I’ve been reading some interesting things on social media regarding the word, “Amen.”
My favorite song by this title is from the movie, Lilies of the Field. If you’ve never seen it, I urge you to find it online and watch it. There is a profound story there about faith – in God and in other people because they are God’s children.
I won’t go into the plot of the movie here. I really wouldn’t do it justice. But here are the lyrics to that beautiful moment in the movie when the character, Homer, played brilliantly by the marvelous actor, Sidney Poitier, sings the song with the religious sisters he’s been working for.
Amen. Amen. Amen, amen, amen.
Sing it over!
Amen. Amen. Amen, amen, amen.
See the little baby., wrapped in a manger
On Christmas morning!
Singing in the temple, talking with the elders
Who marveled at His wisdom.
Down at the Jordan, John was baptizing
And savin’ all sinners.
See Him at the seaside, talking with the fishermen
And made them disciples.
Marching in Jerusalem! Over palm branches
In pomp and splendor!
See Him in the garden, praying to His Father.
In deepest sorrow.
Led by Pilate, then they crucified Him
But He rose on Easter!
He died to save us.
And He lives forever!
Amen, amen, amen.
Mr. Poitier does not actually sing the song in the film. The voice of the composer of the song, Jester Hairston, actually was dubbed in. If you really listen, it’s obvious that it’s another man’s voice. The timbre of the two voices is quite different. But it doesn’t distract from the moment in the film or from the life of Christ that is so succinctly summed up in the lyrics.
Amen, indeed! Amen is a Hebrew word and, if you look at the link I embedded, you will find that it was used by people of faith in God since the 4th Century B.C., at least! It means, many affirmative things, but the best way to define Amen is with the words, “So be it.” And it definitely means we agree with a word that’s been prayed or spoken. I myself have exclaimed, “Amen” on more than one occasion when a speaker or person praying has said something with which I heartily agreed. I say it multiple times in church every Sunday!
There is no exclusionary connotation in this holy word. None. It’s a beautiful way of expressing how much you are with someone in what they are saying or doing.
I have one last thought regarding the prayer with which Congressman Cleaver opened the new Congress on Sunday. The dear Congressman used the word “monotheistic” as an adjective before the word “God.” A monotheistic God would be a God who believes in one God. It makes sense to say there are monotheistic religions. He may have meant our Judeo-Christian God? To be clear, Christians believe in the Trinitarian God, One God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christian peoples are the ones who are monotheistic. So are the Jews and Muslims, by the way. I wish he’d chosen a different adjective, personally.
It was very inclusive of the Congressman to include other “gods,” in his prayer, but I believe overall, he should have been more clear to whom he, as a Christian, was lifting up his prayers. In my opinion, when leading public prayer we have a leader’s obligation to be clear and correct with our wording. Words matter. Or what’s the point? I am only critical of these aspects of the Congressman’s prayer because I believe what we say has the power to edify or confuse, in any public forum, especially when the spotlight is on us.
Leaders must be thoughtful when speaking to a multitude. Can I get an Amen?