Pandemic Palm Sunday Psalms and Prayers

Though I have linked many times to the wonders of the Living Psalms Project cultivated and nurtured by my own United Church of Christ, I was humbled and thrilled to offer my own words to this wonderful collaboration. It was also really exciting to have the one and only Maren Tirabassi edit my words. I’ve had a lot of great editors whom I admire and adore and Maren is high on that list as you may know from the many, many links I offer to her blog.

I’ve been so inspired reading these words and it was with some trepidation that I began wondering into the power of Psalm 118. Though you can find it here, I’m sharing a little more as I’ve wondered how it might be used in worship especially in places where Passion Sunday is more the feel of the day. (There is another psalm for Passion Sunday, of course. You can find that here.)

Let us tune our voices
singing scales moving up and down
into the movement of praise. 

I don’t feel ready to praise.
Or at least I’m not sure what to praise.
I believe in God’s goodness but
I need your help to remember how to sing.
Remind me to breathe from deep within my belly 
as I try to sing about love.

Open my nose and throat. 
Remind me of this because everything is tight.
Remind me to loosen my shoulders and straighten my spine.
Open the breath in my body and set it to music
so that praise is a song that I can sing 
even when I’m not sure what love sounds like now.

God is listening. Thank God that God is listening 
and makes sense of every broken note and flat chord. 
Sometimes it feels like I’m just pushing 
a boulder uphill and I can’t do it anymore.
I’m not strong enough. I can’t do this alone
but I’m not alone. God is my strength and my might. 

We’ve been singing this song through the Reed Sea 
and through every other rock and hard place. God is our help. 
It is a song that we sing together. Help me fill in the words.
We can teach each other how to sing and carry each other’s tune 
uphill and through valleys full of shadows and death.
We can sing together that God makes a way even when we are not sure it is possible.

God is our help. We put it to music because it is so hard to understand.
We can only sing. God is our help and we give thanks. 
We breathe life into each other and our voices reach higher and louder.
We give thanks that God makes a way. God gives me reason to sing
and I am so glad for this parade. This is what praise feels like. 
It is a song to sing together.

I feel like this should definitely lead to singing and I don’t love all of the most familiar hymns for this day. They never seem to evoke the right sense of joy for me. Natalie Sleeth offers a lot of possibilities, as always, but I rather liked this one from her offerings.

Sheet music can be found here.

I wondered especially what would happen after we sang for surely this is something that happens int he beginning of worship. It is where we wave our palms and imagine ourselves in the parade, but especially with the events of the week looming and the weight of the world already on our shoulders, what happens to our song?

In <a href="http://&lt;!– wp:paragraph –> <p>I think of Jesus on that cross calling out his trust in God, "Into your hands, I commend my Spirit" (Luke 23:46, NRSV). He cries out knowing that God is there even when it seems impossible to believe it could be so. What are those songs for us? What songs remind us that God is here with us? And maybe also, when is silence preferred? Is there a time when we can't sing our faith? </p> Our Whole Hearts, I asked the question what I know has been asked in lots of other places. I know you are asking that question too, dear pastor. You’ve been thinking it longer than I have: when will we make space for our grief in this pandemic?

I wonder if that’s what could happen here on Palm Sunday where the praise of this moment and the endless possibility of this procession leads to the confusion and lament of grief. NPR is gathering this list of all the songs that have been important in remembering what has been lost in this pandemic. There’s already a small collection where you can read stories and listen to the songs that have transformed this moment.

I think of Jesus on that cross calling out his trust in God, “Into your hands, I commend my Spirit” (Luke 23:46, NRSV). Jesus cries out knowing that God is there even when it seems impossible to believe it could be so. What are those songs for us? What songs remind us that God is here with us? And maybe also, when is silence preferred? Is there a time when we can’t sing our faith?

This might sharing might lead into these shared words.

Affirmation of Faith 

Songs deliver us
and offer us courage. 
They change who we are
and what we believe is possible.

We believe in God
who breathed into creation
with joyful song believing 
that each and every thing 
was filled with beautiful music. 

We believe in Christ
who raised his voice and opened his arms
to sing a song of freedom and love
for people who no longer wanted to sing.
They had lost the music within them
and he taught them the chords again.

We believe in the Spirit
who filled the church with new understanding
of what our songs could do when we find 
the strength and courage to sing. 
And we are still learning
and finding new meaning
to the music that imprints 
upon our hearts and reshapes
our wonder and hope for the world.

We believe that God welcomes
the cacophony of our faith 
even when it is quiet. 
We make room for each other 
to learn new sounds of hope and praise.
We believe that there will be
beautiful music again.

I know you’re on the home stretch of preparing Holy Week bulletins, dear pastor. I know this week is full of everything and it is most definitely when your kids will get sick or something significant breaks in the house. I am praying for you. I am praying for you so much.

3 thoughts on “Pandemic Palm Sunday Psalms and Prayers

  1. Wonderful post and thank you for your amazing Psalm and your support … and thank you for the end reminding me of all the Holy Week things that happen including my falling down the pulpit stairs and breaking my ankle in front of four hundred people who were fortunately looking at their hymnbooks when my robe went over my head. Often churches used to have Holy Humor Sunday on the week after Easter. Probably clergy should start list of what has gone wrong that we can laugh about now …


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