Riding on a donkey

Spoken notices are as much an integral part of a Sunday morning service as profound liturgy, or the great hymns of resurrection which are a feature of this time of year. Hymns like Thine Be The Glory, which at my Dad’s funeral, nine years ago at Easter, the organist was requested to “belt out like there’s no tomorrow.”

Last Sunday, there was a reminder from the Rector that what we call Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, in four days' time. Thanks to yet another quirk of this liturgical year which keeps on giving, Palm Sunday is also the day when clocks go forward by an hour.

There is again the risk of rolling up late for church, having worked all night. In the taxi, the meter, clocks, tablet and smartphone all jump forward without human intervention. As if by magic, we lose an extra hour’s trading, on the most expensive tariff of all. If working in the middle of the night in the autumn, when the clocks go back by an hour, an extra hours trading is gained, so there is a kind of equilibrium

In Wantage, for years there has been a procession on Palm Sunday from Holy Trinity, Charlton along the public highway to the venerable old parish church, past the taxi rank, just off Market Place. It is a grand and ecumenical occasion, with a fellow swinging a thurible dispensing incense in the open air and a silver band playing all the old classics.

But this year, came the sad announcement that due to “bureaucratic difficulties” there is to be no procession;  there is to be a service - with a donkey in attendance - on the Market Place, instead.

These processions are held by Christian communities throughout the world, wherever they meet in the name of Jesus, to mark those events in Jerusalem of the first Holy Week, which changed the course of human history, forever.

I have walked the Via Dolorosa, in Jerusalem, where Jesus walked. It is powerful and it is moving. Nonetheless moving are the thousands of commemorations and processions which take place around the world p, in communities like Wantage.

Jesus came into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey 2,000 years ago, knowing what he was about to endure. I would not have thought any of the people who threw their clothes on the ground and cut down palm trees to wave at him bothered to fill out health and safety assessments, nor pay the Pharisees, Sadducees nor Roman authorities for permission to close the Via Dolorosa. They just did it, without people walking alongside in high visibility vests.

In the Mass we say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”.  Bureaucratic difficulties of the present age do not change the essential truth: he came to save us from ourselves. On a donkey.

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 21 March 2018

  1. Luke 19:28-41
  2. Church of England, Wantage Parish, Weekly Newsletter, Lent 5, 18 March 2018, as retrieved 20 March 2018