I love Palm Sunday when we celebrate Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. I can almost see the crowds, lining the streets with their coats, chanting Jesus' name in loud praise, waving palm branches and worshipping their Messiah. My vision of that day is sunshine, blue skies, birds singing, and God, the proud Father, smiling down on His Son.
Curt attended a small-town Pentacostal church while he was in college. We happened to attend on Palm Sunday and I'll never forget it. The services had a designated starting time and ended when the pastor decided the Spirit was done moving. This particular Sunday, we'd already been worshipping for a good two hours and my stomach was growling. I was inwardly griping and asking the Spirit to STOP ALREADY so we could go get lunch before I keeled over.
It appeared the service was finally wrapping up and we were heading into the last song, when they started passing out palm branches. Really? In Minnesota? Where on earth did they find palm branches and so many of them? And did we have to pass them out now? How about next year on Palm Sunday instead? Confusion was etched on my face as I begrudgingly took my palm branch. What's a Baptist girl to do with a palm branch in church anyway? It's not as if there was a decorative vase at the alter for us to put them in.
The college-age worship band started up with what I hoped was the closing song. The congregation launched right into singing at top volume and before I knew it, people started going crazy. Clapping and whooping it up reverberated across the small church. Shouts of "Praise Jesus" and "Hosana to the King" echoed over the rafters. The palm branches emerged, up, up, up, over the heads of the worshippers. Swaying in the air, they reached to the vaulted ceiling of the old church. People poured out into the aisles and started dancing.
My stereo-typical style of worship at that time was to close my eyes and if I was feeling really crazy, raise my hands. This over-the-top worship unnerved me. I glanced at Curt to get his attention so we could discreetly leave the mayhem, but he was engrossed in worship. I was officially stuck in the craziness.
I stared dismally at the sea of dancing palm branches in front of me, when IT happened. Jesus' rebuke to the Pharisees rang loud and clear in my ears, "I tell you, if my disciples keep quiet, the stones will cry out." The palm branches were worshipping, but my heart was cold. It was a painful realization.
As I confessed, I realized there was still time to redeem myself. In good-old-fashioned charismatic style, the worship band was just getting started. I grabbed my palm branch and slowly hoisted it up over my head. My voice lifted in song and my palm branch started swaying, joining the jungle overhead. My hunger dissipated as the beat picked up. Jubilant enthusiasm gathered momentum and before I knew it, this white, Baptist girl was dancing in the aisle. Let me tell you, when the Spirit moves, I can dance.
We celebrated and sang, "Look what the Lord has done. He healed my body, He touched my mind. He saved me, just in time. Oh I'm gonna praise His name. Each day He's just the same. Come on and praise Him - look what the Lord has done."
I've yet to have another Palm Sunday rival this one. But each year, when I read the story of Jesus' triumphal entry, it reminds me of the day when I let it all go and worshipped in total abandonment. And I gotta believe that God, the proud Father, is looking down on His daughter and smiling.