Monday, April 30, 2007

Salvation Belongs to Our God

One of the things I appreciate about Anglican worship is the commitment to the public reading of Scripture. Each week we read four lessons, usually one from the Old Testament, one from the Psalms, one from the Epistles and one from the Gospels. Some weeks I am particularly encouraged by one or more of the readings.

This week, it was the reading of Revelation 7:9-17 that made me teary. I had a number of things on my mind. Al and I were leading music for the service and I was feeling inadequate to the task. The songs I had selected felt uninspired and I came into worship feeling frazzled and hurried. We had also just learned that Bob Webber, whom I studied under and respected, had passed away the evening before. In addition, I'd recently read an account of the martyrdom of three men in Turkey. I did not know these men, but felt somewhat connected to them because they worked in publishing.

The reading began:

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

I was startled to realize that a week ago, while planning worship for this service, I had selected "Salvation Belongs To Our God" as one of the Eucharist songs. I hadn't known this Scripture was part of the lectionary for today when I was choosing music and was encouraged that the Holy Spirit had inspired my choice of songs even though I felt uninspired. I am thankful that even when we feel inadequate, God chooses to work in and through us to the glory of his name.

The reading continued:
13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?"

14 I answered, "Sir, you know."

And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
"they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will spread his tent over them.

16 'Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,'
nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb at the center before the throne
will be their shepherd;
'he will lead them to springs of living water.'
'And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'"

As I listened, I had the image of Bob and the three martyrs worshiping before the throne of God, their robes washed white. And at that moment, instead of focusing on the sadness of their deaths, I was reminded of the victory of Christ over death in a very real way.

We sing an "Alleluia" after the Epistle reading to prepare for the Gospel reading. I was so overwhelmed with God's goodness that my heart sang "Alleluia! Alleluia! Give thanks to the risen Lord," but my voice was choked up and I moved the microphone away allowing the congregation to carry the song as we joined all those around God's throne praising the Risen Lord.

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