Waving Which Palms?

Matthew 21:1-11Palm Sunday – for Sunday, April 9, 2016

“Now a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road.” (Matthew 21:8)

Soon there will be fists.

But first there were palms. Open. Fingers spread. Waving.

With those palms waving, did hoarse voices bellow, “Look here! Remember me, Jesus?” Or were the loud words, “God bless you! Thank you, Jesus!” Wouldn’t that second variation be closer to the Biblical Hosanna?

Hosanna! Palm Sunday!

Did those witnessing Jesus’ arrival wave leafy branches or palm leaves? (Only John referenced palm trees, the—in Greek—phoinix)? Some, according to several Gospels, placed cloaks on the road. Whether it was a few supporters or a rambunctious crowd, the Gospel writers depicted the greeters honoring Jesus. However, the honor was tempered by humility. There’s that colt he’s astride rather than a stallion girded for war. And the cloaks on the ground were, well, clothes still sweaty and dirty from wear. Nothing fancy. No red carpets. No paparazzi. Continue reading →

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Lent 6: On Rejecting Jesus

Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29*Palm Sunday (6th Sunday of Lent) – for Sunday, March 20, 2016

“The stone rejected by the builders is now the main foundation stone . . .” (Psalm 118:22)

“Palm Sunday” - Evans Yegon
“Palm Sunday” – Evans Yegon

No one likes rejection.

Before the teen years end, a boy or girl we once gave our wholehearted love to will start dating someone else. It’s okay though, our former flame will say with words that burn, we can still be friends . . .

Rejection!

I sought a job in Oregon once that seemed perfect. My wife and I had moved to the Northwest for her new position at a university and—truly feeling God’s guidance during phone and in-person interviews—I felt humbly confident my future employers would offer me the position. Then came the final phone call . . .

Rejection!

At a ministry conference in the 1980s, I attended a relaxed Q & A with guest speaker Alice Walker of “The Color Purple” fame. As a then young pastor (and longing to be a published author), I asked her how often she’d been rejected in her early career. I can still picture Ms. Walker thoughtfully nodding, and then—gazing at me—saying, “Never.” For a brief, darkish second, I despised her. Why was there always someone who never experienced . . .

Rejection? Continue reading →

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In the Grip of Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11Palm Sunday – for March 29, 2015

“Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields.” (Mark 11:8)

With a closed palm, we warn with our fist . . .
With a closed palm, we warn with our fist . . .

Today I read Mark through John’s eyes.

Only the Gospel of John mentioned palm trees.

Mark and Matthew were branches, with no palms allowed.

And Luke? Well, Luke didn’t know, didn’t care, or got the memo late about the greenery. There were no palms in the third gospel, just cloaks scattered on the ground when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Palms, like other elements in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, were symbolic. For example, the bread and wine shared during the “last supper” were common parts of a meal that became essential symbolic elements. Don’t forget the iconic gold, frankincense, and myrrh in Matthew’s version of Jesus’ beginnings. After Bethlehem’s gifts, there was the high-in-the-sky symbol of a dove descending. And if your literal-leaning faith prefers to interpret the gold at Jesus’ birth in the clutches of a flesh-and-blood magi or a visible and heaven-sent bird at baptism soaring in the clouds above the Jordan River, at the least we can agree those—and other Gospel events—have become symbolic.

Palm trees too. Continue reading →

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