We all remember Palm Sunday last year. I remember it as the first year in a long time that I did not rise early to rehearse for a highly-musical church service. I remember it as the year I did not have to keep children’s choir littles from smacking each other with palm branches and the year I did not join in “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” from my spot near the organ.
More than this, I remember one year ago as the tail end of my quarantine after leaving Scotland, which brought with it displacement from a town I had just learned to call home, the first Sundays away from my beloved choir, the breaking point in a struggling relationship, and the loss of a much-desired job opportunity.
Although I know that I have suffered little compared to so many, one year ago did bring grief. I am finding, though, that there was grace in this grief, which came to a glorious cadence on Sunday morning. For the first time in 365 days, I accompanied not only a choir but a full congregation from the organ. I’ve been playing for masked, distanced services for months now, but many new voices at last rejoined our song as the hymn that sat silent last year burst forth: “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna!”
I teared up as I played, for this moment made me realize to a small degree what it might be that to lose one’s life is to gain it, that to grieve something may be to know it better as a gift of grace. After the silence of last year, when Holy Saturday arrived early and never seemed to leave, Palm Sunday 2021 marked a triumphal reentry into the rhythms of praise. Although troubles will always come this side of eternity, the tacet of 2020 seems to be giving way to a crescendo of rejoicing that I scarcely could have recognized otherwise.
Having pried my hands free of the things I at once held too tightly and took too much for granted, Providence has freed me to receive them anew as a gift—grief having taken and returned them to me as grace. I can no longer take for granted the singing of a choir or the praising of a full congregation, just as I am more deeply joyful in a Christlike love and thankful for a fruitful vocation. These things, having been formerly removed, have been returned that I might steward them with greater gratitude and truer submission before the One who gives and takes away with the wisdom of a Father.
And so, not just on Palm Sunday, but today and tomorrow and evermore, may we sing, “Hosanna! Save us, Lord!” Save us from the things we would cling to other than You, and return them to us in accordance with Your timing, renewed by Your grace.