I was raised in a culture that had many guidelines for dos and don’ts. There was a certain way that you yawned – your hand always covered your mouth. If a person came for a visit, everybody who was seated stood up to greet the guest because by standing we made it known that this person was important and respected. Before a person left the table, the lady who prepared the meal had to be thanked and it was considered improper if we ever forget to do it. I thoroughly appreciated the things that I have learned, even though I do not always do them.
We had certain prescribed things that we did in the church. The preferred method of praying was by kneeling. Therefore, when the speakers said it was time to pray, we knelt down on the dirt floor without question, from the oldest to the youngest. One gave attention to the Word of God by standing when it was read, and not only for the reading of the gospel. We believed that the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation was the Word of God. God spoke to us through His Word and we stood up and listened. (A friend of mine came for a visit here and when he stood to read the Word, he invited the whole congregation to stand!) I greatly appreciate the reverence that I have inherited and another friend of mine wonders why, with so many dos and don’ts in my Christian background, I am still a Baptist! (He thinks that I would fit in better at a high Anglican church!)
The entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem is an event that sets the well-patterned Pharisees on edge. They are used to doing things in a certain way. Matthew writes, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:10-11)
The Pharisees are also not used to the loud praises of the children and disciples (Luke 19:39, Mt. 21:15). They ask Jesus to quiet them down and Jesus replies, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40) Sometimes, when religious people hear things that are out of the ordinary, even if they are praises to God, they feel very uncomfortable.
In the Old Testament there is this wonderful story about King David dancing before the ark of the Lord.
“David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.” (2 Samuel 6:14-16).
I remember listening to some of our elders discussing David’s dance. They really did not know what to do with it, because we were against dancing. Finally, they told us that it was ok because David danced by himself and danced to honor the Lord. David’s wife Michal had a different interpretation:
“How the King of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (2 Samuel 6:20) David replied, “It was before the Lord …I will celebrate before the Lord.” (2 Samuel 6:21)
Palm Sunday is a unique day of celebration with dance and festivities before the Lord. Somehow we manage to diminish its importance by emphasizing the upcoming Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. Let us celebrate, be glad and wave our palm branches for Jesus Christ our King is coming! Let us practice a holy abandonment of joy.