Amen

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AMEN
Amen
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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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Amen: the word that is used with great frequency in every kind of church, synagogue and mosque. Whether a church’s worship is traditional or contemporary or anything in between, Amen features prominently. Why do we say, ‘Amen’ in worship and what do we mean by it when we do?

Amen is Biblical
It appears more than 300 times in the Bible, from the Hebrew scriptures all the way to the last verse of the last book. It appears nearly seventy occasions in the Gospels, usually spoken by Jesus.

What does Amen Mean?
Amen is an affirmation of truth, enthusiastic agreement, a special word that we can use whenever we have said (or heard) something that is true before God. It is often translated as ‘so be it’ and acknowledges the truth of a statement, a prayer, a blessing. When Jesus uses it in his teaching, it is most often translate as ‘truly’.

How is Amen Pronounced?
In Synagogue worship, it is pronounced ‘o-mein’. Christians either pronounce it ‘ah-men’ or ‘ay-men’. In the nineteenth century Anglican Church of Canada, there was a lively controversy about how to pronounce ‘Amen’. The Evangelical Anglicans wanted to do what the Protestants were doing and the Anglo Catholics wanted to do what the Catholics were doing. Catholics pronounced it ‘Ay-men’, while Protestants used ‘Ah-men’. Nowadays, ‘Ay-men’ seems southern to the Canadian ear, though it’s use in Gospel music has Canadian Christians using it, along with Christians of all stripes using ‘ah-men’ in more traditional music.

A Glimpse of Amen in the Hebrew Scriptures and Rabbinical Teachings
The word has the same Hebrew root as the word for faith and is also connected with the word meaning truth. The idea expressed is trust, acceptance, and reliability.
Amen means to take care, to be faithful, to believe someone or something.

  1. Agreement or Hearty Approval
    Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’, lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8.6
  2. Blessing
    It is used as a blessing. In the Song of Deborah, for instance, when people dedicate themselves they say “Amen,” and in turn they bless God with “Amen.”
  3. Praise God
    Israel said “Amen” to join in the praises of God.

Affirmation, blessing and praise are all summed up in one word, Amen.

A Jewish commentator interprets the initial letters of Amen as: ani moser nafshi, “I offer up myself as a sacrifice.” A rabbinic saying has it that one who responds amen to a benediction is greater than the one who recites the benediction — affirming the truth of another. It is more challenging to agree with a truth first seen by others than to discover the truth for oneself.

A saying attributed to the second-century Rabbi Meir has it that a child merits the World to Come from the day it first says Amen. Another Rabbinic saying is that all the gates of heaven open to one who recites amen with all his strength and powers of concentration.

The Rules about Amen

  • The rules for saying Amen include not saying it too soon or too late.
  • It should not be slurred but perfectly distinct.
  • It should only be recited after a blessing given by someone else.
  • And saying Amen should mean, may God’s purpose be fulfilled.

It is said that a synagogue in Alexandria was so huge that at the end of each blessing by the prayer leader a flag had to be waved so that those in the back would know when to say Amen.

How does Jesus use Amen?

  • Some admittedly late translations of the Gospel of Matthew include the last phrase of the Lord’s prayer, ending with ‘Amen.’
  • At first glance, Jesus doesn’t appear to use Amen anywhere else. But when you know that whenever Jesus uses Amen at the beginning of a sentence, it’s translated as “Truly I tell you.” Jesus uses Amen at least 55 times in this way. This points to Jesus authority: it is often used when he was correcting errors: ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But truly I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Matthew 5.38-39

How does Paul use the Amen?

  • Paul invites his readers to agree to the promises of God
  • Paul often used Amen to praise God or Jesus, or to bless his readers at the end of his letters to the churches he started.
  • Paul and the writer of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the bible, follow the Jewish custom of the day by using Amen when another blesses God. And they spontaneously and enthusiastically use Amen to praise Jesus.

The Last Words of the Bible
The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. Revelation 22:20-21xxx

How do we use Amen?
Amen is the liturgical response now used not only in Judaism but also in Christianity and Islam.

So that’s the formal use but what are we really doing when we say Amen?

  • say yes because everyone else is doing it
  • because we have always done it that way — ritual, tradition
  • Thank God; It’s over.

If we are paying attention, when we say Amen we affirm that what was said is true and that we agree.

There is one more meaning. One of God’s titles in the Old Testament is “The God of Truth”, “The God of Amen” (Isa 65:16).

I was intrigued to discover that in Revelation:3:14 the message to the church in Laodicea calls Jesus the “Amen.”

Living the Amen
Jesus starts his teachings with Amen.
We use Amen at the end — affirming that yes, we accept this as the truth.

Saying it at the end of our prayers is our response, but between Jesus’ Amen and our Amen — is our life. Your life is your Amen.

Gathering your gifts, talents, resources and placing them at God’s disposal, that is your Amen. Preparing and serving dinner with joy at Kerr Street Ministries or Out of the Cold; making a tiny positive difference in the life of one person tomorrow; visiting a shutin, committing to something you believe in.

Muslims from the UK, the US, Canada, Malaysia, Spain,Australia, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, and Pakistan are living their Amen this Lent by joining the movement, Muslims for Lent. Inspired by non-Muslims living their Amen by joining a Ramadan fast, they are giving up something to express solidarity with Christians. Lent: Muslims stand in solidarity with Christians

Our faithful response to God is our Amen. By living Christ’s teachings our lives become affirmation, blessing and praise: our Amen:

As Jesus wends his way to Jerusalem and the cross this Lent, he teaches us that we are worth his sacrifice. He did it for us. Now we are called to live out the Amen in our lives.

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Morar says:

    Next week: What does Atonement mean?

     Reply



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