Hallelujah! It’s a word we’ve all heard, probably all used. Hallelujah! It’s a word that means “Praise the Lord.” You see it all over the place in the Old Testament as the people praised God when they saw one work of his or another. “Hallelujah” is what we’re told we’ll be shouting for all time in heaven, in the presence of our God we won’t be able to keep from praising.
But how about this? It’s time to be shouting Hallelujah now. In Revelation 19 last week, we got that glimpse of that praise in Heaven. But, if you keep reading in that chapter you see that we’re invited to join in too.
I’m right there with you saying “Great! Hallelujah!” …Until you remember your problems. Has it ever happened when you just weren’t in a “Hallelujah” mood? Has your life ever not really felt like heaven right now?
Here is the amazing comfort this beautiful book of Revelation gives us. You may be familiar with the book of Revelation as that book of prophecy of what is coming, but notice that Jesus said it is also about what is now (Revelation 1:19), because we don’t always see the reality behind what we see happening now. You want to know what’s going on now? All sorts of reason for you to shout “Hallelujah!”
This is Revelation 19:5: “Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!’” There’s an invitation for all servants of God to join in. And they do: “6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder.” We’re joining our voices of praise with countless others! “Shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!’”
Why? “’For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.’ 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’”
Talk about reason to shout “Praise the Lord!” I know, we don’t always act like it. It’s easy to believe the symptoms we see around us and feel anything but triumphant — whether it’s our money problems and our scarcity mentality, or the personality problems that make gatherings awkward instead of awesome, or the failure focus that sees all the shortcomings and expects defeat — all too often we walk around as anything but testimonies to God’s praise. And really, that’s blatant disobedience to God’s command here. God said, “Praise our God”, not “Act like he can’t handle things.” And when we fail to live praise, well, we don’t belong in this scene.
Think about that. Think about how powerful this passage is. Did you notice the picture God uses? It’s a wedding. We’re celebrating because we’re at the wedding. And I know. I’m married. Getting invited to a wedding means you have to worry about what to wear, right? From the new dresses that are bought to even renting tuxedos so that everything looks just right. Opportunities for stress, right?
But notice all the more the reason to celebrate here: The clothes are provided. Instead of being clothed in all our failures and the flaws we have to struggle to hide — the bride in this picture — (That’s us – the Church) — the bride is GIVEN the clothes, fine clothes, bright and clean! And then he explains. That’s the righteousness, that “not guilty” verdict, that we’ve been given. This translation says “righteous acts,” which is fine if you remember that those are only done by faith and these clothes are given, not earned. But the beauty of the dress is that it’s not what we crafted with our sin. It is the blood of Jesus, the robe of His righteousness and perfection — so we truly do look perfect. We are.
We are ready for this wedding. So Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” That lamb of sacrifice defeated our sin and shame – so we are invited to a feast.
Ponder that picture for a moment. Last weekend, I was at a wedding. And the reception was awesome. The food was plentiful. There was pulled pork and all sorts of sides, anything you could want to drink. There were four different flavors of cake, even a dance floor, with a band that played any kind of music you wanted. They even did some square dance calling. And then, right next to that band there was a candy bar set up — 16 feet of glorious table covered with nothing but jars of candy, from M&M’s to Reese’s, from Snickers to Sour Patch Kids — and Ziploc bags at the front for you to fill…. Talk about a feast with everything. I was blessed to get invited to that.
That’s the picture. We are holding an invitation to a wedding feast that puts the one I was at last weekend to shame. And the beauty of this text is that God tells us that we can celebrate that now. Blessed, “happy” are those who are invited. And you are. You’re invited to church this Sunday, where the feast of God’s promises is spread out before you, from his gifts of security in Baptism and the power of his Word to his own body and blood for forgiveness in the sacrament. You’re invited. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.