At two years of age, Isabel is finally learning how to use the English language. Not only is she speaking more words these days, but she is also learning how to put them together into groups of twos. The other day we ran out of milk at breakfast time and I didn’t feel like running to the Mini-Mart in my pajamas. I did find some dry milk in the back of the pantry, and I attempted to pass it off on my children as an alternative substitute to regular milk. I called it “Space Milk.” It didn’t work, but as Isabel sat at the table she kept on repeating it over and over again as she looked into her bowl of cereal. “Space Milk,” “Space Milk,” she said. It was a humorous and delightful beginning to a new day.
I was just as delighted the other day as a whole row of communicants, without any prodding, spoke a hearty “Amen” after I pronounced the communion blessing. I quickly turned around toward the altar and hid my smile, beaming as any proud papa would. “They’re starting to speak, they’re starting to learn the language of faith!” I said to myself.
Later in the week, a particularly difficult week I might add, I was thinking about how much I need to hear the people say the Amen too. It is not just that they speak it to God, but also that they speak it to me for my benefit. Why do I need it? Because sometimes the devil makes me wonder if anyone believes these things, if the work of preaching and teaching the Word is doing any good at all. The farmer has his crops, and the laborer his finished product, but what do I have but you? When I hear the “Amen,” it says to me in the simple childlike voice of faith, “Yes pastor, I really do believe it. Keep on teaching and preaching and giving me what I really need.”
And for that I must say thanks. You might think it is strange or not a big deal, but to tell you the truth, if someone were to ask me ten years down the road to put on a list the greatest things I was able to accomplish by God’s grace in this congregation, it would be on the top of the list. “The people have learned to say, ‘Amen.’” I would say.
Several years ago I returned to my home congregation after a leave of several years. As I distributed Holy Communion in that place, person after person said, “Amen” as they received the Body and the Blood of the Lord. A change had taken place! The people were speaking and confessing their faith out loud to God, to the angels, to the world, and even to the pastor. To this day that memory of all the dear people in my home congregation saying their “Amen’s” is firmly embedded in my mind.
Your worship is not merely a private thing. It is not just about “you and God.” Worship is also a way that God uses you to speak the Word of God to the needy saints around you (even your pastor!) bringing comfort to their hearts. By your singing and praying and confessing, even in the little “Amen’s,” you are doing God’s good work of building up and encouraging the body of Christ.
That little word “Amen” is not just a punctuation mark at the end of what the pastor is saying. It doesn’t just mean, “That’s done and now let’s get on to the next part.” It means, “I believe it!” It is the “yes” of the people, before the world, to what God has spoken. It is a heavenly word, a holy Word, and a Word that even makes the pastor beam.
And that, my friends, is much better than Space Milk.