I wrote this reflection last July. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most congregations hadn’t physically gathered for worship since March, four months earlier. We celebrated last Easter from home in a variety of ways, often joining our congregations virtually. We didn’t have the joy of declaring with one voice, “The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed” or of singing together “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” Being surrounded by people who speak what we trust, or long to trust again, empowers us. Their voices help re-center us. Certainly, one of the crucial things we learned over months of distancing is how impossible it is to live fully and faithfully without the support of those in our family of faith.
Psalm 118 is one of six hymns (Ps 113–118) that Jewish congregants sing to celebrate the Passover. Known as the Hallel Psalms, Jesus’ followers had these songs on their lips during what we know as Holy Week. But they probably missed the singing of Psalm 118. It’s meant to be sung in congregational worship on Passover Sabbath, the day when Jesus’ body lay in the tomb and they hid in dread of Jesus’ adversaries.
Though Jesus’ followers hadn’t joined their fellow Jews in the Temple to sing Psalm 118 that year, its words resonated with new significance for them when God raised Jesus from the dead. Maybe, in the Upper Room that Easter, they lifted their voices to sing this communal acclamation of God’s liberating and life-giving power: The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation… I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord (vv. 14, 17).
If we were able to be together for worship this past Sunday, I’m guessing that the resurrection hymns never felt gladder or sounded sweeter.
What songs help you feel and express your confidence in God’s gifts of new life and true freedom?
Mighty and Merciful God, I lift my voice in praise of your unfailing, unending love, and to thank you for your gifts of strength and salvation. Amen.