The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
Every summer our family, along with my Mama and my sister and her family take an annual beach trip. We prefer the Alabama Gulf Coast and the very most western part of the Florida coast as our vacation destination. That geographical location is familiar and when we go there it feels like home. We aren’t real big on attractions or extras. We are typically there for the sand and water. We have a few dining dives we like to visit, but this is limited to a just a few and most of them can be visited in a coverup for a late lunch or happy hour, shoes may or may not even be required.
The Martins always take a Day field trip, educational in nature so as to count at least one day of vacation as a day of school. We’ve been to the art center and the nature center, the library. Scott Martin proudly boasts an Orange Beach Public Library card he obtained on a previous excursion to the local public library. (The beach library will give a card to near anybody and there is no such thing as a late fine there. We determined we are well suited for the Orange Beach Library.) Other than the aforementioned, there aren’t really any predetermined plans. If I had to classify us, I reckon I’d call us laid back in our vacation approach.
We are fairly consistent in our vacationing, that is except for the year of 2010. That year the Gulf Coast of Alabama experienced an oil spill and we vacationed in Panama City. That year we stayed at a fancy-like place with huge pools and “fun for everyone.” That year Maggie Martin announced to some random kid in the huge pool “That’s my Dad. He’s a lot bigger than my Mom.” That one still makes me giggle all these years later.
The look on Scott Martin’s face was priceless. I don’t even know if hashtags were around back then but if they were this just might have been a sampling: #NoWords #StunnedSilence #WellTheresThat #Random #ICYMI #Duh #What #WeDontKnowYouKid #ThisFancyPoolNotOurStyle #BigDad #BigMomToo #RandomKidWeNeverSawAgain
Anyway, that vacation proved to be different in many ways. One thing though was the same, I awoke early and headed out of doors, the King’s book and the earliest of the Martin risers alongside me, specifically the aforementioned sharer of random and obvious information.
As we sat on the balcony overlooking the fancy pool, a team of landscapers was already hard at work. They had been tasked with trimming the palm trees. The fancy pool of the fancy resort had dozens of them. There was a climber who sawed, like he used a literal saw, no plucking or pinching, those branches had to be cut away. There was a gatherer and a cleaner-upper; the jobs were many and I marveled at how there was a lot of work going into the palm tree trimming. Heavy duty work, the very thing vacations are not made of. They were focused and deliberate in their task, beads of sweat rolling down their faces. I grew tired just watching them.
As the King’s word sat open on my lap I watched those trained individuals make an unintentional carpet of palm branches and it hit me. For all my years that day, the one known as Palm Sunday, had seemed, well, lack luster to me. The following week is my favorite, after all, that’s where all the action is, all of humanity’s sin debt paid for and the King conquered death, once and for all.
In addition, the week prior to Resurrection Day serves to frustrate me that a group of folks could be yelling “Hosanna!” To the King one day and not even a week later the same fickle folks are yelling “Crucify Him!” I’ve always just imagined their praise was half-hearted and insincere, that was, until the palm tree trimming. I realized in that moment that to remove palm branches and make way for the King would have required a deliberate action. There would have been considerable effort required to lay those palm branches on the road that Sunday morning, a degree of sincerity, would have served as the motivation required for such a laborious task. It occurred to me in that moment that I am those same fickle folks. Sincere and devoted one minute, caught up in the moment the next.
As I watched that fancy resort grounds crew trim those palms, I made a note and dated it so as not to forget that act of worship on that first Palm Sunday so many centuries ago, and to remind myself that to obtain a palm branch would have been difficult and would have to have been chosen and deliberate just as my worship of the King should be. The fickle folks and I have more in common than I’d realized and because of that picture of deliberate choice and act of worship, the commemorated day, Palm Sunday, for me is less and less about the fickle folks and more and more about My King who rode a donkey, the worship I offer him. His love and grace, his willingness to suffer that would set a plan in motion that has been the catalyst for the single most life-changing event that I have ever experienced and for that… there really are no adequate words and it leaves me in stunned silence.