Fortunate enough to have a garden in these days of restriction, I took my early morning mug of tea to the garden seat at just after 6.00 to sit quietly and observe. It was not long before I was eyed up by a row of about twenty pigeons on the roof of the URC hall. This is a four-square building, from this angle more like a castle keep, and an excellent vantage point from which the pigeons, with their deep-throated chortle, laugh at me most days. Now it has to be said, that the URC expended a substantial amount of cash to prevent them from nesting in the church roof fairly recently, but they are finding somewhere to bed down, because numbers are approaching their former total and the fine viewing place they have, in happier days, one could imagine would attract the pigeon equivalent to ice-cream and burger van. Lacking such facilities my newly emerged broad bean seedlings are in the eye-line and they are mind-reading my intent to sow lettuces today.
Whilst pondering this and keeping my head down as blackbirds wing past me to their nest in the tree behind me, what should pop out of a hole in the wall not twenty feet away, but a wood mouse, which zig-zagged its way along the row of broad beans as if to say to the pigeons, “these are mine.” Well, they are within a yard of their nest, so I suppose they think I planted them there specially for them. The other side of the path I put in a double row of peas just yesterday afternoon, and these are a real delicacy for the little brutes. My Animals of the British Isles by Edward Step (first published 1921, 14th impression 1948, and given as a prize to one Joyce Harryman for “General Proficiency”) notes of the wood mouse: “It is, indeed. the cause of something approaching despair to the keeper of the kitchen garden; for this is the miscreant that ploughs up and eats the newly sown peas that have not been rolled in red lead or soaked in paraffin.”
On a day such as Palm Sunday, with donkey and waving palm branches, the sight of Jerusalem in the morning sunshine before us, as we stand in imagination upon the Mount of Olives with Jesus and his disciples, amongst the very last things upon my mind would be red lead and paraffin. We are thinking of the amazing life and energy of this day: sparrows dust-bathing in the path or chattering noisily in the bushes; rosemary growing wild in the cracks of pavement and wall, flowers bright in the piercing light of the Holy Land. Descending to the Kidron Valley and through the Garden of Gethsemane, with crowds gathering and hosannas ringing, this is wonderful, joyous, up-lifting. There is no sitting still at the moment. That is to come. It is all activity from our Lord’s triumphal entry to the Holy City and to his cleansing of the Temple of all that is out of order in its precincts, to the excitement of the crowd, matched only by the anxious attention of the religious authorities, planning his demise.
So, we begin Holy Week, and we do sit still and look around us in thought and prayer, to be with those who thronged Jesus and proclaimed him King; with those who betrayed and denied Jesus and became part of the baying crowd for his crucifixion. That is before us in these days, when, though not meeting together in Church to remember the events of Holy Week in Church services, we may know that each of us is pondering the mysteries and wonders of these days; taking things to heart; re-living all that lies at the heart of our faith.