Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
5 April 2020
[ video ]
It is Palm Sunday, a day for crowds.
There were crowds in Jerusalem at Passover time 2,000 years ago …
There are crowds in Jerusalem for Palm Sunday every year, except 2020 …
There are good numbers at people at churches on Palm Sunday, but not this year …
There are no crowds this year.
Or maybe our definition of crowds has been upturned:
Three’s a crowd
That certainly applies in Australia under our coronavirus regulations.
We have no crowds, but we have lots of participants.
Most ‘regular’ Sundays we have been getting 60 people at the Cathedral on Sundays. That is up by almost 50% from three years ago and we would like to see it higher.
But the past two weeks while we have been live streaming our service, we have been getting around 1,000 people looking at the video.
Yes, you heard me: 1,000 people!
We have no one in the Cathedral, but we are creating a web (not a mob), a network (not a crowd)
So welcome to all our online people, whether you are from our regular Cathedral congregation, friends from across the north coast or around the country, or people who do not usually get to church anywhere on Sundays but have found this a good way to do some spiritual work.
You are welcome, and we are glad to have you participating in our Cathedral mission:
a generous faith community
centred on Jesus
seeking wisdom for life
acting with compassion
in the heart of Grafton
Come right in and make yourself at home as we do the stuff that Jesus people have been doing since that first Palm Sunday almost 2,000 years ago:
We are celebrating how good it to be alive. To be alive here and now. There is a lot of anxiety out there thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but at a time like this we still have so much to celebrate.
Worship is when we pause to consider how wonderful it is to be alive, what a gift life is, and how grateful we are to the love that pulses at the very centre of the cosmos.
We call that eternal love at the heart of cosmos, “God”; and we believe that we encounter that love in human form in the person and the wisdom of Jesus.
We can worship anywhere, as this pandemic is teaching us all over again.
You can worship right now, simply by pausing to reflect on the blessing of being here.
Rituals are not the same as worship, but worship uses many different rituals and this coming week is the time in the year when we have lots and lots of special rituals: from palm branches to today to feet washing on Thursday (except it is banned this year) to stations of the cross on Good Friday, the lighting of the Holy Fire on Easter Eve and the Paschal Candle on Easter morning.
We have rituals in every aspect of our lives, but this year we need to create or modify those rituals for online communities and inside our homes. Create a holy space in your home. Light a candle. Contemplate a holy picture. Read the Scriptures. Say your prayers. Cook special food for these special days. Listen to the special music that feeds your spirit.
Jesus gathered a community around him, and we are part of that community 2,000 years later.
Our community is under threat, and more so by people who think only of themselves than from the virus.
Our community includes all creation: the plants and animals, the rivers and the oceans, the air and the sky.
Make sure our rituals include some that renew and enhance our connection with one another and with the planet. I like to stop and talk to the magpies around the Cathedral. What is your crazy personal ritual that connects you with the community of sacred Earth as well as with other people?
As Jesus people, we know that it is all about compassion.
In the end, nothing else matters. Not what we believe, but how we treat others.
Through the weeks of this pandemic members of Parish Council will be phoning people from the Cathedral community here in Grafton to check on them. Are you OK? Is there anything you need? Can we help in any way?
That is what Jesus people do.
Our Cathedral Pantry has really caught the attention of people across Grafton. It is a simple thing, but it makes a difference to those who really need our help. Compassion.
Jesus people are generous people.
We see that from the very beginning of the Christian story.
One story that captures this so well is our Gospel from today when a woman anoints Jesus with very expensive ointment. It was a prophetic act, anointing Jesus for his burial even before he was dead. But it was also an act of loving generosity. What could have been e joyed for her own benefit is totally expended for the sake of someone else, in this case, Jesus himself.
You will know the story of the crowd being fed with two fish and five loaves of bread. That was a picnic lunch for a young boy, but he brought it to the disciples because he heard that everyone was hungry.
What’s the point? ask the disciples; watch me, says Jesus.
Generosity is when we see a need, take action to address, and do not worry about our own needs.
We have seen a lot of generosity during this past couple of weeks as people respond to the news that the Cathedral will lose about half its income for 2020 if the shutdown lasts six months as we expect.
We are not out of the woods yet, but more than half the expected shortfall has already been made up by special gifts from people in our Cathedral community.
Generosity … it how Jesus people act.
So welcome—no matter where you are joining us from—and may you have a holy and deeply meaningful Holy Week.
We are glad to have you as part of our community of compassionate Jesus people in the heart of Grafton since 1842 and now in the heart of many more communities because you have joined us this morning.