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Ever wonder why we Lutherans use the form of worship we do? In this series we examine the depth and meaning of the various elements of our Lutheran worship service.

Martin Luther once wrote, “The Alleluia is the perpetual voice of the church, just as the memorial of His passion and victory is perpetual.” The word hallelujah appears frequently in our hymns, prayers, and liturgies. It is Hebrew for praise the Lord . One finds it throughout the psalms, but especially in Psalms 113-118, which are known as the “Great Hallelujah” psalms.

In many liturgies, the hallelujah forms the last part of the Gradual so the congregation sings it between the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. It serves as a response to the Epistle and a prelude to the Gospel lesson. In The Lutheran Hymnal there are examples of it on pages ten and twenty. In the Lutheran Service Book it is on pages 156, 173, and elsewhere.

Early Christians used the word hallelujah to express their faith and joy while going about their daily work, so it was natural for them to include it in their regular worship. It is an appropriate response for those who have just heard the Word of God read to them. Isn’t it true that the hearing of the grace and mercy of our Lord moves each of us to say “Hallelujah”?

Our hearts shout hallelujah at every mention of God’s great works, especially His great forgiveness for our sins. As one of the “Hallelujah Psalms” says, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the trash heap.” (113:7 CSB) We were once dead in our trespasses and sins, without hope and without a future in heaven, without any ability to believe in God or come to Him, deserving only of His punishment now and in eternity. Yet He sent his own Son to the cross in our place so that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He lifted us from the trash heap and has seated us among his believing children, noble heirs of heaven!

We have a God Who reaches down to help people who need it. We do not have a God Who waits until we “help ourselves” or until we can show enough goodness to warrant His attention. We do not have a God Who decides to help us or not based on how much we love Him, but He helps simply because He is loving and merciful. This is different from the false gods of the world who expect something from their worshipers first before they will reach out to help.

			My sin, not in part, but the whole,
			is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more; 
			praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

It is hard to imagine that we could ever “Hallelujah” too much when we hear Psalm 113 saying this: “Let the name of the Lord be blessed both now and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of the Lord be praised!” (2-3 CSB)

Dear Christian friends, don’t ever stop your hallelujahs. Don’t ever stop telling, showing, and discussing how great your God is and the great things He has done. When Jesus celebrated that last Passover meal with His disciples on Maundy Thursday, they sang a hymn before they went out into the night. The “hymn” was Psalms 113-118. Indeed, on the very night our Savior was betrayed, He was singing “hallelujah.” May we join Him in praising God forever!

David Schaller is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.