Excerpt from Revelation 19:1-8
"Then I heard what sounded like a crowd, like the sound of a roaring waterfall, like loud peals of thunder. I heard them saying, 'Praise God!'…Let us rejoice and be glad; let us praise God's greatness."
William C. Green
St. Augustine summed up the Christian life saying, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song. A Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot." "Alleluia" is full-throated praise.
For Augustine Lent was like choir practice--a time of clearing our vocal chords and practicing our song, learning it well enough to let loose at Easter. He knew we fall out of practice and get rusty singing against the odds. Alleluia and praise easily become one of those church things that soon lose their luster and lack resonance in our lives. What's discouraging rings truer.
Alleluia, praise, and joy are not something we believe first and practice later. They are songs, not propositions or hypotheses. We practice our parts before we can judge the performance. The excerpt from Revelation above does not speak of a solo experience but of something that happens alongside others.
Most of us are accustomed to practicing our faith privately. As many still say, we don't want to wear it on our sleeves. A fellow member of my church saw a sign outside a church that said, "We Sing Loud." He said that for most of us that's a grammatical mistake: "loudly" not loud. We're smart and reserved. But we can still talk with someone we trust, speak with the pastor, or join a small group given to thoughtful discussion. And we can worship.
We're no walking "Alleluia" at Easter or any other time. But we can move in that direction by watching out for what William Sloane Coffin called "psychosclerosis" or hardening of the attitudes. Amid all that constricts us, we can remember that what's discouraging may be the first verse in the song of our life, but it's not the last.
Help me get ready for Easter so I can praise you and head toward Alleluia. Amen.
William C. Green is Vice-President for Strategy and Development, Moral Courage Project, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the author of 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation: Generous Giving.