Holy Week in a pandemic: Palm Sunday

9.25am I am still in bed. I’ve no need to get up yet as church is happening online this morning, for obvious reasons. I’ve been tickled by the idea of doing Sunday worship in my pyjamas all week, but now it comes to it, I feel like I’m being very cheeky!

On another note, I need to go and get my laptop so that I can organise a Facebook watch party and comment as we go!

10.30am It has hit me again that we can’t be in church next week, Holy Week, and it just breaks my heart.

11.20am I did it! I watched the video in my pyjamas eating a chocolate brownie! If you want to watch the service, the link is here. I know that Chris put in a tremendous amount of work to pull it all together, and I think it really reflects who we are and how we do our family service. Now, off to get up, showered and crack on with some work!

2.30pm I’ve just been doing a few jobs around the house, like putting the dishwasher on and taking the bins out. Tomorrow is green bin day and so I’ve been inspired by nice posts online to leave little messages for the refuge collection people and the milk lady in the morning.

9.22pm So, today wasn’t as productive as I had hoped. Most days during the lockdown, I can be upbeat and positive, but there is something about the last three Sundays that has caused me to struggle. I said in my weekly check-in a couple of weeks ago, on Sunday morning I feel like I have lost a limb. Today I have felt somewhat without purpose.

I know that the church is the people, not the building. I know that I can worship anywhere. I know that when Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two, meaning that we can pray to God anywhere, anytime. I know and believe all that. It’s just that I love Sundays, and I have worked so hard to get to a place where I can lead, preach and preside well with confidence and without feeling anxious.

Today is Palm Sunday, and it is all about the crowds, the gathering of people. There is no isolation in today’s story. The crowd is huge. People come out to see Jesus and they lay their coats and palm branches on the floor for the donkey he is riding to walk on.

In the story, the crowd is huge and excitable. I am no fan of football, but do you remember last year when England was doing really well in the world cup and there was just something in the air? Do you remember when Liverpool won the Champions League in Barcelona, and loads of people went into Liverpool to see the victory parade in the city center? Well, that is the modern day equivalent of what it was like when Jesus came into Jerusalem. The people lined the roads, shouted and whooped as Jesus came past.

It is the exact opposite of what city centers look like today, in the middle of the pandemic. Usually on Palm Sunday, many churches do some kind of procession to mark the occasion. But not today.

If you have read my Holy Week blogs from the past two years, you will know that in my heart I can never fully engage with the celebration of Palm Sunday. That’s because I know that crowd is going to get very nasty very soon. Which leads me to my main thought of today: crowds are not always good. The crowds that cheer for Jesus today and they cry ‘crucify’ on Thursday. Crowds can be great. Crowds can be dangerous.

In our context in Holy Week 2020, all crowds are dangerous. Not because they might turn nasty at any moment, as they did with Jesus, but because gatherings of people could hurt others. This means that Holy Week will be different this year. But let’s all commit to staying home, staying safe and protecting each other.