Monday, March 17, 2008

Palm Sunday Stories

Palms and processionals

Palm Sunday crosses

Palm Sunday was celebrated this morning across the Christian world. In my church, the little crosses above were given to the worshipers as part of the observance.

Each little cross is made from a folded palm leaflet. We carry them into the sanctuary in a procession that represents Jesus's arrival at Jerusalem. (As you probably remember, the people greeted him carrying palm branches and shouting "Hosanna!")

Woven palm fronds in La Paz

The palm crosses and the procession at our church always bring to mind a couple of Palm Sundays spent far from home, years ago.

In 1981, we were teaching school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and we were traveling over our Easter vacation. We spent Palm Sunday in La Paz, Bolivia. That morning, in the oldest part of La Paz around la Iglesia de San Francisco (the St. Francis Church), Aymara vendors were selling palm leaves to the churchgoers.

The leaflets of each palm leaf were loosely woven into several square shapes, so each leaf looked like a stem that had sprouted a series of miniature mats. I bought several of those palm leaves, and I still have them. They're not green anymore, of course, but they're still interesting. (UPDATE: I had always imagined the woven palm fronds to be a South American custom, but I learned this morning that even Pope Benedict XVI carried a woven palm frond on Palm Sunday.)

Palm Sunday procession in Germany

I also remember the Palm Sunday of 1988 in West Germany. We were living in a little Bavarian village called Kleinwallstadt am Main. I read in the free German newspaper that everyone who was in the Palm Sunday parade should meet at a certain place.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I decided that little Keely and I should go and watch. The parade turned out to be a procession, led by the priest. A brass ensemble was next, and dozens of worshippers followed. They walked through the streets to the church, accompanied by stirring music.

I think Keely and I were the only observers. Everyone else was participating. I took Keely home, feeling rather lonely and left-out.

By the next Palm Sunday, we had been transferred to Berlin. There, I began taking Keely to an English-speaking Lutheran Sunday School, and to make a long story very short, that is how we came to be Lutherans (LCMS) today. God, in His wisdom and in His time, brought us to a Bible-teaching church that was right for us.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.