This Sunday is Palm Sunday- typically a weekend when we recognize the entrance of Jesus to the city, not in triumph on a battle stallion, but instead on a donkey. Churches across the world gather palms, pass them out to the children and adults alike, and we wave the palms as we worship, used as a symbol to show that we welcome Christ in and celebrate the victory that is to come. But this Sunday, we won’t be passing out palms. This Sunday, we have the third weekend where we’ve been encouraged (and now more strongly told) to stay home. We’ve moved digital, and while we’re working hard to adjust to this new normal, things just feel… off. But that’s why these songs that we use for worship are so important, because they communicate truths that often times we need to cling to, especially when the world around us begins to make a lot less sense.
The song I want to encourage you with today is one that we’ve been doing in worship for some time now- “Raise a Hallelujah”. But there’s a unique version that I discovered thanks to Jeff, where this church has mashed “Raise a Hallelujah” with “Surrounded”. I encourage you all to look it up and give it a listen, because you’d think the two songs were meant to be put together.
“I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me. I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee. I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery. I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me. I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm, louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar. Up from the ashes, hope will arise. Death is defeated, the King is alive. This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.”
When I walk into LifeSong on Sunday, and stand before empty chairs, and wonder at the lack of waving palms and the sounds of voices joined in worship, it’s going to feel off. The storm of the pandemic our world is facing is strong. the fear, anxiety, mystery of it all can take hold, and I can honestly say I’ve had a couple nights of restlessness because of the sheer unknown of the future. But when I choose to raise a hallelujah- a shout of praise- a declaration that despite it all, I will worship, there is a freedom that goes beyond the temporary and fleeting joy of finding Lysol spray or toilet paper. When I press in to my God as my response to conflict, worry, stress, or fear, I am given release that is at the very core of my being. I firmly believe that God is walking through this with us. He is surrounding us, even when it looks and feels and all signs point to the enemy winning this fight. But the war is already won. In fact, Palm Sunday is just the beginning of that recognition that Jesus has sealed the deal.
No matter what we face, whether it’s a global pandemic or a stressed economy, if we’re honest, we know that tomorrow’s troubles will come just as today’s have. But, we can rest easy knowing that our God is above the troubles of this world. He is fighting our battles on our behalf, and the war is already won. Take heart. Yes, isolation is difficult (just ask my two young boys and infant girl), but we have the resurrection. We have Jesus. and so long as we have Jesus, we have an everlasting hope that the darkness will give way to the light.