Opening Hymn You are the King of glory
Hosanna to the Son of David,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
Behold your King comes to you, O Zion,
meek and lowly, sitting upon an ass
Ride on in the cause of truth
and for the sake of justice
Your throne is the throne of God, it endures for ever
and the sceptre of your kingdom is a righteous sceptre
You have loved righteousness and hated evil
therefore, God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness, above your fellows
Hosanna to the Son of David,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
The Lord be with you
and also with you
Dear friends in Christ, during Lent we have been preparing by works of love and self-sacrifice for the celebration of our Lord’s death and resurrection. Today we come together to begin this solemn celebration of union with the Church throughout the world. Christ enters his own city to complete his work as our Saviour, to suffer, to die, and to rise again. Let us go with him in faith and love, so that, united with him in his sufferings, we may share his risen life.
Blessing of Palm Crosses
We hold up our palm crosses while this prayer is said
God our Saviour, whose Son, Jesus Christ, entered Jerusalem as Messiah to suffer and 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 lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and forever
A Reading from the Gospel
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew, Chapter 21, verses 1-11
Glory to you O Lord
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.’
This is the Gospel of Christ
Praise to you, O Christ
Song; Ride on, ride on in majesty
The LENT CROSS
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
6 Matthew 21:9
O Saviour of the world, who by thy cross and passion hast redeemed us
Save us and help us we humbly beseech thee, O Lord
Prayers of Penitence
Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second is this:
‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
All Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith,
firmly resolved to keep God’s commandments
and to live in love and peace with all.
All Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us, forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life to the glory of your name. Amen
who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon us
pardon and deliver us from all our sins,
confirm and strengthen us in all goodness,
and keep us in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
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.
Psalm 118.1–2, 19–29
Response; This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever. 2 Let Israel now proclaim, ‘His mercy endures for ever.’ R
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord. R
20 ‘This is the gate of the Lord; whoever is righteous may enter.’ 21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner-stone. R
23 This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. 24 On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Hosanna, Lord, hosanna! Lord, send us now success. R
26 Blessèd is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. 27 God is the Lord; he has shined upon us; form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar. 28 ‘You are my God and I will thank you; you are my God and I will exalt you.’ 29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever. R
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. AMEN.
Address by Rev Paul Lanham
Matthew 21.8. A great multitude spread their garments in the way.
‘All the world’s a stage and all the men & women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances’.
Shakespeare could almost have written that about the events of Holy Week which we commemorate at this time.
We witness a huge drama spread over several days with many people taking part. There are the major figures: Jesus (above all), Pontius Pilate, Annas & Caiaphas dominate the scene. Then there are those merely with walk on parts. Simon of Cyrene who was pressed into carrying Christ’s cross. He had come all the way from North Africa, now he was unclean, unable to take part in the Passover Festival – but he became a follower after the crucifixion. Joseph of Arimathea who gave Christ his tomb; he was someone of importance who privately cared about Christ & what He stood for. The penitent thief. I am sure that the two who were crucified with Jesus were terrorists, followers of that Barabbas who lived as Jesus died – how ironical that scenario is. Judas Iscariot, the enigma, surely the most fascinating figure of the entire Bible; there is infinitely more in his betrayal of Jesus than the Bible would imply.
Then there is the CROWD. They play a significant role in the Passion narrative and without them Christ could never have been crucified.
Instead of taking the usual Biblical line, let’s look at them more realistically. Jesus comes into Jerusalem on a donkey, mocking the generals who entered Rome triumphantly on a white charger surrounded by their troops and followed by the slaves they had captured. Jesus by contrast comes into the Holy City in peace on this symbol of humility, an ordinary looking man on a beast of burden. To us 2000 years ago it is full of meaning, but to others it is very different. Jerusalem is bursting with pilgrims. The threat of civil disobedience is at its highest, the Roman occupying forces are terrified of open rebellion. This could be the spark that sets off a riot that they are unable to control. But to make a move against this demonstration would be to risk greater trouble. They can only watch and hope.
As for the crowd, they are bored, looking for something to do, some form of entertainment. Then along comes this carpenter and His followers, mocking the Roman Triumph. It’s always entertaining to mock authority and this is worth watching. Worth joining in, by tearing down branches, shouting what the disciples were shouting even if they don’t mean what they are saying. To them the Triumphal Entry is no more than street theatre, a means of killing time. Jesus is relieving their boredom for a bit. They can have no idea that they are unwittingly taking part in the prelude to the greatest event, the greatest tragedy in human history – but whoever heard of a street entertainer being the centre of such an event.
Jesus enters Jerusalem – and he does two acts that make Calvary inevitable.
First he cleanses the Temple, antagonizing the Jewish authorities and hitting them where it most hurts – in their pockets.
Then he just teaches. This second act does three things; it’s the most under-rated action in the tragedy. 1), by teaching his own brand of religion where the Jews teach a completely different one, he antagonises them even further (if that were possible). 2) He shows Judas Iscariot (who was surely at heart a terrorist, a member of the Sicarii, the People of the Dagger) that he, Jesus, was not going to start the revolution that he, Judas, joined the Twelve to be a part of; the betrayal of Jesus that follows is because Jesus has betrayed him. 3) Jesus stops entertaining the crowd. He has become boring; they have no further use for him.
