The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

From John Kleinig’s essay ‘What’s the use of praising God?’ … (which is reprinted in a booklet in the foyer) …

The praise of the triune God in the church dif-fers from the acts of praise in all other religions because it is based on the incarnation of God’s Son and our present union with him. It depends on his invisible physical presence with us in the Lord’s Supper. That determines its nature and its function. Praise confesses and announces the mystery of Christ among us, the foretaste and pledge of our glory (Colossians 1:27).

In his great vision of heavenly worship in Revelation 5:6-10, St John sees twenty-four elders singing a new song. The elders, twelve for the patriarchs of Israel and twelve for the apostles of Christ, represent the people of God in both testaments. As John watches, they rise from their thrones and fall down before Jesus the Lamb, because he has just received the sealed scroll from God. That scroll is his script for the last act in the drama of world history. Each of the elders holds two things in their hands, a lyre for accompanying their songs of praise, and a bowl full of incense for presenting the prayers of the saints to God. As they fall prostrate before Jesus, they sing a new song of praise to him. In this song they acknowledge that by his sacrificial death, Jesus has created a new international priesthood for God. Their task is to reign with him on earth. And they reign in a strange way indeed. As those who stand before God and have ac-cess to him, they reign by their performance of prayer and praise.

This vision shows us how singing of praise is connected with the incarnate Christ. He himself has created this priestly choir by his self-sacrifice as the Lamb. This choir now performs its song of praise in his presence here on earth. In music and song it acknowledges and praises him. It sings its song together with all the angels and the whole of creation (Rev 5:11-14; cf. Psalm 148). By that song it proclaims the hidden kingship of Christ to the world and announces what he is doing as the cosmic world ruler. He does not reign as the Lion of Judah, but as the Lamb of God. In its song of praise the church proclaims the presence of the incarnate Son of God and tells of his work as the redeemer of the world.