Today’s post will follow the same basic format as last week’s post. I’ll have a few brief comments about last Sunday’s worship service followed by an explanation of another commonly used, but possibly misunderstood word: amen.
As I’ve introduced and implemented a modified version of what is usually known as the “four-fold order” of worship (Gathering ~ Word ~ Response ~ Sending) , a number of people have asked me if this structure is something that we’ll use all of the time or if there are certain occasions where we can be a bit more free-form in our worship. Well, these past two Sundays demonstrate another one of the great strengths of this form of worship. Aside from its basic “Gospel shape”, this structure provides consistency and stability while remaining remarkably versatile.
Both of our past two Sundays followed the four-fold structure which walks us through the major themes of the Gospel message. However, two weeks ago, when we were talking about Genesis 1 & 2 and God’s acts of creation, there was a fairly obvious sense of praise and celebration which ran through the whole service. But this week, as we talked about Genesis 3 with humanity’s deception and rebellion, there was a very penitential tone which ran through the service. Both were great services. Both followed the same structure which ensures that we can’t celebrate God without acknowledging our rebellion; nor can we repent of our rebellion without acknowledging and celebrating the solution. Yet, while our structure guarantees that we tell the whole story, these last two weeks demonstrate that there remains a lot of room for creativity, flexibility and times for unique emphases.
Sunday, September 25, 2016:
Call to Worship: Psalm 108
“Great are You, Lord” (All Sons & Daughters)
“O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (Charles Wesley [arr. David Crowder])
Service of the Word:
“I Lift My Eyes Up” (Brian Doerksen)
Scripture Reading: Genesis 3
Sermon: The Fall
“The Same Power” (Ben Cantelon)
“Doxology” (traditional [arr. David Crowder])
So, this Sunday we closed by singing the Doxology together. This is, of course, a classic traditional hymn, although our arrangement is somewhat unique. While it’s a classic hymn, we usually sing it with two extra verses which were written in 2008 by Thomas Miller. Not only that, the musical arrangement we use was written by David Crowder; so it’s a bit of an eclectic arrangement.
One of the unique things about this arrangement is the refrain of amens. Just like last week with hallelujah, it struck me that quite a few of us might not really know what amen means or why it shows up so much in Christian worship and prayer.
As with many of our Christian terms, the word amen comes to us from Hebrew, through Greek, and then (for us) into English. In its most basic sense, amen is a word of affirmation. It means we agree with something or that we desire for something to happen or to be true.
Jesus used the word amen a lot, however, it’s rarely translated as amen. But, for example, any time we see Jesus saying “Truly I say to you” (e.g. Mt. 5:18) in the Greek it’s actually “Amen I say to you…” Or in the Gospel of John when Jesus says “Truly, truly I say to you” (e.g. Jn. 3:3), he was actually saying “Amen, amen I say to you…” It’s like Jesus is saying to the people, “Listen up! These are the things that I affirm, this is how I want my followers live” etc.
So, when we sing a song in which we say “amen” it is a proclamation that we affirm, we agree with all that’s being said. It’s like we’re singing “Yes! So be it! We affirm this!” In the Doxology, for example, we sang “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost / Amen, amen, amen, amen” So, our amens are proclaiming and affirming our desire to see the Triune God praised. Or in Matt Maher’s song, “Because He Lives (Amen)” during the chorus we sing “Amen, amen / I’m alive, I’m alive because He lives” and so we are singing a proclamation and confirmation that our new life in Christ comes to us only because of Jesus’ resurrection.
And, when we close our prayers with an amen, it’s not just a fancy, religious way of saying “OK, the prayer is over now.” No! Again, it’s our way of affirming (and asking for God’s affirmation) of all that we’ve prayed for.
So, there you have it! All throughout our services there are sprinkled these ancient, Biblical words which encapsulate so much of our worship: “Hallelujah, amen!”