Where are the Palms?
As a kid, I recall looking forward to the Sunday before Easter. Yes. Easter was a big deal. I mean a BIG deal. I went to a black, southern, Baptist church. Easter was basically our version of the Super Bowl. I knew a puffy dress with lace-covered socks would be my uniform. Instead of a ring, a HUGE easter basket filled with plastic eggs containing anything from skittles, to money, to jewelry would signify my championship. My church, as a traditional as it was, was just liberal enough to believe the son of God and the Easter bunny could peacefully coexist.
But somehow, despite all the excitement surrounding the upcoming “Baptist Super Bowl,” I seemed to anticipate the Sunday before a little more. At my church, it was tradition for the ushers to hand out palm leaves in the vestibule. To this day, I can still see the ladies in white standing on the church steps as we pulled up to the parking lot. Although they weren’t giving out Easter baskets, I somehow knew what they were offering me was special.
I would wait excitedly in line to receive my palm leaf. I would carry it into the sanctuary with the sacredness of the duty of a Catholic altar boy. I didn’t know what songs the choir would be singing, but I KNEW the expectation - I was to respond to each and every song with the waving of my palm leaf. There wasn’t a sign or even an announcement. But somehow, I knew that was my only reasonable response. The tempo of the song didn’t matter. The ability of the singer was inconsequential. The entire order of service was a mystery to me, but my response was predetermined. Not just my response, OUR corporate response was choreographed and silently agreed upon before the beginning of service.
It was beautiful! Just a sea of people with their palms raised. The waving of the leaves stirring a wind that was both palpable and spiritual. The palms became a great equalizer. I was significantly shorter and smaller than the other church attendees, but my palm added to the wind. I knew in my heart that if my palm wasn’t raised the wind wouldn’t be as strong. All of the congregation, both on earth and in heaven was depending on me and my palm. Inevitably, the service would have to end. We would all go back to our homes and prepare for the BIG Sunday just seven days away. We would inadvertently lay our palm leaves on the kitchen table, desk, or even the trash. The leaves would wither, and so would the memories of that wind. Easter would come, and while I was SO excited for the dress and the basket, there was still a lingering question in my head: “where are the palms?”
That one Sunday a year didn’t seem like enough! Don’t you remember the wind?! How can we meet this Sunday and not include that wind?
Somehow in my 8 year old brain I already knew the truth. One day was not enough! Cultivating my expression and response to God was a year-round job. The honor of being able to stand with others with a unified intention needed more time.
That truth still stands today. Every corporate gathering of believers is an invitation to use your “palms” to create a wind that is palpable and spiritual. God is calling us beyond just annual responses to daily submission. The worship pattern of revelation, recognition, and response is an act to be cultivated daily, not celebrated yearly.
So as we celebrate this Lenten season and look forward to the great “Super Bowl” Sunday, I challenge you to ask yourself, “where are the palms?” The invitation to join the crowd of Matthew 21:9 in shouting “Hosanna...Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” is ALWAYS available.
Let us not squander the opportunity by waiting for the right time or the
perfect date on our calendar. He is calling for our palms and it is our reasonable act of worship to respond.
Thanks so much for reading! My revelation of the invitation of Palm Sunday didn't just result in this post, it also resulted in a song. If you need a soundtrack to your Palm Sunday (or Tuesday), check out Hosanna.