Sul y Blodau / Palm Sunday
Croeso i Lanbedr-y-Cennin yn Nyffryn Conwy
Welcome to Llanbedr-y-Cennin in the Conwy Valley
I have managed to call here on my way back from a funeral because I wanted to record this message for Palm Sunday.
Of course this church, St. Peter’s, like all of our chapels and churches is locked. It’s very hard to accept to be honest. St. Peter’s never normally closes. Usually, every day of the year, there is a sign outside that says, “Welcome. This church is open.” And many people come here for all sorts of reasons: to find peace, inspiration, a connection with the past or hope for the future. And of course, above all things, it’s a sacred place, a place of worship.
How are we to worship, how are we to welcome, when our buildings are locked? Many centuries ago, the prophet Isaiah was inspired by God to say, “God will make a way where there is no way.” And when you think about it, the Palm Sunday story is all about that, God coming to us in Jesus, not in the ways that had been tried and failed (the religious ways, the ways of statecraft and politics), not as a mighty warrior, not as a conventional king, but an almost ridiculous figure on a donkey (a borrowed donkey), surrounded by the crowds of the poor people shouting out their praises:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!”
But as Good so often is, as Peace so often is, this sign (God with us, Immanuel, this Palm Sunday sign) was spoken against, dismissed as a disruption, as politics, as people making a noise where they shouldn’t, dismissed as fake news. The Pharisees in the crowd shouted to Jesus, “Tell them to stop!” But he replied,
“I tell you, if these were silent the stones would shout out.”
That’s one reason I came here to Llanbedr to reflect upon this story. Yes the gate is closed, the door is locked, but hidden just behind me (perhaps you can see it) there are some stones projecting from a wall, covered in ivy. It’s quite a common Medieval feature to have stones over the church wall. The idea was that when there was a coffin and the bearers in the gate of the church, then there was another way for the worshippers to get over the wall and into the churchyard. If you have ever been to St. Mary’s (Caerhun) they’re very obvious there:-
It’s a feature of the church that many people include in their wedding photographs. But here at St. Peter’s (Llanbedr-y-Cennin), they’re tucked away, almost forgotten. But they’re still here:-
God has always found a way that we can connect with him, even when the normal ways are blocked. He’s always made a way for us to have a relationship, even if the world tells us that it is no longer required or offered – or we can’t do the things we used to take for granted as ways to reach God. These almost hidden steps speak to me of God’s promise, this Palm Sunday and always.
In Isaiah chapter 60 verse 18 there’s this amazing vision:-
“Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
devastation or destruction within your borders.
You shall call your walls ‘Salvation’ and your gates ‘Praise’.”
In that promise we trust today. Amen.
“Ni chlywir mwyach am drais yn dy wlad,
nac am ddistryw na dinistr o fewn dy derfynau,
ond gelwi dy fagwyrydd yn Iachawdwriaeth,
a’th byrth yn Foliant.”
Eseia 60: 18
Arglwydd Iesu Grist,
darostyngaist dy hun
trwy gymryd ffurf gwas,
ac mewn ufudd-dod buost farw ar y groes
er ein hiachawdwriaeth:
dyro i ni’r bwriad i’th ddilyn di,
ac i’th gyhoeddi di yn Arglwydd ac yn Frenin,
er gogoniant i Dduw y Tad. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant,
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation:
give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen