Today’s reading is filled with liturgical refrains that soar from our hearts, through our mouth, and into the very throne room of God.
6. A lamb that had been slaughtered stood in the midst of the throne, the creatures, and the elders. It had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the [seven] spirits of God sent out upon all the earth.
7. He went and took the book from the right hand of the one sitting upon the throne.
8. When he took the book, the four creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the lamb. Each one had a harp and a golden bowl full of incense, which is the prayers of the saints.
9. They sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the book and to open its seals because you were slaughtered. With your blood you bought for God persons from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
10. You made them into a kingdom of priests to God who will reign upon the earth.’
11. I saw and heard the voices of many angels encircling the throne, the creatures, and the elders. They numbered into the ten thousands, thousands upon thousands
12. saying in loud voices, ‘The lamb who has been slaughtered is worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing.’
13. I heard all the creatures in heaven, upon the earth, underneath the earth, and upon the sea saying, ‘To the one sitting upon the throne and to the lamb is blessing, honor, glory, and might forever.’
14. The four creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ while the elders fell down and worshipped.
The slaughtered lamb takes center stage, and takes the book. I filled in the book for verse 7, but he text just says ‘he took from the right hand . . . ‘ It is a strong moment when the Lord exerts his authority to do what no one else in the universe can. It is also a glimpse at the Father and Son relationship of the Trinity that speaks to their intimacy. No words are spoken between them: The Son acts.
Within the liturgy we see the underlying calling of God in Christ — The blood of Christ, the slaughtered lamb, has purchased people from every conceivable grouping of human relationships — nations, tribes, people, and languages. The gospel is global, and the lamb is celebrated by people from all over the globe.
The elders join in, and I am captivated by their incense bowls. They hold our prayers as incense before the Lord. It is an evocative image that should change the way we pray and how we imagine our prayers function. They are not court filings or briefings, wants and lists of desires. No, they are the aroma that fills heaven.
The aroma of prayers is combined with the combined voices of thousands upon thousands of angels who worship the Lord, and these voices are then joined by ‘all’ the creatures in space, on the earth, under the earth, and on the sea. And to this cacophony of sound and celebration, we join our voices when we worship Almighty God.