Have you thought about the word “Alleluia?” It means “Praise the Lord!”
It is sung as part of hymns often in worship on Sunday mornings and other times of worship when God’s people gather. The choir sings Alleluia with other words in the anthems they offer. We hear it in Scripture readings. We hear it in Calls to Worship and in Benedictions. We hear it in different forms like “Hallelujah.” It is the same “Praise the Lord!”
What is praise exactly? Praise in “Praise the Lord” is an action verb expressing approval or admiration or acclamation of someone or something. And in the act of praising, it is often a public act, lifting up the subject of our praise before others, not just to the one being admired, acclaimed, or approved.
I have heard and I have spoken the word “Alleluia” or words “Praise to God” when I hear good news as when someone has survived a treacherous ordeal in life. It may be said for those surviving a disaster that includes loss of life and property. It may be said for one overcoming a life-threatening medical condition. One who survives human tragedy. In these times, I say “Praise to God” out of relief. Like “Thank goodness, you’re ok.” It is a personal message thanking God for the deliverance of the individual before me.
But there have been times when I shared this in response of praise to God with an individual or family when misery, despair, and even death was close by. Think of a time in a hospital room where a patient receives a hopeful and even joyful report when perhaps in an adjacent room a family may be grieving. And even then, my response may be a very sober and solemn thanks to God that God in my belief is a God who is with us all, who is steadfast, who offers comfort and hope even in despair and grief. God will be present for those who face even death. Because I believe that through Christ Jesus, in death, the power and presence of God will deliver one to life eternal. “Alleluia!!!”
There are other times when I find myself mouthing, if not shouting, “Alleluia” to my God when I am caught up in celebration. What kind of celebration you may ask? It is the kind of celebration when I experience the power and presence of God before me in awesome ways. In such moments I am swept away – awashed in joy. And I had such moments, twice this past Sunday, as we celebrated Pentecost and confirmed 6 confirmands as they completed the Baptismal Covenant, publicly professing their faith in God through Christ and joining the United Methodist Church and becoming professing members here at St. Matthew.
Following Confirmation and Reception into the church, we observed Holy Communion. Our newest members assisted me in offering the Bread and Cup(s) as those of us present filed down the center aisle to receive Communion. Seeing these young people share the Body and Blood of Christ overwhelmed me (twice) on this Sunday. Tears of joy filled my eyes. It was a beautiful moment and I felt the presence of the Lord. The Holy Spirit showed up and fell upon me this Pentecost. I give praise to God – ALLELUIA!
Let us all say “Alleluia” for our young people who have completed their baptismal vows and have professed Christ before those assembled who come to praise and worship God through Christ.
In Christ, Alleluia!