Drive-In Church

HARLINGEN — Where there’s faith, there’s a way

The Rev. Charlie Palmer, pastor of Treasure Hills Presbyterian Church, on Sunday found if you hold it they will come.

Social distancing doesn’t mean church services need to be suspended, as long as you have a creative streak and a parking lot, where around 35 vehicles participated in Palm Sunday services simulcast on FM 87.9

Drive-In Church services were held at Treasure Hills in keeping with advice to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by limiting human contact.

“We’re encouraging you to keep your windows up and your air-conditioning on for safety reasons and to stay in your vehicles, so thank you for cooperating,” Palmer told his congregation.

“It’s a healthy way to gather and to praise God and to stay safe at the same time,” he added.

Wearing a mask, City Commissioner Michael Mezmar spoke prior to the service and noted that although today he is in money management, he used to be a nurse-practitioner.

“I studied pandemics, and I’ve always waited for one to come, I hope I don’t sound odd, and it’s here,” he said.

Mezmar said city officials have been active in consulting with the governor, the school district and others, and that city officials are briefed multiple times each day with updates.|

“We are very active, there are 11 new cases in Harlingen as of last night reported this morning,” he said. “All of them were related to people who knew people who had the disease. So it’s very important not to hang out with people, not to visit people, not to go do things with masses of people and you’ve got to think about if you’re going to HEB, Lowes or Home Deport or someplace, do you really need that item and do you really need it now?

“This is an exponential disease where it goes like that and we’re in the sharp end of the curve here,” he said. “It’s important for all of us in Harlingen and the country to stay away from everybody and this is a brilliant concept and a brilliant idea, and I thank you all for doing what you’re doing today.”

As the service itself began, Palmer noted to the congregation that just as on Palm Sunday in the Holy Land, the audience here in the parking lot also could shout their praises of Jesus as he entered the city of Jerusalem.

“Just like we gather here in Harlingen for the July Fourth parade, or the Christmas parade, we have the Rose Parade and the Macy’s Parade that we watch on TV, that was the first parade, when they gathered to praise Jesus and to yell those hosannas and shout to him,” Palmer said.

“So we’re going to do on in a different kind of way,” he added. “Instead of us yelling ourselves, we’re going to do a horn blow, we’re going to beep the horn for three seconds, and imagine those are the shouts for Jesus coming into Jerusalem.

“One-two-three!” he shouted as car horns blared upward into the grey overcast sky. “That’s loud, and memorable, and it must have been memorable back when Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem as their king and their savior.”

In his sermon, Palmer likened the buffeting people are going through due to the coronavirus to the story of Jesus and the disciples suddenly being threatened by a storm while on a boat in the Sea of Galilee.

As the Gospel of Mark chronicled:

“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

And that event, Palmer said, is so very similar to what all of us are going through today, and the lesson then applies now.

“We need to be filled with spiritual strength and faith,” he said. “So were the disciples and they went to Jesus and Jesus was with them, just like Jesus is with us.

“Sometimes we think we are doing this all by ourselves, but the Lord is with us the whole time just like he was with them in the boat,” he added. “We’re not alone. God cares and God is working in our lives and working in our communities and working in the world around us to bring good out of all that’s going on.”