“To clasp the hands in prayer is to rise up against the disorder of the world.” – Karl Barth
I always love a good preaching series, whether on the Ten Commandments or the parable of the ten bridesmaids. It gives me a chance to marinate in the text during a particular season and feast on it for numerous days after.
One of my favorites was my husband Andy’s sermon series on The Lord’s Prayer. In the series, he offered many versions of the prayer. It was a neat chance to reflect again on a prayer that is often so routine it feels like breathing. The children’s times were lovely and simple too; they followed the series and used the time to learn the sign language for the prayer. The last sermon in the series was on the word, “amen.”
We say it and we sing it. Lately, my twins are curious about everything that surrounds the routines of their various spaces, whether school or church. At home we try to recreate and reinforce those routines, especially the ones that are anchored by singing. At their school they sing numerous Jewish songs around Shabbat, and in the mornings we like to sing the Kyrie, Gloria Patri, Doxology and the Sanctus (often sung during communion in worship services). It’s like we’re practicing church. They sing “Amen” so emphatically – not only like a punctuation mark but the end of a chapter.
When I first listened to Andy’s sermon, 1) I was kind of ready to be done with the series only because I was feeling a little ADD and looking to move onto something else. I think I was somehow already getting excited about Advent and Christmas. (Though God forbid, it wasn’t even Halloween yet, what’s wrong with me?! I blame all the stores with their music and decorations up already.) And, 2) I wondered what and how much could be said about those four little letters beyond the definition. I mean, a whole sermon? On just amen? Really???
Amen. The sign we were taught for it was it to put your hands together and kind of bend your wrists forward twice. At least, that’s how I interpreted it: a child-like gesture, like how we sometimes tell our children to clasp their hands together, bow their heads and close their eyes for a prayer whether before meals or during worship.
I am back at the memory of the children’s time again, seeing the image of the children signing the whole prayer together and recalling the quote above from Karl Barth that Andy shared in the sermon. It is the moving embodiment and proclamation of these words. It’s the sign language and the way Rebecca, a little girl with some special needs who relies on signing to communicate, helps to lead this prayer and an incredible testimony to God’s Spirit using anyone at anytime to not only give a glimpse but to declare boldly God’s kingdom in our midst. It’s also the sign, sacramental and holy, of children leading us in the prayer, of children praying with and for us, a sign of what is radical and lovely.
Sometimes now seeing my little angelpie with her eyes half-closed, squinting through her gorgeous eyelashes with a simultaneously goofy and solemn smile and few of her tiny fingers intertwined in prayer – this becomes my prayer of thanksgiving. And then on Sunday this past week to hear and listen to the whole congregation pray the prayer together with voices that are seasoned and have been carried by these words throughout the years, through illness and wars and loss – this becomes my prayer for mercy and hope. Then voices almost chirping happily and in harmony, following along, young voices praying the words like they know somehow they are reciting something ancient and truly holy the way they annunciate each word clearly – this becomes my prayer.
Saying amen is not just a rote vocalization. When we say it we affirm, proclaim and ordain for it to be true in our lives.
The last sermon in this series, this sermon on the word, “Amen,” was likely my favorite. I want to live and walk as an αμεν to God’s grace, and to be that αμεν that confirms what God has done, is doing and will do in the world, as a sign of thanksgiving and gratitude.
Mihee Kim-Kort is a teaching elder but mostly stay-at-home mom to twins, Desmond and Anna, and a third named Oswald (and a fourth named Ellis, a boxer dog). The children graciously allow her to also work part-time in a ministry with college students as well as serve on various boards and committees. She is a writer and blogger (miheekimkort.com). She and husband Andy, who is also a teaching elder, live in Bloomington, Indiana.