9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Georgina, a smallish, older woman who had recently joined my parish after she moved to town from Chicago, looked at the table with big eyes. This was in part because she had thick glasses, but glasses were only part of the reason for her big eyes. We were one of a group of parishes which were helping a community of Sudanese refugees settle in the Salt Lake City area. The Sudanese regularly worshiped at St. John’s in Salt Lake City, but they had formed a choir with drums and exuberant singing which they would bring to the association congregations for worship. It was our Sunday to enjoy worship Sudanese style. That had been very different and now it was time for the potluck after the service.
Like all Lutheran potlucks, it was too much food for twice as many people to eat. But this time it included many dishes made from sorghum and millet. The smells rising from the table were not those one usually associated with the usual Jell-o salads and green bean casserole with tater tots. Georgina was trying to figure out how to navigate this new world. It had already been a strange morning and now lunch was looking even stranger.
“Who are these that are clothed in white robes?” asked the angel of John? As is usually best practice when talking to angelic beings, John deferred to the angel’s superior knowledge. But John could see that the people around the throne were innumerable, from every nation, tribe, people, and language. Some, surely like our Nuer guests that morning, were tall and very dark-skinned. I have grown far more adventurous in my eating, having taken several trips abroad. If there is an east African restaurant in your town, I encourage you to give it a try. The Sudanese brought some incredible food that day, even if it was outside of Georgina’s comfort zone. I am really looking forward to the potlucks in heaven!