Have you ever noticed that if you look at a familiar word or object over and over long enough, that it seems like it doesn’t make sense? There is something about diving deeply into a subject that takes you outside the way you have always seen it and brings you into a new dimension of understanding. It can also coincidentally, take you into a space of looking at yourself in a new way because generally speaking the things we notice outside of ourselves are reflections of what goes on inside us, which is why we notice them at all. It’s all about us! In any case, repetitive activity sensitizes you to new thoughts and new ways of seeing. You can do this with simple familiar things, like your own name for instance. Take a moment to close your eyes and think about your first name. Repeat it in your mind and let it roll over your tongue in your mind’s eye. You don’t have to say it out loud, but you can if you want to. Just say it over and over and see if you can notice a shift in how you hear it or how you feel about your very own name.
Now, please pick up the palm you have been given this morning and take a close look at it. Notice the color and even the hue gradations of the different parts of the palm frond. Feel the texture of it and smell its natural fragrance. It is just a palm but think, what is a palm anyway and why do we hand them out every Palm Sunday? I have been taking them home for decades but afterwards I don’t really do much with them, however palms are marvelous things when you do some looking into them. For those of us who love to visit Florida, California or the Caribbean, one of the attractions is getting away from the snow and stark vegetation to see the beautiful green palms everywhere. Did you know, there are over 2500 species of palm trees and they are found from deserts to rainforests and some are not actually trees at all but shrubs. Palm trees have a history with humans as old as the first societies. The date palm was commonly used in Mesopotamia for food and Romans gave palm branches as a symbol of triumph to the winning champions of games and wars. Palm trees are important religious symbols found in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Quran and in the New Testament.
Appropriately, we celebrate the multitudes of beautiful green palm vegetation on Palm Sunday while we observe and recognize Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem only one week prior to his Crucifixion. Palm trees have been utilized for centuries and so it is somehow fitting that a nurturing, enduring plant would be associated with the ministry and most important event of the great nurturer, Jesus. The Gospel from Matthew says:
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
This was indeed an honor for Jesus but why? Why did the people in Jerusalem think of Jesus as “blessed” and as “the son of David?”