A word we say quite a lot around church is the word amen. It shows up at the end of collects, acclamations, petitions and prayers throughout our liturgies. No matter who is actually speaking up to that moment, all the people are always invited to add their amen as the prayer concludes. It is never reserved for one person to say alone.
Amen comes from a Hebrew word that means something like “let it be” or “make it so.” Some folks think they should withhold the word amen if they don’t intellectually agree with everything that has been said up to that point. Others might utter it for almost the opposite reason: more to convey, “I’m praying, too; even though I would have said it differently.” There is something powerful in the word amen to gather us together, to remind one another that in community we hold each other up and walk together, regardless of when and how we may agree or disagree.
The word amen appears in the Book of Common Prayer more than 550 times; and even in a Sunday service, we might say it together a dozen times or more. But there is one particularly special and important amen present in our weekly worship: the only place in the entire BCP where the word appears in all capital letters: AMEN.
At the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer—after the priest has blessed the bread and wine to nourish us as the Body of Christ—all of our offerings and prayers are gathered up into one climactic – Great – AMEN. In fact, this one is called the Great Amen. It is the people’s prayer. And, I think, it is so special because it means that we are all in it together.
When we gather for worship, we bring all that we have and all that we are: success and failure, grief and joy, abundance and need, doubts and faith. We bring tangible signs of these offerings, too. We serve one another in leading and participating in liturgy; we give offerings of finances and time and talents; we bring bread and wine. And once we have brought all the gifts together and blessed them, we pray in the Great Amen that God will nourish us and the wide world through our offerings.
I pray that next time – and every time – we come to that Great AMEN in our worship, we will all heartily and faithfully add our voices in that prayer. I pray that we will see the amazing gift of being called together into community, of walking and serving and worshiping and witnessing to a God who blesses every offering and somehow ensures there is enough for everyone.
The Rev. Scott Painter, Rector