Palm Sunday

23rd March 2024

Did you see any of the Oscars recently? It was screened live on ITV (albeit very late at night) for the first time. And we discovered that Oppenheimer was the big winner – this dramatic tale of the creation of the atomic bomb and the race between the Allies and the Axis scientists to develop it. It’s one of the longest films you’ll ever get to see – 3 hours. To cater for those whose bladder can’t cope with such a long film, there’s an app called ‘RunPee’ that advises you when would be a good time to dip out of the film without missing anything significant!

A dramatic story and a long one.

This Sunday we’re trying to splice together two dramatic and long stories and reveal the connections between them.

It’s Breakfast Church at St Mary’s – something we’re calling Hot Cross Breakfast as the majority of our breakfast fayre will be hot cross buns. It is, of course, Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week.

In addition to Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, we’ll be looking at the ending of the story of Joseph that we find in the final few chapters of Genesis. Where we left it last time was with Joseph being betrayed and sold in slavery. Those two word ‘betrayal’ and ‘sold’ immediately link this first story with the events of Holy Week where Jesus too, will be betrayed and sold. Scholars have identified almost 40 links or similarities between the story of Joseph and the story of Jesus. It’s quite remarkable – it reminds us of the drama and the time span of both.

Of course, we won’t have time to do justice to both, so I wonder if you would help me, if you can, by reading some of the chapters of the life of Joseph that we find in Genesis? If you want to recap on what we covered last time, read Genesis 37. Then read on from Genesis 39 to Genesis 50 – it’s quite a stretch but it is as gripping and dramatic as anything you’ll find in EastEnders, Coronation Street or the Archers.

As you read the story you’ll discover that the story of Joseph and his brothers is filled with terrors: fierce jealously, cruelty, indifference to the family, manipulation, false accusation, buying and selling of human beings, false imprisonment, forced exile and starvation and all the human emotions that accompany such events. In some ways, the question we ask is, what’s the point of it all? How does a rather awful story make any spiritual sense?

The key verses are found in Genesis 50 where we find Joseph telling his brothers, ‘God sent me before you to preserve life’, and further ‘even though you intended to do harm to me. God intended it for good.’ Time and again we find in the Bible examples where God permits evil within his creation in order to make certain good happen. Good that could not come about in any other way. We also realise that the Bible takes a long view and urges patience as God works out his divine purpose which often remains hidden.

That message is nowhere better seen in the story of Jesus, as God in Jesus breaks into our world, walks and shares the journey of our lives to the Cross and then to Resurrection.

My prayer for you is that you’ll realise that there’s a great arc of salvation at work and whilst we are so very often impatient for things to change or be different, God sees it all and is working in ways we cannot comprehend and fully know. We hold onto that hope as we start our journey into Holy Week and all that it will means for and to us.

I hope you will embrace this Sunday as a means of finding yourself within God’s great big story of salvation which he freely offers in and through Jesus. It is a dramatic and a long story, but we are included.

Revd Paul Bradish