Rev. Michael Keith
Amen. That's a strange way to begin an article isn't it? That's how we end something rather than begin, right? Saying "amen" is kind of like adding a period to the end of a sentence. When we say it in church it's as if we're saying, "Okay, that's done, what's next?"
Except it's not.
Saying "amen" is so much more. In fact, saying "amen" is a bold confession of faith and trust.
The liturgy of the Church provides us many opportunities to say "amen." Maybe you haven't known how important this little word is to us in our life of faith.
The Divine Service begins with the Invocation. The name of God is spoken—the same name that was placed upon us in Holy Baptism. We are reminded that we are God's forgiven and beloved children and we respond.... "Amen." You say "amen" because you are confessing that you believe that what Jesus did in and through the waters of Holy Baptism is for you. You are confessing that you believe you are a forgiven and beloved child of God because Jesus has declared you to be so in the waters of Holy Baptism.
Then we kneel at the cross and confess our sin. We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We say "amen" to God's righteous verdict that we are sinful and deserve His present and eternal punishment. We don't deny it. We don't hide it away. We confess it and lay it at the foot of the cross. "Amen" means "Yes, this is true about me."
We then lift our eyes to see Jesus speak His absolving Word through His called and ordained servant. We hear that Jesus forgives all our sins. We hear the absolution pronounced to us as if Christ Himself speaks and we say gratefully "amen." It is true, by the grace of God, it is true, I am forgiven. "Amen."
We then join our hearts in prayer in the ancient words of the Kyrie, the Gloria in Excelsis and the Collect prayer and make those our prayers by saying "amen" at the end.
After hearing the Word of God read and preached we join in confessing the Christian Faith in the words of one of the ancient Creeds of the Church. We make that confession shared by countless Christians through the centuries our own confession today as we speak it and say "amen."
We join in the Prayers of the Church and pray for all the people of God and for all people in any need. We make the prayers spoken at the altar by the pastor our prayer as we say "amen."
When you kneel at the altar and the pastor says to you: "The true body of Christ, given for you" you say "amen" because you believe it! When the pastor says "The true blood of Christ, shed for you" you say "amen" because you believe Jesus did shed His blood for you! And you say "amen" because you believe that in the mystery of the Holy Supper you are receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus! When you are dismissed from the altar with the blessing and told to depart in peace you say "amen" because you believe that you do have peace because God is at peace with you for Jesus' sake.
At the end of the Service the Benediction is spoken over you and you are again given peace—the peace that comes from knowing that you have been forgiven. The peace that comes from knowing that you are loved. The peace that comes from knowing that Jesus has done all things well for you and that you have been assured eternal life. You say "amen" because you believe the promises of God are for you because Jesus says so!
So, you see, that little word "amen" is not a throw away word. It is not a word that is simply the way we signal the end of a sentence. No! It is a bold word of confidence and trust. It is THE word of faith. Saying "amen" is like shouting "I trust what Jesus says is true! I believe this!"
Jesus says you are forgiven. Jesus says you are a part of the family of God. Jesus says you have eternal life. We may not always understand it. We may not have any special "spiritual" feelings. We may not grasp how the Lord can continue to be so gracious and merciful to sinners like us. But I believe it because Jesus has declared it so. Amen.
Rev. Michael Keith serves as pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and SML Christian Academy in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created: April 9th, 2016