Sunday, August 3, 2008


Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Matthew 14:13-21


[Turn as if stepping out of pulpit as if sermon is over. Pause, then turn back.]

“Amen” really is the sermon. And some might actually wish a one word sermon. But there’s so much to that word “Amen” that it really needs to be unpacked.

We’re so familiar with the ending of the sermon being “Amen,” that we might not think much of the word. As if it’s a spiritual way of saying, “The End.” We’re so used to saying “Amen” at the end of our prayers that we might not think anything of it. As if it’s just the way we end our prayers and nothing more. This sermon will be like every other sermon and end with “Amen”—it has also begun with it.

One of the things I love about being a Christian is that there is always more to learn. Sometimes this leaves you feeling a little foolish, as I did a few weeks ago at the Higher Things Youth Conference. The Conference theme was “Amen.” I must confess that I wondered why that was the theme. It didn’t seem to me a very Lutheran theme. Lutherans love to emphasize grace and what God does. The word “Amen” is a word we say. It’s our response to what God does and says. How were they going to turn that around and get a conference that emphasized grace and what God does for us?

Did I ever find out. Amen, I discovered, is all about God and what He does for us, including our response to what He does for us. You’ll recall from the Catechism that the explanation of the word “Amen” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer that it means “Yes, yes, it shall be so.” At times Jesus began His sayings, when He wanted to emphasize His point, with “Amen, amen, I tell you…”, or “Truly, truly, I tell you…” I’ve always thought of the word “Amen” at the end of a prayer or a blessing from God simply as a response: “Yes, we believe it.” “Yes, it shall be so.” Or, in the case of Jesus, simply to make a point: “What I’m saying to you is the truth—believe it.”

But the reason that we can say “Amen” is because of who Jesus is and what He has done. It might seem that the Gospel reading has nothing to do with “Amen.” But that’s because we take that little word for granted. The Gospel reading shows us how much is there when it comes to that little word. It begins with Jesus saying “Amen” to the tragic death of His cousin and Forerunner, John the Baptist.

How is this so? When Jesus heard of the death of His dear friend “He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself.” We all have times where we need to be alone to pray, especially to grieve. Jesus Himself has given us the words to pray in these situations in life in His Holy Prayer, “Thy will be done.” This is another way of saying “Amen” to those things God tests us with or allows to happen. Even in His grief, Jesus gave His “Amen” to His Heavenly Father’s divine will that John the Baptist was now called to eternal glory. Amen has nothing to do with God answering our prayers the way we’d like and everything to do with His will being done. That is why Jesus could grieve even as He could say “Amen” to the reason for His grief.

But can we continue to say “Amen” when in our difficult situations in life more gets piled on? When the crowds found out where Jesus went they raced after Him. Did Jesus pray to His Heavenly Father for a reprieve? No, He said “Amen” once again. He had compassion on them. This is why Christ came. Jesus Christ is Lord over all and yet submits to the will of His Heavenly Father. In grief, He says, “Amen.” When His grieving is interrupted He says “Amen.”

When the day goes long we’re ready to go home and rest, aren’t we? That’s what the disciples had in mind. Jesus, send them home so we can rest. They’re getting hungry and we can’t do anything for them. But Jesus’ “Amen” to His Heavenly Father’s will is for the long haul. It wasn’t convenient for Jesus when they showed up and it wasn’t convenient now for the already long day to be extended. Being the Creator of all there is, what the disciples had for food was enough to say “Amen” to the need of the crowds. Of course, what the disciples said was true, it wasn’t enough. But God’s “Amen” doesn’t deal with what is or isn’t enough. It simply deals in grace. God who made the earth and heaven can give bread to thousands out of little.

Before He did, though, Jesus gave thanks to His Heavenly Father. This was His verbal “Amen” to the opportunity to give them the food they needed. The very ones who wanted to go home and be done with the crowds were the very ones Jesus had hand out the bread and fish to the crowds. The very ones who said that it wasn’t enough were the very ones who continued to hand out more food to the multitudes. “Amen” always means that in Christ there is always more—even when, and especially when, it seems that there’s not enough. This is especially seen in their taking up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

Matthew says that they all ate and were satisfied. I imagine that there were more than a few people that day who were saying “Amen” to what they had received. God’s Amen is always about what He desires to give us and our Amen is always about what we receive from Him. Both Amens are met in Jesus Christ. God’s answer is always “Yes” in Jesus Christ.

“Amen” shouldn’t just be the way we end our prayers. Amen should be the confession we make in response to God’s miracles. We might think it would be easy to say Amen to a miracle of feeding thousands of people with just a few pieces of bread and fish. But our Lord gives us a greater gift, a greater miracle, a greater meal in our day. At this very altar, often, our Lord takes a few pieces of bread and some wine and gives us more. He gives us His very Body and Blood for us to eat and drink.

If a human being could become God, that would be a miracle. Isn’t it all the more miraculous that God became a human being? That God, eternal and glorious, suffered and died? That God heard our prayer and said “Amen” to it in His Son? That, as He gave His Son to suffer on the cross, He forgives our sins in the giving to us of His Son to feed us? Jesus on the cross is God’s Amen to us, I have accomplished your salvation. Jesus’ Body and Blood, given and shed for you in the Sacrament, is God’s Amen to you, He forgives you all your sins. The washing of renewal and regeneration of your Baptism is God’s Amen to you, you have new life in Him.

Amen isn’t just a way to end a sermon, a creed, or a prayer. But it is the perfect way to declare that all is accomplished in Christ. Amen.


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