Cutting Palms for Sunday

Everyone in the 99% should keep a cut palm in a vase in the center of their table through Holy Week.
Do you think the crowd waved these palms in jubilation as Jesus passed that day on his way to Jerusalem?
No, Mark 11 tells us the leafy branches were cut. Then the road was lined with the palms. And the colt that Jesus rode walked on them. The palms were trampled over.
That actually makes them all the more precious to us.
Why?
We’ve been missing something very significant about Palm Sunday for a long time. We’ve made it an appropriately joyous celebration for our children. But we’ve neglected the profound and startling nature of Jesus’ journey that day. The journey that is the pattern of each of our own lives.
Jesus’ followers that day were singing a Passover song, Psalm 118, likely at Jesus’ request. Like all Passover songs, Psalm 118 praises God and celebrates freedom, victory over enemies, delivery from death and assurance of life due to steadfast faith.
In the context of Jesus’ exceedingly dangerous situation, threatened by the Temple rulers, and religious leaders, this song claims a Passover from death to life. It is an extraordinary statement of faith expressed in a song. Psalm 118, the first verse and the last, simply proclaim that God is good and God’s love is everlasting!
Psalm 118:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
Trust in such a Passover and the courage to make this proclamation caused the Pharisees in the crowd to ask Jesus to make his followers stop singing. In Luke’s telling of the story in chapter 19: 39 “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
And it’s then that Jesus neither defends the song, or its theology, but incredibly replies, “I tell you,” Jesus replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Something greater than anything the Pharisees or the crowd had ever imagined was happening.
The song, the Psalm, was not only being sung, and celebrated, but fulfilled.
Psalm 118:
“The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.”

And more:

8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them down.

Ah, no wonder, the Pharisees were nervous. Who was Jesus going to “cut down.?” Was He coming now “blessed in the name of the Lord” to “cut down” the Temple rulers? The Romans? Who would be “consumed as quickly as burning thorns?” It sounded like judgement!

To the crowd, it was the promise of redemption; the world set right again. But to the corrupt powers who had turned away from God? Clearly, a threat.

We understand this. We who are the 99%.
When we read the Scripture, we understand that Psalm 118, so long lost from Palm Sunday, is our song. A promise of a day when everything is set right. For those corrupt who turn away from doing what’s right – a threat.

That song was Jesus’ song, based on the chorus:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
So the promise is based on love – love so powerful that no danger, not even death can defeat it.
Jesus was convinced of this. So was Gandhi.. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a host of others whose names we’ll never know.

Psalm 118:

13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.

15 Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done great and strong things!
16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
the Lord’s right hand has done strong and great things!”
17 I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

These are the words of the first, oldest Easter hymns, still sung in the Eastern church today:
“Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing Life.”

On Palm Sunday, the palm branches were “cut down” – like those who oppress and hurt and harm without remorse, like those enemies finally “cut down” with God’s help, never to hurt the faithful again. And the palms were trampled underfoot by Jesus as he headed for Jerusalem. A sign that soon he would trample Death itself by death, the final enemy, defeated forever. This journey is our journey. If we make it by faith, the song gives us trust and courage because of God’s goodness and love so we too can make that Passover from death to life, along the road Jesus created for us that day.

For the 99%, let the cut Palm be a symbol and sign of promise to us:
Psalm 118
5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a place of freedom.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere human beings do to me?

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