, I am aware that no such retreat will take place, and it is likely that the Priesting when it eventually happens will be with just the Bishop and a few others, as Coronavirus grips the world. Without a shadow of a doubt, as I sit pondering on this Palm Sunday, the outbreak of the Coronavirus or Covid 19 has been the most difficult thing I have had to navigate in my ministry to date.
As I sit and watch the breeze sweeping over the oriental grasses in the garden, I am reminded of the ocean and it's ever changing tides and waves. Nothing ever stays the same even when we like to think it does, which presumably is why we try to cling to the things we can so vehemently. One thing we can cling on to, and be sure will never change is Jesus, and the promises he made to us, it is Jesus that I cling to this Palm Sunday.
"the disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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!" and when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee." (Matthew 21:6-11)
There is an uncertainty about what the future will hold for us at this time. Fearful that our loved ones will be at risk of losing their lives. Wondering, if life will ever be quite the same again, unsure of the rules, or when it will end. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, I should imagine that his disciples, Jesus' closest friends would have had similar emotions. They didn't know what the future had in store for them, they were fearful for their lives, knowing that Jesus was already a 'wanted' man, even the people who were shouting 'Hosanna, would later have a hand to play in his crucifixion. And yet, his disciples trusted Jesus, they followed him regardless of what they thought may or may not happen. They trusted that Jesus knew what he was doing and that he was the one who would save them.
In his book "the Way of Christ-Likeness" Michael Perham writes -
'We celebrate Holy Week and Easter to become more like Jesus. To become more like Jesus, not just through a desire to be conformed to his pattern out of love for him, good reason as that is, but to be like Jesus is to find the way to cope with all that life may throw at us.'
As we spend this coming week, reflecting upon the story of Holy Week, we can spend time considering the faith, the joy, the relationships and the pain that Jesus experienced during the week. Perhaps we can consider how Jesus handled the situation that he found himself in. Yes, he spent some time in relationships with the people around him, but that wasn't all he did. Significantly, Jesus spent a large part of his time in prayer to the father, he wept, and begged for the cup to be taken from him, he experienced what it is to be human in a way that most of us will never thankfully have to.
Life will never be the same again after this coronavirus outbreak but as we take steps forward this week, we can be sure that Jesus' disciples were also forever changed because of Jesus' saving act. As we walk toward Good Friday, let us endeavour to be like his disciples, trusting in Jesus, trying to be like him so that we might cope with whatever life throws at us, and with a sure and certain hope that in him we are forever changed for the better.
May God bless us all this Holy Week, may we walk in the way and be changed forever. Amen.