“Like this palm, God’s love is free,” read the tags on hundreds of palms designed for a free give-away on Palm Sunday. The idea for the give-away started on Ash Wednesday. When the “Ashes on the Go” team was shut down by mall security, a passer-by said not to give up and instead give away our extra palms on Palm Sunday. I thought it was a remarkably good idea.
Palm Sunday is the day on which we remember Jesus’ march into Jerusalem. Throngs of people cut down branches for him to walk over. Others were waving branches in the air. The crowd shouted, “Hosanna in the highest!” as he went by. There is no 21st century equivalent of this event for me. We see tickertape parades when a sports team wins a national championship. But that’s simply not the same. Jesus was about to sacrifice his life on the cross; there were no parades after his death or resurrection.
In a personal sense, a palm branch can be seen as a 21st century friendship bracelet. As the hymn goes, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” a palm is one outward sign of our friendship. So, on Palm Sunday, we passed out free friendship bracelets. Something caught me by surprise during our palm give-away. Crowds did not clamor to get them. Many passed by without much thought of what one of our Saint John’s kids was trying to give them. I was stunned at how easy it is for some people to walk by a cute kid, wearing their Sunday best, enthusiastically holding yard-long palms. Yet, some understood. They saw the palms and walked over for them.
The ultimate friendship bracelet is God’s grace. Like a palm that is given away by a smiling child, God’s grace is found everywhere, even in a mall. The free gift of Grace is that – a gift. One has a choice to receive it or not.
On the original Palm Sunday, not all passers-by chose to worship God by shouting “Hosanna!” when Jesus walked by. The choice of Grace was theirs then as it is ours today.
- Fr. Marshall