Palm or Cloak Sunday??? | Eastern North Carolina Now

Sunday is a special day of Easter where we recreate the events day by day of Holy Week. It culminates with the first Sunday after the full moon when we sing "Christ Arose. . ." There will be Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday---and then Easter.

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    Sunday is a special day of Easter where we recreate the events day by day of Holy Week. It culminates with the first Sunday after the full moon when we sing "Christ Arose. . ." There will be Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday---and then Easter.

    Look with me at that triumphal entry into Jerusalem by a King on a donkey. It was not what the bellicose leaders of Israel wanted. They wanted a new King David to bring back the power of war and rule not known since his kingdom collapsed. The political leaders wanted back their power of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" justice. They wanted someone in the name of God to command them to bash heads of babies and destroy any opposition.

    INSTEAD, here was this boy from Nazareth grown up and followed by a growing crowd through 3 years of earthly ministry. Israel was small enough so in 3 years everyone in the country knew something about this stranger. The majority were curious, others just wanted water turned into wine for their pleasure, many wanted him to give them physical healing. Like the woman at the well who asked for physical water --- then discovered he offered Living Water that would never run out in her lifetime.

    The word had passed that the King of the Jews was arriving for Passover. The Roman soldiers expected possible riots. The Temple priests, Pharisees, and Scribes were getting afraid he was about to get into their money-making religion business. Nothing draws a crowd to a political convention like a pending fist fight and possible blood flowing . . . In that day of no TV, radio, Internet; the only excitement was in each week's latest gossip and rumor.

    A cloak was the most valuable possession of average people of that day. If you believed in your heart that Jesus WAS the promised MESSIAH, nothing less would do as a sign of respect put before the donkey to show heart-felt respect, faith and commitment.

    Another sign of respect was a palm branch thrown before the little beast of burden. If you owned the house beside the road into Jerusalem, you were pruning your palm tree. Palms grow at the top so the lower branches die and shed. The greener upper fronds were showing more respect for the Messiah.

    The important question is: CLOAK or PALM BRANCH?

    Jesus was glad to have either sign of respect, but he knew the cloak showed personal commitment and a real laying down of value over who he was --- just another mouthy prophet OR the anticipated Son of God / Savior / Messiah . . .

    Many aspects of Easter are lost in the big show of comfortable religion these days. In the South, it is the "thing to do" to join the church and attend. Sadly, you can join the church, but it is quite another thing to be a follower of Christ. For many in the South, the church is but a glorified country club with dues up to the giver to the offering place. If you join the choir and can sing, so much the better. If Deacon Election is but a popularity contest, you can even get set aside as if you were extra special --- when, in reality, you know you are going and participating because "it helps your business to grow." People assume a church leader is honest and trustworthy.

    As a child in the 5th grade I watched my father get viciously fired from a growing church he thought was a dream job. It was located in a small town about the size of Bath as Atlanta began to grow by leaps and bounds. The only trouble he had was with a dishonest treasurer / deacon / mayor who refused to pay the steel bill 90 days overdue until his lawsuit against the company was settled in his favor. My father went and confronted him and was told his excuse. To which my father said, "Sir, the money is in the Building Fund. Your private law practice has nothing to do with this church paying its bills when due. Either you pay it by Friday or I resign and tell it just like it is to this church in my resignation. . ."

    The bill got paid, but an enemy for life was made that day. All full of puffed up political arrogance and churchianity, the Mayor put my father on his target from that moment forward. Nothing he proposed was acceptable. It was a constant game of cat and mouse as to which way a vote in monthly church conference would go. It had to have been a living hell for my father as the Pastor of a growing church, with a cooked and selfish lay leader.

    The most interesting statement years afterward came from a Deacon who joined the Mayor to tell any lie and do any action to vote him out. He simply said: "I made a mistake. I later realized I was not even a professing follower of Christ at that time. I was just a member of the church . . ."

    So, as you attend Palm Sunday services this weekend, would it be more accurate to reflect a real commitment to Christ

    that it be called CLOAK SUNDAY instead?
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