Dad and I walked from our hotel along the Nile to a large church near downtown Cairo. We arrived early, but the church was packed on this Palm Sunday morning. Ushers set up folding chairs in the aisles. People crowded the narthex. The standing crowd parted to allow the fifty blue-robed choir members to march down the center aisle. They carried palm branches and sang. We couldn’t understand the words, but we read them in the “guest” bulletin. “I love you, Lord. Come and be with us…” they sang. I cried.
The articulate pastor met with us after the worship service. “We all have something to give, whether Western or Eastern Christians,” he said. “If we learn how to share, then people would know that the giver cares and sees the receiver as a fellow human being and brother.” He explained that was why he appreciated the Christian relief and development program I worked with at the time. We partnered together to offer food, training, jobs, and transportation to deeply disadvantaged families.
The pastor’s daughter, a physician visiting from the United States, talked with us that afternoon. “As a child I wondered continually when someone would come take my dad away. “Yes,” admitted the pastor. “I’ve been in danger of being jailed almost every day of my life.”
I chatted with the daughter (who practiced medicine in the U.S.) about topics like over-working, exhaustion, transition and burnout. “You know what it’s like to race inside, don’t you?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” she admitted. “It’s like a treadmill — if I try to get off I will fall.” Then she recounted stories about two of her patients who did fall off the treadmill during testing. We chuckled at the analogy.
Although this happened years ago, I think of it today as I celebrate Palm Sunday 2013. Jesus left His perfectly supportive surroundings in heaven to live in this fickle world. One week He was adored, praised and openly honored with parades and palm branches. The next week He was mocked and killed. Seems so unfair. Yet, Jesus came for a purpose–the ultimate purpose!–to sacrifice His life so that all of us can be re-united with our perfect Creator God. All of us, the burned-out doctor, threatened pastor, penniless parent, and caring giver.
It doesn’t matter where you live or what’s happening in your life, Jesus says (about himself), “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish [spiritually] but have eternal life.”
It’s God’s personal invitation to you. If you’ve accepted this loving offer, what does this Palm Sunday 2013 mean to you? How are you celebrating today?
Note: To protect the people involved, I changed some details of this true experience of mine, left out names and exact places, and chosen not to post actual photos.
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.