I’ve been thinking about the word “Amen” recently.
Amen is a Hebrew word of that means “we agree.” It means “certainly” or “may it be so”.
In scripture, most of the time the word amen appears, it is as a solemn response to someone else’ s statement.
At other times, scripture records that the people say Amen when they ratify a covenant.
The early Greek speaking Christians retained the Hebrew word Amen to end their prayers. That’s why we say it today.
Saying the word Amen is an ancient spiritual practice of agreement; the truest form of affirmation. Higher than a handshake, a high five or shoulder bump, greater than a contract or a legally binding note. Amen is a word that implies complete accord; full assent. A truth that binds us to God and to one another in a purposive harmony, in a relational unity.
I believe that saying Amen is a spiritual word which the church needs to recover for our life today.
Jesus said that whenever two or three come together in my name, he will be present. If the same two or three agree on any matter concerning heaven or earth, “ask what you will and it will be done for you.”
It’s all about what you agree upon.
To agree on something you have to lay bare your desires and put yourself out there, expressing your highest hopes.
To agree on something means that you have to learn why and how to really listen to another person.
You have to go beyond your own ideas and understandings to really hear the words of another person.
You have to let their words register in your mind and sink into your heart, until you go beyond their words to hear the spirit of the person beneath the words that another person chooses to share.
To hear what they value and hope for. To hear what they long for and desire.
To hear with the heart.
And they have to do the same with you!
All of life, as one author observes, is “getting to the point of Yes.” Once you get to this earnest level of heart knowledge, and link up in agreement with others, wow! It can be powerful.
We are at our best when we express what is best within us. We are at our best when we receive the best that another person shares.
It’s as if an energy force is created, a presence; a third thing.
A recent book out by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton details how actors and actresses at Second City are taught the art of improvisation.
In an unscripted scene, each actor and actress has to really listen to their fellow actors; become so attuned in their listening, that, in a split second, they can agree in one moment, and in the next, add something new to the plot line.
The book details how Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Jane Lynch and Christopher Farley wall were taught to model Yes/ And Behavior in their improvisation classes.
Whenever someone says a sentence, you affirm a yes, and then extend it.
Whenever someone say a sentence, you affirm what they say, and then take it another step.
You agree, then add the next point so the scene can develop and the plot continue.
Leonard and Yorton say that most people don’t come out of a Yes/And mindset.
Most people come out of a Yes, But attitude; they model and act out Yes, But behavior.
Yes,But behavior stops things. Yes, But attitudes halt things. Yes, But sentences thwart and negate everything that has been said previously.
So there is no improvisation– and nowhere to develop a plot line.
We in the church are trying to develop a Yes, And Culture. As we find our way to saying yes to each other, we find a deeper agreement with each other. That’s when we get to Amen! We get to one accord and want to go forward to that something more!
When we say Amen, we are affirming the progress we have made, and agreeing that we want to extend it further.
When we say Amen, we affirm we are in complete union; and we want it to be expanded.
We don’t say Amen to stop the progress. We say Amen to continue the movement.
We don’t say Amen to say it’s finished. We say Amen to say we are only getting started.
I’ve had a week of many internal and external agreements. On Tuesday morning, I had coffee with a retired minister. His faithful hope stirred the faith in me. We found ourselves in such strong agreement that we ended our time together in prayer.
During the week, our church leaders came in for various meetings and conferences, and we all were in agreement.
Each of the Lunchbag volunteers came in, and our interaction carried such a spark of the spirit. Our Lunchbag volunteers inspire me!
Then on Wednesday night, we had a committee meeting. One of our leaders prayed a true prayer from the heart that echoed what everyone was thinking and feeling; the hopes of us all. When everyone said “Amen,” I knew that the content and direction of the meeting was in God’s hands.
What do we agree upon? What should we ask of Jesus? What do we hope to go forward?
If we agree that God is good, say Amen.
If we agree that Jesus died and rose for us, say Amen.
If we agree that this church has been placed on this street corner for a mighty reason, say Amen.
If we agree that we want to be about the work of God, say Amen.
I think this is a good starting point. Here again what the risen Christ would tell us: Whenever we gather together in his name, he is present as power in all we agree upon. Jesus is the Great Amen. Because he is with us, we can ask whatever we will, and it will be done in his name.