SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
2nd SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
JUNE 16, 2019
Title: “Palm Tree Christians”
Text: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalms 92:12).
Scripture Reading: Psalm 92:7-14.
As a child, I had one opportunity to visit my maternal grand dad. He lived in the part of Liberia, West Africa where the palm tree grows the most. Some of the memory I got was how we sat under the palm tree during the heat of the day for shade. The palm tree produces palm wine. It was a source of palm cabbage, one of the foods that saved thousands of lives during the heat of the civil war, when hunger was the number one killer. The palm tree also provided its leaves used to roof houses and make thread used for multiple purposes. This is the region where you find abundance of African palm. The African oil palm, very widely cultivated in the tropics, gives a higher oil yield per hectare than any other oil plant. It produces two quite different types of oil, and that from palm kernels, used for making margarine and soap, and that from the fleshy part of the fruit, used more widely for industrial processes. This is one of the most rapidly expanding plantation crops today.
Our text this morning says, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.” How is a child of God like a palm tree?
The roots of the palm tree go down deep into the earth. A palm tree has great roots that make the tree strong and substantial. The psalmist said that a godly man “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water” (Psalm 1:3). Upon close observation, the palm tree bends and strains in the wind and the storm, but it stands because of its deep roots. A Christian rooted in Christ can stand the winds and temptation and the storms of trial.
Can we stand up against the enemies of our soul? The palm tree has many enemies that threaten its life. If it is located in the desert, it would be the dryness of the desert, the burning heat of the sun, the fierceness of the winds, and animals that rubs away its trunk: but it lives on because it is rooted deep in the earth. Paul mentioned some of the enemies of the Christian life in Romans 8: “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (v. 35), and cried, “Nay, all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (v. 37).
The palm tree is upright. Jeremiah spoke of people being as “upright as the palm tree.” The palm tree rears itself straight up in the air, erect, stately, and strong. It is a fitting image of a good person who is not crooked, but is upright in character and in conversation. Dr. T.L. Holcomb speaking to a group of young boys at the Ridgecrest Boys Camp at Ridgewood, North Carolina said, “All around there are tall, straight, stately trees. In one of his messages he told the boys, “Go out into the mountains and back up next to one of these giant trees and pray this prayer: “Lord make me like one of these trees, tall, straight, and strong.”
When Charles Elliot became engaged to Ellen Peabody, Miss Peabody’s family received a congratulatory letter saying of him, “He is a regular cedar post, firm, sound, and always in the same place.” How much it would mean in the home, in the church, and in the nation if we could be like that in our manner of life, strong, firm, and upright. This is the palm tree Christian.
The palm tree is graceful. It is the emblem of grace and beauty. In the Old Testament, palm trees adorned the temple. Jerico was called the “city of palm trees” and was one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world. In heaven the saints are portrayed as those clothed in white robes with palms in their hands, the emblem of beauty and grace, and victory.
John spoke of Christ as being “ full of grace and truth. The New Testament says of the early Christians, “Great grace was upon them all.” There are many facts of meaning of the word “grace,” but here it means charm and attractiveness. There is something attractive about those who love near to Christ.
The palm tree is an evergreen. Other trees turn dark and grey during the winter, but the palm tree holds its rich, deep color. It shows its color in all seasons. It is the symbol of faithfulness. Paul said, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). The psalmist said, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1). Can you say: I will be an evergreen. I will be like that palm tree, showing my colors at all times”? Can you say, “Anytime, Lord, day or night, in summer or winter, in darkness or light, I will follow you; in sickness, in health, in joy, in sorrow, in adversity, or in prosperity, I will be true”?
When I first came to this country, it was winter time. It was in February. I spent two nights in Baltimore and on the third day flew to Dayton, Ohio. When I arrived in Dayton on my way from the airport to Wilberforce, Ohio, I noticed a couple of trees lined up. One group of trees never had any leaves. The second group of trees had leaves and were green. It was the palm tree. All the while I was in Dayton, Ohio, I never noticed the evergreens, until the wintry winds and rains had stripped the leaves from all the other trees. Then you could see the evergreens showing their colors. There are church members like that, they show their colors in all seasons. They are palm tree Christians.
The palm tree is a fruitful tree. I learned that there are over 2,780 different palm trees all over the world. The date palm which is found mainly in the Middle East produces up to six hundred pound of fruit each year. There are many uses for its fruit, including medicinal use. The camel feeds on the date stones. The leaves are used in making a variety of household articles. Thread and rope are made from the fiber of the bough. A drink is made from the sap. No wonder it was said that an Arab’s very existence depended on the palm tree. Likewise, the Christian is useful and fruitful.
The influence, example, spirit, words, deeds, and the life of a Christian are a blessing. Being in touch with the source of fruitfulness, he or she lives a fruitful life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruitfulness of the palm tree continues for hundred of years, for this tree is noted for its long life. The ministry of a Christian man bear fruit even for years after he or she has reached the heavenly home.
The palm tree grows in the desert. The palm tree thrives in burning sand under the hot sun in the dry desert climate. The Christian flourishes in difficult places. It was said of God’s people when they were enslaved under Pharaoh, “The more they were afflicted, the more they…grew” (Exodus 1:12). God’s people grow under tribulation. Moses spent forty years on the backside of the desert of Median. God was getting him ready to lead his people through the wilderness. It was said that John the Baptist was trained in the desert. No wonder he was such a great man. John the Baptist was trained in the discipline and difficulty of the desert life.
Christ was led in the desert to be tempted, to be tested, and to be prepared for his life’s work. The Christian grows and thrives in difficult places and becomes Christlike.
The palm tree is an oasis of refreshment. The traveler looks across the burning sands, parched with thirst, and sees a palm tree. His heart leaps for joy because he knows there is water, shade, food, and refreshment for his tired body and spirit.
The Christian is like that, for God in Christ makes his people the means of refreshment in a weary world. Paul spoke of Onesiphorus coming to him while he was in prison in Rome and said, “He oft refreshed me.” Here was one of those refreshing personalities who comes to bless us in our sorrow, discouragement, sickness, doubt, and need. Palm tree Christians are means of refreshment to those who live about them. Christ refreshes our minds and hearts and we, in turn, refreshes others. True Christians can be an oasis of refreshment in friends, family, and all who know them. Would you be a refreshing personality? Then get close to Christ, the source of refreshment. Live the light of God’s love, and he will make your life flourish like the palm tree. God bless you all this morning. Grace and peace!