Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Pine Sunday at The Gathering

I've struggled with Palm Sunday since moving to Massachusetts almost 10 years ago. (June will mark 10 years, and the church will be having a 10 year celebration.) The reason for my struggle was based upon the lack of palm trees in Salem.

It is true that each year the Catholic, Episcopal and sundry other higher church traditions celebrate this holyday with far more specificity, and liturgical preparation than any of my fellow Californians ever did, but they bring in wimpy little leaf segments, which they call palms, and make crosses out of them. Then they typically save the those crosses to burn and make ashes for the following year.

Now this is all fine and dandy, but when we celebrated Palm Sunday in California it was that time of year when the large Mexican fan palms, which decorate the dry landscape of San Diego County are pruned. We would either precede the landscapers, and follow closely behind them, and make sure to gather up dozens of palm fronds. These fronds were often 5 feet across. We would carefully shave the large thorns off the branches, and children and adults would be waving them in the service. Now that's a Palm Sunday!

So this year I thought to myself, "Self." I asked, "If Jesus were to ride into to Salem on Palm Sunday what would we be doing to prepare the road for the triumphal entry of the King into our city?"

I walked through our neighborhood. I looked around as I drove through town practicing hypermiling I noticed that only green trees are the evergreens. I concluded that if Jesus were to ride humbly in on a donkey that we would probably keep our coats on, because it has been so cold, and we would cut down pine branches, because they are the only greenery we have for another month or so.

Well, it might seem a bit silly, but this is an example of contextualizing the Gospel to the times and places we live, and this last Sunday we celebrated Pine Sunday (NOT Palm Sunday!), because we ain't got no outdoor palms here in Salem, and I've not felt so good about celebrating this day for at least ten years.


Beth said...

Silly this is NOT! We don't need no stinkin' wimpy little leaf segments! At the Episcopal church I was at, the palm sprays on Sunday were about 3 feet long and a foot across, and no cute lil crosses were made unless somebody who learned it elsewhere did so surreptitiously in the pew. I completely agree with you about those inane denatured lil crosses and inane denatured lil palms -- and about the dumbness of using inane denatured non-local *anything* before God. Either substantial, fairly traded palms (which are easy to find) or even better, big chunks of local greenery just as you did. And I say this as a liturgy professor. :D

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Beth the Wild-Local-Fairtrading- Monk Fairy!

Well, our pine boughs were taken from a tree which was removed in our neighborhood. They did not have to be cut down for the service. We used that which was provided by events in our locale.

No trees were harmed in the production of this service. ;-)

I still like Pine Sunday over fair traded Palm Sunday methinks.

Thomas said...

But but did you make little souvenir palm, I mean, pine crosses?

Seriously, makes sense to me. I am not sure I have ever seen a palm tree up close.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Thomas,

I used to live under palms. So using tiny little frond shards to make crosses is just too cute for me I suppose. Actually the crosses are pretty cool.

Steve Hayes said...

In our church they also make palm donkeys.