THE service on Palm Sunday, March 24, at Crediton Methodist Church, was led by Rev Jeanette Richardson.

A palm branch was laid at the Lenten Cross - a reminder of the journey Jesus made - a journey that would lead to Him losing His life.

We remember all who are grieving, thinking of those who are travelling the journey of loss.

Jeanette asked what pictures come to mind when we think of Jesus. Do we still think of “Baby Jesus”?

We saw pictures of Jesus with animals and children and one from Latin America where Jesus is laughing which reminds oppressed people that there is joy in life and that Jesus brings freedom.

The usual image of Jesus is as blue eyed and fair haired. So, it was challenging to see pictures of Jesus from different cultures and parts of the world such as Cameroon.

Before we read John 12 about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, Jeanette set the scene to think about different feelings that were about.

John tells us that those who had been present at the healing of Lazarus spread the word. There were mixed feelings.

The Pharisees and the Chief Priest were really scared that if people set Jesus up as their king, the Roman authorities would destroy the temple and the nation. They put out word that if anyone knew where Jesus was, they were to be told so that they could arrest Him and put Him to death.

There was so much excitement. Just before Passover it became known that He was again in Bethany and lots of people went there in the hope of not only seeing Jesus, but also  having  a look at Lazarus – that upset the religious authorities too, so they planned to kill Lazarus as well.

Five days before Passover they hear that Jesus is on His way into the city and they rush out to greet Him, waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna which means Lord save us.  We can only imagine what they meant by that phrase and what their fantasies of the future would be.

At this point in the service, Palm Crosses were distributed and we remembered Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and being greeted with the waving of palms and shouts of Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel.

Today we greet Jesus as our King – a king whose crown was thorns and whose throne was a cross. We follow Him this week from the glory of the palms, through the glory of His suffering and death to the glory of His resurrection.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday there were many different groups in the crowd that had gathered for Passover. Many who were convinced that Jesus was the best thing that had ever happened to them, others who thought He was the most dangerous person around. 

Matthew, Mark and Luke record that it was after this amazing event that Jesus went to the temple and, seeing all that went on there, angrily overturned the tables and declared it was a den of thieves, not a place of prayer.

Jeanette said is seemed the only thing that makes Jesus angry is stuff that gets in the way of people being able to meet with God. 

John places this event right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and he describes Jesus as the word becoming flesh and living among us.

It is John who tries to understand the huge difference that the coming of Jesus has made in the life of the world.  It is in Jesus that we come close to the Father and it is through Jesus that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

We say that we are a church that welcomes all -  and we do. So often though it is done on our own terms. We expect people to behave in a certain way when they come to church. Jesus makes everyone welcome and He is prepared to receive a welcome from anyone. They belong just as they are. 

Once people feel safe and realise that they are loved as they are, then they may be in a place where they can let down their own barriers and begin to hear about a God who loves them and wants to free them from the things that bind them. They come to believe.

Then, things begin to change. They change  - and we change as we learn and grow together.

Jesus teaches us a way which is  radically different from the ways of the world – and that is the way of living that overflows with love and joy and peace.  May we know that love, joy and peace in our lives so that it will naturally flow out to those whom we meet.

Bronwyn Nott