Today’s Bible reading
Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped. – Revelation 5:6-14
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready;
to her it has been granted to be clothed
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. – Revelation 19:6-8
More thoughts for meditation
The first of this week’s songs about the Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith has become a worldwide anthem of praise. The lyrics are taken directly from the splendid scenes of John’s vision in today’s reading, in which multitudes are gathered to sing “Hallelujah! For the Lord God almighty reigns. Worthy is the Lamb!“
When Americans sing Smith’s song, it is important to remember how strange and radical it originally was for John to picture a wounded Lamb on the throne! It was a direct, in-your-face contradiction to the man-gods the Roman Emperors were made out to be on their worldwide thrones. It is a treasonous song we sing! Empire-loving Christians from the 300’s and on have often pictured Jesus like a worldly emperor, interested in power and ready to terrorize the world with his wrath. So let’s remember who we are worshiping. There is no power trip here, but there is a wonderful power of love, truth and promise.
Today’s song is a wonderful use of the Pentecostal liturgy. There is very little content, but a lot of meaning. The leaders provide an introduction and warm up the crowd, teaching them the simple song. They build up the sound and enthusiasm toward the irresistible inclusion of everyone in the feeling. Then they bring it down to let the experience be individual within the safety of the community. The repetitive music draws everyone into meditation, even trance, in the Spirit. The leaders know the Holy Spirit is softening hearts, bringing people into intimacy in new ways, healing wounds, introducing people to public expression of faith for the first time – it is all good evangelism and discipleship. They even let the enormous crowd take charge of their own worship — as the leaders are quiet, the crowd builds up their enthusiasm themselves! Then there is a moving clap offering, making a joyful noise before the Lord – as noisy as the scripture pictures!
Suggestions for action
Experience the depths of Revelation 5 and 19 with them. Worship the Lamb who was slain.
If you like, go back over the scripture for today and see what song comes to you, what pictures you see and feelings you have, unmediated by a video.
If you lead our worship, what do these people have to teach you?