We went down to Charleston Tuesday and Wednesday this week. We visited Folly Beach Tuesday afternoon, stayed the night in the tent at St. James’ Island State Park, and spent Wednesday exploring the historic city of Charleston.
Interestingly, the Palmetto Tree is the state tree of South Carolina. SC is the “Palmetto State.” The Palm Tree is prevelant down near the coast (I’ve only seen a couple up here in Greenville). The story goes that some general during the early days of Carolina settlement defended the shores of Charleston with a battery built out of Palmetto trunks. Apparently, they work so well that during one battle canon balls were actually deflected off the trunks of these hearty trees, the canon balls were promptly retrieved and faithfully shot back at the enemy. It’s all history after that I suppose.
I suggested in the sermon on Sunday that at least one layer of meaning in the waving and strewing of palm branches during the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was the Feast of Booths where Israelites built make-shift tents out of big leafy branches and palms. The Feast was meant to recall the wilderness wanderings, reminding Israel of how God had preserved them between the deliverance from Egypt and their entry into the Promised Land. Palm Sunday seems like a fitting corollary to that Feast where Christ as the son of David enters to destroy and rebuild the temple in his own body; he comes to rebuild the tabernacle, the booth of David in his own death and resurrection. Palm Trees are of course famous for their residence at every desert oasis picture you’ve ever seen. A Palmetto Tree reminds us of the garden while we are still in the wilderness.
Palm Sunday reminds us in the midst of treachery, in the midst of the trials of life, in the midst of the Passion of life of where we are going, the Promised Land ahead of us, the Promised Land even brought forward in time (to use NT Wright’s phrase) to us here and now.