Amen, Amen

There exists a great number of words and phrases that we use everyday even though we lack the context and original meaning of those words. As trends in society change this number of words and phrases can only increase. Most children today have never physically “hung up” a phone but they understand that phrase refers to ending a phone call. Likewise they have never physically “rolled down” a car window. A generation or two from now there may be so few people alive that remember the origins of those phrases that people will ask, “Why do we say hang up the phone, we’re not hanging it anywhere?” Another great example of how words change over time is the word; “impact”. Originally this word was only a verb but people continued to use it incorrectly saying things “had an impact” that we now accept it as a noun.
Why all of this discussion on words? We do this same thing with the words of our scripture all the time. We often refer to Jesus as “Jesus Christ” as though his last name was “Christ”. This word is a title, “Jesus THE Christ”. Ask a Christian to define “Christ” for you and they may stumble a bit. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah”. So…what is “Messiah”? You see here how we take for granted what we say. One of the greatest obstacles facing evangelism is jargon. We use insider speak constantly and when it comes right down to it, we don’t even know what we are really saying. We have a feeling about it but when pressed, finding the words to define and explain (as opposed to offering synonyms) is difficult.
My favorite example if this is “Amen”. Think for a moment about how many times you have said this word. Now, do you really know what it means? Think before you answer. Got your answer? Are you sure? If I told you that the words comes from an ancient word meaning “finished”, would you believe me? I hope not, because that is not what it means. We often use it at the end of a prayer or to show agreement with what someone else has said. What do those things have in common? Are you agreeing with your own prayer? Are you saying; “Thank you God for our food. I agree?” The simplest definition of the word is “So be it”. This means that it can be used both for agreement and the closing of a prayer. “Here is my prayer, now Lord, make it happen, so be it.” “I like what you said, so be it.” The word is more nuanced than that however, it carries a sense of “make this truth/reality” or “this is truth/reality”.
When you investigate how the word is actually used in scripture this meaning becomes more evident. You might miss it at first thanks to the work of translators though. When Jesus begins new teachings, particularly in the Gospel According to John, he begins with “Truly I tell you…” or “Verily, verily, I say unto you…”. That “Truly” and “Verily, verily” are attempts to translate the Greek word “Amen”. Jesus begins his teaching by saying “Amen, amen I say to you…”. In other words, “What you are about to hear is extreme and profound TRUTH.” “This thing I am saying is a very real reality.” This changes how we read his words and hopefully what we think when we say, “Amen”. It is more than, “I guess I’ve run out of stuff to ask for and need a way to signify that I am done.” It goes further than “What she said!” In essence, we are asking God to make our words reality. Luckily for us we worship a God whose first act in scripture was turning words into reality with “Let there be light, and it was.”
Bonus Fact: The Hebrew word for “word” is the same as “thing”, revealing this deep connection between words and reality that is found in God.