By Phil Geyer
On Palm Sunday we commemorate Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. People cheering and shouting. People climbing trees and grabbing palm branches. People waving palms and throwing them on the ground as a carpet. The palms we carry on Palm Sunday remind us of the palms that were used to celebrate Jesus 2000 years ago. But where do our palms come from?
If we lived in a warmer climate, we might be able to pull our branches from the local trees. However, here in the frozen north, the only nearby palm trees I know about are in one of the green houses at U of M’s Botanical Garden. The caretakers frown upon people even partly defoliating their trees.
So, for years we have ordered palms from companies which have gotten palms from Latin America. If you know nothing about the system, it seems fine. You get your palms easily and they are fairly inexpensive. But there is a down side.
There is damage. There is waste. There is over harvesting. The forests become depleted. Communities lose this source of income. Much of the money that people pay for palms doesn’t reach the harvesters or their families.
As followers of Christ, we are called to help the poor. As followers of Christ, we are called to be good stewards of God’s creation. Getting palms this way causes hurt. It causes damage. So, we need a different way.
That is why this year, our palms come from Eco-Palms. Established by Lutheran World Relief, Eco-Palms changes the palm gathering landscape. Harvesters are paid a fair price based on quality. Community members sort and sell the palms. Local people are motivated to protect their forests, to keep up a steady supply of palms. The result is that the harvesting communities get 5-6 times the income that they previously had and the forests are protected and healthier.
It is a wonderful solution that helps the poor and protects the land. We can be part of Christ’s work while we are also remembering his entrance into Jerusalem.
Of course, after Palm Sunday comes Good Friday and then Easter Sunday. The palms might be forgotten, but there are chocolate treasures in Easter baskets. If you think of it, as you munch your chocolate, go to lwr.org and read about what they are doing to help struggling cocoa farmers.
Another way our brothers and sisters are touching lives and spreading the love of Christ. May you have a reflective Palm Sunday and a joyous Easter celebration.