It just needs one final element to set the tragedy into its final stages – someone who can whip up the crowd and turn them into the force that will ensure that Jesus is condemned to death. For the crowd have the power to blackmail Pilate into condemning Jesus to death; they can potentially cause a riot that will end the career of the ruthlessly ambitious governor. Pilate knows it and he will do anything to prevent it.
Annas and Caiaphas also know this, and they know that they can also use the crowd to assert their power over Pilate once and for all. So, Jesus also becomes a pawn in a power struggle over who really rules Israel.
It’s a fascinating scenario, a struggle also between two types of looking at life, between evil and good, materialism and spirituality, selfishness and self-giving. And the crowd, utterly disillusioned by Jesus, bring everything to a head. Having proclaimed him as Messiah they no longer need him. They can bay for his blood, stirred up by an orator – because this too is street theatre, albeit of a much more sinister type. They can be swayed, they can be swept along by hysteria, they can get things done without realising the long term effects of them (I can’t help – rightly or wrongly – seeing a parallel between this mass hysteria and the Nazi rallies at Nuremburg). The crowd hold the reins of power, not that they know it – and they are fickle.
It is the crowd that ultimately condemn Jesus to death. Without them Jesus could not have been condemned. Obviously, they weren’t the most guilty in Christ’s condemnation but they played their part.
In that passage that we read every Christmas, St John writes that ‘the light shines in the dark and the darkness has never quenched it’. This lies near the heart of what Christ’s Passion really means. It is a conflict between darkness and light, evil and good. On the one side there are Annas and Caiaphas, Pilate, the crowd and everything they represent. On the other side there is Christ the Son of God and everything that he stood for.
Superficially it seems at Calvary that evil has conquered good, but in the Resurrection we see that good can never be conquered, that love will conquer hatred, light will conquer darkness.
In order to have Easter there must first be Calvary, but on the cross Christ condemns everything that the world stands for. The ambition of Pilate, the hypocrisy and machinations of the priests, the fickleness and selfishness of the crowd, the materialism of the world as a whole. They are held to account as Jesus stumbles along the Via Dolorosa, and in dying He passes God’s verdict on them.
But it lies deeper even than this. I am fascinated by the trial of Jesus by Pilate. It is far too complicated to go into detail, but we see in Pilate’s misunderstanding of Our Lord’s Kingship the same misunderstanding that the crowd had at the Triumphal Entry. Both thought that he represented the dream that the Jews had, of the Messiah who would make Israel great again.
‘My Kingdom is not of this world’ Our Lord declares to the governor. Pilate can’t understand because he thinks on a different level to Christ. Our Lord taught the priority of humility, of love, of unselfishness. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek.” These are the values of the Kingdom; these are what he represents.
So, the cross becomes Christ’s throne, his robes the tattered garments in which he died. Here he passes judgement on the world, but in doing so he shows his love even for those who others would see as his enemies. His spirit must be in us, as once again in spirit we walk the lonely path to Golgotha.
Paul writes to the Philippians, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But he made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man he humbled himself and became obedient even unto death, death on the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’. Christ reigns from the cross, the cross is the expression of everything for which he stands. The grief of Calvary leads as inevitably as anything could to the joy of the empty tomb and everything for which it stands. In pondering it we see his love for us and for the world; but we also see a challenge which as his followers we cannot avoid.
Rev Paul Lanham
Prayers composed by Tony Fletcher
Almighty God, as we start Holy week, remembering again the story of Christ’s Passion, may it help us to truly understand the sacrifice He made for us.
Jesus Christ, you travelled v towns and villages curing every disease and illness. At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love. Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another.
Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.
Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.
Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.
Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.
Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.
Jesus Christ, heal us. Amen
Offertory Hymn Make way, make way
Please keep up your planned giving because we need to maintain our cashflow. Offertory envelopes can be dropped in to Sylvia, Shena or Peter, but we are trying to avoid handling cash if possible. The Church and Wilbury Hall hires have ceased, so that income stream is gone! If you could spare a bit more, that would be great!
Could you consider giving by occasional cheque, or setting up a standing order or direct debit? If you wish to pay directly into our account by BACS, our account is
Sort Code 40-52-40
Final Hymn All Glory, Laud and Honour
The God of all grace,
who called us to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus,
Establish, strengthen and settle us in the faith;
And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us now and always
Thought for the week
Matthew 21.8. A great multitude spread their garments in the way.
Keeping in touch
Being a part of the Church family is going to look and feel very different over the coming months, especially for our older members who live alone. Please keep in touch with folk you know!
Worship online and through broadcast
See churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/ and click on
There are lots more worship and prayer resources there
And the service on Radio 4 at 10am is always worth listening to
Distribution of St Thomas’ services
This is happening in three ways
- Sylvia sends an email to all those on the electoral roll who have given us email addresses. If you wish to be added to this distribution, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- A version which includes some video and hymn resources, but with personal data omitted goes on-line at st-thomas-letchworth.org.uk as a blog. Find it on the Home page
- Paper copies go out to those who cannot receive in either of the above ways. It would be helpful if recipients of paper copies could move to receive as above
In current circumstances, the Foodbank is preferring to give vouchers to its clients to spend in supermarkets, but it needs money to finance these vouchers, so please give money
If you can give food, donations are very welcome. The items listed are the most urgently needed.
UHT Milk [Longlife]
More general help
You could give online to nationalemergenciestrust.org.uk, who have launched an appeal for all those affected financially by the Coronavirus