As I sat on my rocking chair earlier this morning, with my hot cup of tea and my Lent devotional, enjoying the fresh green of new leaves on the swaying silver birch trees which grace the lane outside our house, and the cheerful yellow daffodils smiling merrily up at me, the scene is picture perfect for Palm Sunday, full of hope and celebration.
And yet my heart is heavy. We know what happened during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Day. Today, the journey of the disciples is uppermost in my mind. They would have been waving palm branches and celebrating with the rest of the excited crowd. They would have watched Jesus confront those business men exacting exorbitant prices from those who couldn’t afford them, and the religious leaders putting impossible hurdles in the way of people seeking to know God. They would have watched him deal with trick questions with wisdom and grace. They would have wondered at his teachings, stories with meanings which only those with ears to hear could understand. All the clues as to who Jesus was, were condensed in this week. Then, on Maundy Thursday, they would have sat, while the Maker of the Universe humbly and lovingly washed their dusty, smelly feet. As night fell, they walked alongside him to the Garden of Gethsemane, and there fell asleep when he most needed their prayers. And then Peter betrayed Him.
For those of you living in the UK, have you ever noticed that many churches have a cockerel on the top of their spires? A weathervane to show wind direction. I discovered this week that the roots of this date back to the ninth century when Pope Nicholas I sent out an edict that cockerels should be put on the top of churches to remind Christians to stay true to their faith. This references to Peter’s denial of Christ, followed by the cock crowing. The cockerels later doubled up as the weathervanes we know so well.
And this is what has been on my heart this morning, giving the picture perfect setting of Palm Sunday a somber undertone. Will we be able to keep standing? Will I and my family be able to withstand the pressures on Bible believing Christians as they continue to squeeze us apace? How will we discern the multitude of heresies and false prophets flooding into our churches, some so near the plumbline of Biblical truth that it is easy to take them on board unwittingly? How do we best prepare ourselves to stand? How do we prepare our children? Should preparation for prison be part of our discipleship training? What can we learn from the underground church in countries like Iran?
This is the first Easter in two years that we’ve been allowed to freely celebrate and sing praises in our churches to our resurrected Lord, who conquered sickness, death and hell itself. This, a nation which stands on the sacrifice of many who have died for the truth of the gospel. Over the previous couple of weeks continued decisions have been made in our parliament which lead us as a nation ever further from God’s good ways, and cannot bring about the “peace of the city” for which Jeremiah calls us to pray and work towards. I feel my only response to this is to cry out for God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Thus the cockerel seems a particularly prophetic symbol to me this Holy Week.
While I do struggle with the weight of the direction in which I see our nation turning, I also know that ultimately the Lamb wins! The New Testament was written during a time of intense persecution and yet contains many exhortations to “be joyful” and “rejoice!”. So, after I have cried out to God, I will do just that. We will put up our Easter decorations for Holy Week, we will celebrate Passover and we will enjoy the sunshine and exquisite beauty of the world God created for us. We will enjoy being with friends and family, be thankful for good food and continue to plant seeds in our garden. We have a hope in Christ which no schemes of men can destroy! That’s worth celebrating.
Blessings on you all this Holy Week.
“…I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19