It’s Palm Sunday – and kind of a strange one at that. It’s one of the few Palm Sundays in my life that I am actually looking at palm trees and fronds on the ground. We’re still in Hilton Head and the weather is great today – mid-eighties and just a hint of wind on the beach. That’s where I am this very minute – sitting under an umbrella next to Janet, who is reading a book.
Kristin and the three boys just went for a walk; and I was just noticing how many people arrived on the island yesterday. We went out for dinner and couldn’t believe the number of cars coming onto Hilton Head for spring break. Cabanas here at the resort that were free yesterday are $50 daily starting today; most of them are already reserved. In short, there are people everywhere and as you know, I’m not a crowd kind of guy – good thing we reserved our umbrella on the beach several days ago; we get to keep it through Tuesday and don’t have to stand in line each morning. It’s just here waiting for us each morning when we finally get down on the sand.
The truth is that I thought about not writing this week, just taking it off, but it didn’t feel right to me. And it’s not like I can’t think of things to write about. I was going to write about Palm Sunday, especially as I walked over the fronds on the ground this morning. I got to thinking about the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on the donkey – you know the story – the final week of His life on earth prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. Don’t get me wrong – that’s still a great story but I am drawn to a different story today. And it has to do with all the people, the beach, palms and the sand. All working on me together today. People laughing and playing games – everyone getting along, and perfect strangers helping one another out. Too bad the whole world can’t be like that. On top of that, Kristin just ran into friends from back in Carmel – it really is a small world.
But few people realize that three of the world’s religions all descended from one person – Abraham. Of course, the Jewish nation through Abraham and Sarah, his wife; the Arab world, through the lineage of Hagar, Abraham’s mistress,who was the maidservant of Sarah; and finally, the Christian religion through the conversion of Jews primarily as a result of the ministry of Jesus, Paul and the disciples led by Peter.
But it all started with God’s promise to Abraham back in the book of Genesis. It’s a great story if you want to read the whole thing, but the short version is that God told Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the sands on the seashore and the stars in the sky. I don’t know why that struck me so, but it did as I sat here looking across the sand. The beach seems to extend forever, and this is only one of the seashores in the world. Based on the number of people here, God promised Abraham a whole lot of descendants, and that doesn’t include the stars in the sky part.
When I think of God’s covenant, the Jewish people and Christians, you can’t help but note the differences. Yet, there are many similarities as well. And many of my dear friends are Jewish and don’t share the same belief system I cherish. They can say the same thing about me but we still have several common bonds that bind us together in many respects.
Some theologians will go so far as to say that the sand at the seashore and the stars in the sky represent the Jewish and Gentile nations. Separate, but still so large that neither can be counted. The verse for today reflects the promise of God toward these two great peoples. In Gen. 22:17, Abraham was told by God, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” There it is – a promise of God. Somehow made larger than life with the sand, the people and the palm trees, reminding me of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday.
My encouragement today is to affirm that God wants us to live in peace with one another. And my prayer is that no matter what your religious conviction is, Abraham is the father of many of us. And that means that we should at least respect one another and live in harmony and peace. Have a great spring break, and I will be writing to you from the sands of the seashore. Maybe tonight I’ll study the stars in the sky! Grace and peace,