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AMEN! …Wait, What?

June 1, 2016

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow

Praise God, all creatures here below

Praise God, above ye heavenly host

Creator

Savior

Holy Ghost

Amen.

“Let the church say Amen.”

“Somebody say Amen.”

“Can I get an Amen?”

I’ve been known to utter those words while preaching. Usually after saying something that is foundational to our faith and doctrine, sometimes after what I hope will get some backing, and even occasionally after I’ve gone out on the proverbial limb and wonder if anybody’s with me.

Amen in the middle of sermon wasn’t part of my childhood or youth in the church. Oh sure, we had a car dealer who every couple of years would erupt with a thunderous Amen from his pew, usually when something of a particular political bent was spoken from the pulpit. But it was a privilege tacitly reserved for him alone.

Amen was heard more frequently as I got a little older and traveled in other theological circles. I noticed what I’d suspected as a kid: people tended to say Amen in the sermon time when what they were hearing was something with which they already agreed. Amen was their stamp of approval on the message being preached…or was it the other way around: had they just been given a verbal warm fuzzy by the preacher?

Time went by as it always does, and I was the guest preacher in a church of yet another background. About three or four sentences into my sermon, I heard yelling. People behind me were screaming! Then I realized what was happening: it was a raucous handful of people in the Choir giving approval to what this shaky skinny white boy was doing in their pulpit. Their shouts of Amen felt good; I felt at home.

More passage of time found me serving a multi-cultural congregation and loving every minute of it. By now you can guess at least one reason why.

Amen has traditionally meant approval or agreement.

Amen used to be at the end of songs in our hymnal. When it was removed in the late 1980s edition, an uproar ensued. It was explained that singing “Amen” at the end of every hymn was a relatively recent practice, dating to around the time of our Civil War in these United States. Its common usage, as at the end of everything sung in worship, had eroded its weight.

Jesus said, “Amen needs to mean something.” Okay, so He didn’t. But if you’ve read this far today you probably already knew that. What Christ Jesus DID do was to start sentences with that word, which appears in many of our English Bibles as something like “Truly I tell you this…” or as some would say now, “For reals….”

Amen is like a verbal yellow highlighter. [say now…ya might wanna tweet that line]

For over a week now we’ve been thinking together about The Doxology.

For over a week now some of you have found yourselves humming it or even singing it in your head at random times. Thanks for telling me; was afraid it was just me.

For over a week now we’ve been throwing our agreement, approval and participation in with angels and animals and all of creation in this Praise God, from whom all blessings flow stuff.

Let’s not stop.

In fact, let’s be intentional about what a friend and colleague from long ago called “lifestyle as worship.”

Amen?

Amen.

 

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8 Comments
  1. Stephen Whitlock permalink

    Amen to your words today. As we start each day let it be with an Amen. But sometimes, it take a while to sort out who is holding and controlling the highlighter. Amen

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  2. Thank you, Steve! Always good to read your Comments and know you’re a part of this.

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  3. Nelson Bradford permalink

    Would I dare say this to the above? A-M-E-N!

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  4. Amen!!!

    I, on the other hand, grew up in St. John’s UMC. Our claim to fame around the circuits (places she preached in her younger days) was Little Mary. Few sit up in recognition of that name these days, but it should be handed down in my opinion. Little Mary Olive was a member of St. John’s and I have heard the stories of her sermons and once in MYF (UMY to the youngsters in the crowd), her staunch opinions of what youth should and shouldn’t do in the church building itself. However, the most important thing I learned from Little Mary was the AMEN from her pew (middle section, third row from the front, right aisle as you face the altar in the old building, but I could hear her turning in her grave when they moved to the new building).

    I love your analogy of the Amen being a highlighter! Indeed! Of course, as teenagers Little Mary’s “Amens” were a source of jokes, etc. But silently, I was taking notes on Little Mary. I guess listening to my peers though, had an effect on me, even in adulthood. For the most part, in adulthood, my Amens have been under my breath or in my head. Oddly enough, when doing lay mission trips, in the summer, with district youth group friends from another church, I had no trouble with audible Amens!

    The older I have gotten, when I can attend, the more audible they are to those in the same pew and directly in front of me and a few behind me, but I am sure the minister still doesn’t hear them. I know he can’t hear them when I am saying them to the shut-in DVD! Trust me, they are still there when I want to highlight a point. Sometimes I even write them down, in quotes, with the name of the preacher for later use. This is the reason you couldn’t hear the Amens that were there at Wood River First, I couldn’t do anything but whisper them.

    Maybe there are a few others out there like me Joe! Just sayin’!

    (Oh, thanks for the new analogy, you’ll get the credit! Promise!)

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  5. Oh, I am STILL LIVID about the removal of my Amen from some of the great hymns that need it to highlight the solemnity of the hymn!

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