Monday, August 08, 2005

The Oddities of the Amen

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, Saturday morning cartoons were a greatly anticipated event. I rose early, made a bowl of cereal, and proceeded to plant myself in front of the television. My parents let me have this time, and it was wonderful, undisturbed cartoon bliss. The most difficult decision I had to make was to decide which cartoon to watch.

I recall a Bugs Bunny cartoon from those days that you may remember. It was the one where he was the musical conductor for a symphony. (I think he made Porky Pig sing opera as well.) In typical Bugs Bunny style, he went nuts with the entire production, direting music until he was virtually lathered in sweat. And when he finally finished the crescendo, peak of musical amazement...nothing. You hear a cricket chirping.

That's what it's like on Sunday morning when you pour out your heart and people stare at you like you've just dropped out of a UFO. When I preach and get no "Amen" "Uh-Huh" or "Oh No!", I wonder what could be going on. Here are some options that I've come up with:

1. The Holy Spirit is working so hard on their hearts that they are too scared to squeak.

2. They think that the Holy Spirit is working in the heart of the person sitting next to them, and so they don't want to disturb.

3. I have totally freaked them out with my seriousness.

4. They were working up to an Amen, but I didn't pause long enough to let them get it out.

5. Maybe what I said wasn't really as profound as I thought that it was.

I believe that I have written before that some people have the "gift of amen." Unfortunately, I myself do not have this gift. I am a pitiful amener, so I really can't complain. Amens really don't change how I preach, and I really don't care if I get them, it just sort of lets the pastor know that you're with him...or not.

Oddly, we recently have an out of town visitor who had the true gift of amen. I was preaching, and I made a comment about marriage being for life. (I say this all the time.) Apparently, this statement yanked the amen chord because this person let out a robust amen. I was actually startled. I am thankful that such a simple statement would stir the Holy Spirit to hit the amen button.

My church is not filled with loud ameners. That's alright with me, I know that they're listening. At least, they are mostly looking at me. Many nod, and that's about as good as an amen.

The bottom line about amening is that it's not to let the preacher know what a great job he is doing, and if I start looking for amens as an ego stroke, then I'm a fool anyway. To me, an amen lets me know that a certain truth resounds in someone else's heart as it does in mine. It's like two people tasting the same jambalaya at the same time and seeing that it's gooood, ya.;)

So, if you rejoice in a truth that a pastor says, and if the Spirit isn't waxing so heavy in your heart that you can't make a peep, then an amen might be appropriate. And if the thing said is awful, then an "Oh No!" might be even better.


Sue said...

Personally I find it embarrassing if someone interrupts the preacher with an 'amen' or whatever. But then it's not part of my (British) culture. It seems to me to be very rude to shout at the preacher - even in positive terms. It never occurred to me that some preachers might like it!

Sojourner said...


I don't really know if I like it or not. I'm still trying to figure it out. However, I have found the whole thing about amening an entertaining thing to think about on Monday.

Joan said...

I think you might need a hearing aid.

Joan said...

I really think you are so engrossed in what you are saying that you don't hear them. And maybe they are not loud enough.

Sojourner said...


Spoken like a true amener.

Anonymous said...

I am a head nodder myself...some of us were born to be quieter folks. I also do not yell at ball games, etc. I feel if you are a loud noisy person in the rest of life, being an amen person certainly is fitting. I do not see it as wrong either. I must admit however, that those I have known best (my family) who were and are "ameners"...would better keep their mouth shut until their life measured up better! Humph!