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Preached before the service begins – so as not to interupt the ‘flow’!

Palm Sunday…
 – a day with a heavy load of SCRIPTURE…
 – FOUR readings: Gospel, OT, NT, Passion…
  – even if the passion is a ‘shortened’ form…!
 – it’s a lot to take in…!

So, a question…
 – what is scripture FOR…?
 – what is its purpose…?
 – what part does it play in the life of a Christian…?

There are various answers we could offer…
 – some of them can be found within scripture itself…
 – classic one, from St Paul:                                (2Tim.3.16)
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful
for teaching, for reproof, for correction,
and for training in righteousness…”

 – several passages talk about scripture as being able to be  ‘fulfilled’…
  – so perhaps it’s also useful for pointing to the future,
   or to something deeper…

Generally speaking scripture is usually seen as ‘something we can get something out of’
 – something that benefits, or teaches us…

This is all true…
 – but I would like to suggest to you that there is another purpose,
  another function, of scripture…
 – that it’s not just something we can get something out of OUT OF…
 – but that it’s something that we can also get INTO…

Today we are going to hear the story of the ‘Passion’…
 – the death of Jesus…

How many times have you heard it before…?

Are you going to get something different or new out of it this time…?

Maybe not…!

But in this setting at least, that is not its function…
 – we are not here today to be taught, or reproved, or corrected, or trained…
 – we are here today to be invited to enter into the experience of the passion…

I think that the primary function of scripture is to draw us into the story…
 – to make us part of it…

When Jesus said ‘Do this in remembrance of me’
 – he wasn’t just talking about the Eucharist, Holy Communion…
 – he was talking about the fullness of faith, including scripture…

The word ‘remembrance’ in this context doesn’t just mean ‘remember’…
 – it means ‘remember’, and ‘re-enact’
 and bring what we re-enact out of the past and into the present…
 – to make it real again today…

That’s why we can say, “This IS the body/blood of Christ”…
        “This IS the word/gospel/passion of Christ”…

We make a connection…!

Today we are invited to stand with those who stood by the cross 2000 years ago…
 – not to learn, or to be instructed…
 – but simply to be part of it all, to be there!

Over the last couple of weeks the daily readings set for Morning Prayer have been from Exodus: the long wrangle that Moses and Aaron have with the Egyptian Pharaoh to persuade him to let the Israelite people go from Egypt (designed so that the readings about the Exodus itself coincides with Easter).

Alongside this, out in the real world, union negotiators have (had!) been wrangling with Willie Walsh about conditions of service for BA cabin crews.

I was struck by the parallels.  There was Moses and Aaron traipsing back and forth to see the Egyptian CEO, Pharaoh, trying to negotiate an escape plan for the people of Israel.  Different plans were put on the table, rejected, more plans suggested, all against the background of increasingly more menacing ‘plagues’.  In the end, the death of all the Egyptians’ first-born sons clinched the deal!

The most interesting aspect of this ‘parallel’ was the realisation that we, as human beings, as Christians, often try to ‘negotiate’ favourable terms for ourselves with God.  “I promise to try to be good, if only You will…!”

This is, of course, a pointless exercise.  God always wants the best for us, and always knows what the very best thing for us is.  He knows it better than we ourselves know it.  He also knows that some of the things we might think are good for us are, in fact, in the greater scheme of things, bad for us.  In our negotiations with God, he already has the best plan for us on the table.  His plan, once again, involves the death of a first-born son, his own!

The death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate deal-clincher.  In all of our little negotiations with God, He knows that, deep down, what we really all want (what we really NEED) is ‘life in all its fullness’.  And so that is exactly what he offers us, through faith in him and through his own incarnate self/son, Jesus.  He even pays all the costs.  Deal done!

And when we come, Sunday by Sunday, to the ‘table’ of the Eucharist, we accept that deal with thanksgiving and hope, accepting God’s assurance that whatever happens in our lives, his love for us is undiminished and never-ending.

Alleluia!

I was very saddened to hear this morning that the singer/songwriter Lesley Duncan had died earlier this month.  Her music accompanied me through the late sixties and early seventies.

Only last night, at a charity event in church for MedEquip4Kids (a brilliant local charity!), where various local schools came together to sing and play music, I had played Lesley’s album “Sing Children Sing”!

Here’s a taste:

and:

and:

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