Revelation 19:6-7 “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!”
I will admit that I can struggle to be as excited about attending worship as I should be, and I am a pastor. I don’t think that I’m the only one. There are days when I look out at a congregation of “worshipers” and see glazed or wandering eyes; or people reading the bulletin, text messages, even a novel during the middle of the service! I hear singing so faint, so lacking in enthusiasm, that I can practically hear the people thinking, “Why are you making me sing this draggy hymn? Why do you make us sing at all?”
More and more people choose to attend only once or twice a month, or only on major holidays. Believe me, I’m happy to have them when we can get them. But doesn’t it reveal something about the value we place on worship, our enthusiasm for what happens here? I realize that things like work schedule or health can get in the way, but most of us wouldn’t be quite so casual about attending a child’s birthday party, or making sure we were sitting in front of the TV when our favorite team is playing.
There is no such struggle with enthusiasm for worship in Revelation 19, or in the rest of the book, for that matter. The attendance is beyond count, beyond number. The voices are so loud that John compares them to the roar of waterfalls or the deafening boom of thunder. Have you ever been in a large congregation with a thousand or more attending the service, with everyone singing at the top of their lungs? The sheer force of all those voices will give you goose bumps. Or have you ever been at a sporting event with tens of thousands of cheering fans? When the home team makes a great play or scores, the rising tide of all those voices lifts you out of your seat, quickens your pulse, and pumps your adrenalin. The experience of the sound itself is an emotional experience.
All that volume would be just a whisper compared to the great multitude worshiping at the wedding feast of the Lamb. What is it that fires their enthusiasm? “For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!” This is worship inspired by God’s reign, by God’s rule. God’s ruling, of course, is nothing new. Three thousand years ago the psalmists celebrated God’s ruling power. “The Lord reigns” are the first three words of Psalms 93, 97, and 99 and are sprinkled liberally around the rest of the book. “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus promised his disciples shortly before he ascended into heaven. We have reason to worship God for his power and rule now, just like we will in his kingdom to come.
So why don’t we? God’s reign over the universe isn’t so clear for us to see, is it. We still live in a world where the streets are paved with asphalt, not with gold. Somehow God’s reign in our world coexists with things like terrorism, COVID, injustice, and starvation. Yes, God reigns, but that doesn’t prevent racial tensions in our cities, or child sex-trafficking in Bangkok, or the mess we refer to as Washington D.C. Yes, God reigns, but his rule over our own lives involves tests of our faith, humbling of our pride, discipline for our unruly hearts that is neither pleasant nor easy to understand. We may be as inclined to question God’s rule as worship him for it.
All of that disappears in the other-worldly worship to which our Lord invites us. There is no more opposition to God’s reign in heaven, including the opposition that is lurking within our own souls. God not only rules, but he rules unchallenged, he rules victorious. He has restored utter peace, utter safety, utter order and goodness. There we will find a world that works. Our worship will be inspired by his perfect rule. But even now we can begin warming up for our place in that choir, because you know that you are invited.