A Service for Palm Sunday 

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HYMN All glory, laud and honour



Almighty God, 

to whom all hearts are open,

all desires known,

and from whom no secrets are hidden:

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you,

and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Christ our Lord. Amen



God shows his love for us in this: while we were still

sinners. Christ died for us. Sure of reconciliation

through the death of his Son, we confess our sins to God.

Romans 5.8

Lord Jesus Christ,

we confess we have failed you as did your first disciples.

We ask for your mercy and your help.

When we take our ease

rather than watch with you:

Lord, forgive us.

Christ have mercy.

When we bestow a kiss of peace

yet nurse enmity in our hearts:

Lord, forgive us.

Christ have mercy.

When we strike at those who hurt us

rather than stretch out our hands to bless:

Lord, forgive us.

Christ have mercy.

When we deny that we know you

for fear of the world and its scorn:

Lord, forgive us.

Christ have mercy.

May the God of love and power

forgive us and free us from our sins,

heal and strengthen us by his Spirit

and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen


Lord, have mercy

Christ, have mercy 

Lord, have mercy 


COLLECT for Palm Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God,

who in your tender love towards the human race

sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ

to take upon him our flesh

and to suffer death upon the cross:

grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,

and also be made partakers of his resurrection;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen



Zechariah 9.9-12 

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!  Lo, your king comes to you;  triumphant and victorious is he,  humble and riding on a donkey,  on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim  and the war-horse from Jerusalem;  and the battle bow shall be cut off,  and he shall command peace to the nations;  his dominion shall be from sea to sea,  and from the River to the ends of the earth.  As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,  I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.  Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;  today I declare that I will restore to you double.   

HYMN Ride on ride on in majesty



Matthew 21.1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When he 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.”


To write his telling of the story of Jesus Matthew drew on various sources, the most obvious of them was the Gospel of St Mark. On many occasions Matthew does nothing more than précis Mark, but often he will reword and amend to get across his themes and ideas of what Jesus was about, and why he did the things he did. His account of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is a clear example of his tinkering.

In Mark’s account we hear that Jesus rode into Jerusalem after giving his disciples detailed instructions on where to find a colt for him to use. This arrival into Jerusalem is to be no casual affair, Jesus has been walking to Jerusalem ever since his transfiguration on the mountain to the north of Israel. That may well have been in October at Sukkot, or the Feast of Booths, now it is early April and he is about to arrive for what he has predicted will be the last week of his life. The climax to his ministry, when all his teaching will be concentrated and his mission revealed. Clearly the arrival is an important piece of street theatre, one which will give a statement of intent to those who rule Israel as clients of the Romans - the High Priests of the Temple and members of the Sanhedrin. They have been watching Jesus ever since he began healing people in Galilee. So this entry into Jerusalem is to be significant.

At this point some background might help. In 142BC Simon Maccabeus rode into Jerusalem at the head of an army after besieging the city. The first book of Maccabees says, “with praise and palm branches… and with hymns and songs.” A ‘triumphal entry’ you might say, Simon was High Priest and was about to be given the throne, after defeating an occupying power.

Is this to be another ‘triumphal entry’, by a new Son of David, a new Messiah?

Mark tells us that Jesus was accompanied by ‘many’, the multitude, the ‘ochlos’ or country peasantry. They, we are told, followed him from Jericho where he healed blind Bartimaeus. But no army here. And no war horse either, just a donkey. Or rather, a colt, a young horse or ass or donkey. The accent here is on the ‘young’. Mark’s word ‘pollos’ can be any one of a variety of young animals, horses, donkeys, camels, elephants, even children were called ‘pollos’ from time to time. The idea is something as far from a battle horse as possible.

And here I must digress to explain something that bothered me for ages. Why should Mark and Luke call the animal a colt, a single creature and yet Matthew tells us about two animals, ‘an ass tied and a colt with her’, which Jesus then rides? Here is one of those deviations that Matthew likes to take, he quotes the prophecy of Zechariah, which Mark subtly leaves for his listeners to pick up for themselves. Matthew makes it explicit, quoting the text, but uses the Greek Septuagint text which translates the Hebrew literally, missing the fact that the Hebrew, as it does so often, uses the little known grammatical device of a hendiadys for emphasis (‘the expression of a single idea by two words connected with ‘and’, eg., nice and warm’). The writer of the prophecy did not intend his readers to think that the triumphant king rode on two beasts simultaneously, but emphatically wanted them to know that he rode on a young beast, and so in peace. Already a warning about a literal interpretation of biblical text!

