Being Bearers of Palms of Peace and Praise in the Midst of Needs and Conflicts
Palm Sunday: March 24, 2013
We can wave palms of peace and praise because we have hope that the worst things are never the last things. As Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday, he knew that the week ahead would be physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding. Amid the peace and praise of those waiving their palms, the religious leaders were watching from afar, in conflict with Jesus over all he was doing. Those in conflict with Jesus were making plans to get rid of him, as he was a threat to their power. Those praising Jesus had been witnesses to the miracles he had performed. They witnessed Jesus set captives free by healing women and men from debilitating diseases and demons that kept them from living the abundant life that God had intended for them. Soon Jesus would set all humanity free from the bondage of sin and evil that keeps us from living this abundant life.
Just over a decade ago, I was a US-2 young adult missionary, serving at the Nome Community Center, in Nome, Alaska. I returned to Nome after seminary to become a pastor at Community United Methodist Church. Through my work at the Nome Community Center, I came face to face with people with deep addictions to alcohol. In one case, there was a man from the local halfway house who volunteered with me in serving the elders at the Nome Community Center. This man, nearly 40 years old, had been drinking alcohol since he was 5 years old. He made a pledge that when he was released from the halfway house, he was going to give up drinking alcohol, go to church and read the Bible. Our boss decided to hire him upon his release. Within days he had started drinking again, which caused him to lose his job. I felt that he tried his best to stay sober, but much was stacked against him. Everyone in his support system drank, so no matter how hard he tried to be sober, it was going to be tougher than just making the decision to be sober. He would need to make many difficult choices along the way and figure out a different support system. This man's story is similar to those of others who try to overcome the addictions that hold them captive.
To be palm bearers of peace and praise is to walk alongside those who are held captive by their addictions. In their work, the people at the Nome Community Center walk alongside many who are bound by their addictions. Some are parents who are working to get their children back from the foster care system. Palm bearers of peace and praise at the Nome Community Center help and encourage these parents in building parenting and other skills, setting up a household and offering support to overcome their addictions. When situations seem hopeless, palm bearers can bring encouragement to the captives, acting as instruments of God to release them from what keeps them from living a life of abundance.
How will you be a palm bearer of peace and praise in the midst of a world of needs and conflicts?
The Rev. Julia Yoder Elmore is a board member of the Nome Community Center, Alaska.