Reflection on Matthew 21:1-11
Sunday 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday
Spring has most definitely arrived at the Rectory garden this year. The daffodils are competing with each other for the coveted ‘most shades of yellow in a single flower’ prize, buds are opening here there and everywhere, and the damson tree has erupted in the most spectacular display of blossom that I’ve ever seen. Even the baby squirrels are joining in the fun, leaping around the treetops with reckless abandon.
I can’t decide if it really is a more impressive Spring this year, or if it’s simply that I’m noticing it more now that we’re confined to the house and garden. Either way, I’m grateful for it as a fine distraction from the worries of the world. Except that perhaps it’s less about being distracted, and more about finding some perspective on those worries.
I got a book of Wordsworth poems off the bookshelf this week, initially so that I could read his famous daffodils poem as I couldn’t remember how it went past the first four lines. My eyes soon went to my favourite of his poems, however, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, which he wrote in July 1798.
In this long poem there is a beautiful passage where Wordsworth says that “nature … can so inform the mind that is within us, so impress with quietness and beauty, and so feed with lofty thoughts that neither evil tongues … nor all the dreary intercourse of daily life shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb our cheerful faith that all which we behold is full of blessings”
I know from the many conversations I’ve had with people on the phone or over the Rectory wall this week that a lot of people are, like me, finding comfort in the beauty of God’s creation and are re-discovering “that cheerful faith that all which we behold is full of blessings.” It is important to hold onto this even if, at times, it is hard to reconcile with the awfulness of the situation we have found ourselves thrown into.
Today is Palm Sunday, the day when we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and for Jesus this day held mixed emotions too. There was, of course, the joy of the parade into Jerusalem, the streets lined with people waving their branches and cheering for the arrival of the Messiah. But there were also tears rolling down Jesus’ cheeks because he knew that over the coming days the crowds would melt away and he would find himself isolated and alone.
In our Benefice we should have been preparing for a joyful celebration of this day – processing through the streets of Ash following a donkey (or Stephen the pony doing his best donkey impression!). I am sad that we will not have that celebration together, just as I am sad that we will not hear the choir sing on Maundy Thursday, or share hot cross buns on Good Friday, or watch the sun rise together on Easter Sunday.
But although we cannot celebrate this week as we had planned, that does not mean that we cannot celebrate it at all. We can still journey with Jesus through the highs and lows of Holy Week, filled with contradictions and mixed emotions. Life is always too complicated to feel just one thing, be that joy or sorrow, and so we live with the tension that comes with rejoicing at the sight of a Goldfinch in the garden while weeping for the distance between loved ones.
Whatever mixed emotions you are holding within you today, I pray that you are able to find strength in our “cheerful faith that all which we behold is full of blessing.” Amen.