The people yell, ‘Hosanna!’, another puzzle for the modern mind. Hosanna is used in Psalm 118, where the cry is addressed to God, meaning ‘Save now’, but it also is used elsewhere to kings. It seems to have evolved to greet pilgrims and famous Rabbis, becoming a general acclamation rather than a cry for help. Of course, this is Passover and these are pilgrims from the country. But Jesus has been described by others as Son of David - which use of the word is intended. Mark holds the tension by having the crowd shout, ‘Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming.’ No revolution here.

After the entry Matthew has Jesus go straight to the Temple and then begin to cleanse it, turning over tables and the like. But significantly he has changed Mark once again, Mark merely has Jesus enter the Temple, look around and then return to Bethany. Mark sets up the tension, creates the feeling of a popular rising with a popular prophet/king, and then dispels it with an anticlimax. Now is not the moment, one piece of theatre at a time. Jesus needs this week to complete what he needs to do, to fulfil his mission, he must get to the passover.

The subtleties of the telling of this event may entrance the theologian, but what earthly use is it to us? I believe that It helps us to understand the dangerous line Jesus was treading, between a secular revolution and a religious protest movement, between a political demand for justice and a godly call for compassion. This week is, writ large, what Jesus’ life has been all about since he was baptised and the Spirit of God descended upon him - a call to acknowledge the demands of God, not in a crude transfer of power from one tyrant to another, but in recognition that to acknowledge God means to acknowledge his command for everyone to live forgiving, caring, compassionate lives - and to live that out in every situation we may face, to the best of our heart and mind and soul and strength.

And that’s a principle that works for today as it did for first century Palestine - maybe even more so, as the challenges of living in closed spaces for extended periods of time distort the perspective and can lead to strained relationships and harsh words. An atmosphere of fear and anxiety might further shake our sense of control. The careful remembrance of Holy Week can readjust our perspective and re-centre our focus on what we know to be important.



Though he was divine,

he did not cling to equality with God,

but made himself nothing.

Taking the form of a slave,

he was born in human likeness.

He humbled himself,

and was obedient to death  

even the death of the cross.

Therefore God has raised him on high,

and given him the name above every name:

that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bow,

and every voice proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.  Amen. Philippians 2.9-11


HYMN Who is this in garments gory?



Lord, whose son rode through the streets to a triumphant reception, knowing what lay ahead for him but never turning aside, we welcome you today into our hearts. Remembering that many of those who shouted ‘Hosanna’ on Palm Sunday cried ‘Crucify’ on Friday, we ask you to help us remain steadfast in our faith and we pray that you help us proclaim your name to the whole world. Lord, give us grace this Holy Week to follow in your Son’s path from death to resurrection, from darkness to light.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

At this very different time, we ask you also to cleanse everyone from all corruption, all greed and all failure to treat other human beings with the loving kindness and respect that they deserve as one of your people. Most are rising to the current challenge but some still only try to profit themselves. Let us embrace the change in attitude that our current crisis is fostering and truly value not just our doctors and nurses but all who diligently help our society to function and are often ignored.

Here at home, we pray for the whole family of the Church, may we reach out and support each other in these difficult times. As we begin Holy Week, strengthen us all with fortitude, gratitude and the assurance that you are with us always.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

Lord, we remember those living in coronavirus hotspots and those currently by themselves. May they know your presence in their isolation, your peace as they fear what life will bring and your patience in their waiting. We pray for those who are already sharing in the suffering of your son, those who are grieving and reeling from the sudden loss of loved ones. May they find your fellowship in their suffering, your comfort in their loss, and your hope in their despair. We name before you those known to us who are vulnerable and scared – especially the frail, the sick and the elderly. 

We pray for all medical professionals dealing daily with the intense pressures of this crisis; grant them resilience in their weariness, discernment in their diagnoses, and compassion as they care. And we thank you for the army of researchers working steadily and quietly towards a cure - give them clarity, focus and faith. 

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

And finally, a comforting meditation:

Pray, and know that the Lord is with you:
let him lead you each day into the quiet place of your heart,
where he will speak with you;
know that he loves you and watches over you -
that he listens to you in gentle understanding,
that he is with you always,
wherever you are and however you may feel:

Merciful father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our

Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen


As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name, 

your kingdom come, your will be done,

on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins 

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours

now and for ever. Amen.


If you have a palm cross from a previous year you may like to find it and say with me the prayer we use to bless the palms:

God our Saviour, whose Son Jesus Christ 

entered Jerusalem as Messiah to suffer and to die;

let these palms be for us signs of his victory

and grant that we who bear them in his name

may ever hail him as our King,

and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life;

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.


HYMN When I survey the wondrous cross




Christ crucified draw you to himself,

to find in him a sure ground for faith,

a firm support for hope,

and the assurance of sins forgiven; 

and the blessing of God almighty, 

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 

be among you, and remain with you always. Amen


To End Bogoroditse Devo (Sergei Rachmaninoff) - Voces8