The Gift of Leaves

Last Sunday, we celebrated an early Earth Day at Channing. I wanted to share the Palm Sunday Message for All Ages I gave for those who were not able to be there. I hope to see you all on Sunday at our Easter Service!


The morning had dawned clear and bright and Jesus told his friends, “Today we will enter Jerusalem.” Jesus had been out in the hills and villages, spreading his message of love and peace. He was going to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Many people were following Jesus. They, too, wanted to change the world.

As he led them toward the city gates, an amazing thing happened. The crowd around Jesus became bigger and bigger! Hundreds of people poured out of the city to welcome him cheering and shouting. His ride into the city was a welcome fit for a king! Just outside Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of his friends to get a donkey. When they brought it back to him, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. As Jesus rode the donkey into the city many of the people tore palm branches off of nearby trees and waved the palms for Jesus. Some even spread their cloaks and palm branches on the road as a symbol of respect.
At that time, the people saw Jesus as their king. They were tired of being ruled by the Romans, who were cruel. The people of Jerusalem hoped Jesus was the one who would change their lives for the better and fight off the Romans, but Jesus was not a warrior king. That is why he rode into the city on a donkey instead of a general’s stallion. He was trying to show the people that his was a mission of peace. The donkey was a symbol of peace. Jesus was also trying to send a message to the Romans, that he was not going to fight them with violence, he was committed to using peaceful ways of making change. Jesus understood the power of peace.
There is a lot more to this story, which we will hear next week, but today we celebrate Palm Sunday. Palms are given out in Christian Churches a week before Easter to remember when Jesus came into Jerusalem. But why do we celebrate with leaves? We do this because nature speaks to us in a special way.

Every time we bring greens in for Solstice, water for Ingathering, or daisies for Flower Communion we are honoring the connection between nature and our faith tradition. I remember as a little kid getting a palm leaf at church and feeling so happy that 1) We got a present from church and 2) the leaf showed that church understood what was important to me. Everywhere outside the world was waking up and being green! I identified with the way these long ago people of Jerusalem honored a great person! Did you ever get a palm leaf as a child? Take a moment to think of what it symbolized to you. Does it mean the same thing to you now?

We are not the people of ancient Jerusalem, many of us here are not Christian, some of us are, but we can all celebrate this day and these palms because we see in Jesus a teacher who took the risky and vulnerable road, turned the world upside down, and helped the weak and helpless. Some people think of Jesus as the son of God. Others think of Jesus as a great man who had a peaceful mission of radical non-violence, fairness and equality, and certainly a person with a strong sense of social justice. Jesus was a man of peace who believed that we are all connected in an interdependent web.

We can take a palm today to remember that we need to open our hearts. This leaf is a celebration that there is a non violent way to be powerful, we can make real and permanent change in the world and inside ourselves. I invite all who would like one to come take a palm as the traveling chalice leads the children and youth to classes.

(c) 2012 Luiza Chandy

PS- thank you to Robin Hollow Farm for getting us such gorgeous palm leaves!

And we don’t have to do it alone….

Friends,

I had a full week last week.  Full in the “PHEW, I am so glad it’s over!” kind of way.  Full in the “WOW! I am a productive worker!” kind of way.  Full in the, “OOF, I learned so much my brain is going to POP! kind of way.

And our lives are like that.

The projects and workshops I experienced last week seem to have little in common.  To name the highlights: finishing a curriculum on Neo-Paganism, going to an overnight workshop for Religious Educators in our district learning and using Soul Collage methods, also attending the “Walking the Talk” workshop on social action held at Channing with Rev. Richard Gilbert.

So that makes me glad for morning coffee and moments set aside to reflect and process information.   After thinking about the week, I see so clearly that all these varied topics are asking me to go deeper in my learning about myself and to share myself with others. We go inward to learn new ideas, but then it is our purpose to go out into the world a share them.

As a naturally shy person, I haven’t always embraced the practice of sharing my knowledge, my gifts and energy with others.  But lately, life is telling me to get out of my own way and make some changes.  I think people need to give part of themselves to deepen their faith.

I agree totally with Rev. Gilbert, who preaches that it is a spiritual practice to do service, to help others, to change broken systems and work for justice.  It is a spiritual practice to work with children, teaching them and working along side them.  It is a spiritual practice to do art, find meaning in our art and share the insights we find and strengthen our relationships.  It is a spiritual practice to get dirty, be on the “losing side” and begin again.  It is a spiritual practice to re-inspire a friend who has lost hope.

Social justice isn’t easy.  Working with children and youth is a wild ride.  Going out on a creative limb ain’t always sunshine and daisies, either.  We need a safe place where we trust that our friends will be careful with our emerging thoughts and our powerful feelings.  This week reminded me that Unitarian Universalism is one such sanctuary.  I am struck by how diverse, yet focused, our religion is.  We are energized by worship, searching for meaning and making a difference in the world.  We are made more powerful through journeying together, sharing truths, highs and lows.

And the title of this entry?  It is the last line of a hymn by Laila Ibrahim thatI sing when I need a lift:

“It’s a blessing we were born,
and it matters what we do,
What we know about god
is a piece of the truth,
Let the beauty we love
be what we do,
And we don’t have to do it alone.”