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1 Timothy 2:1-8

 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. (ESV)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amen to That

Friday of Pentecost 18

27 September 2013

Over the years, I have returned repeatedly to the writings of Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 AD) about the ancient church's worship life. Of course, one can immediately see in his writings that the practice of Eucharistic fellowship only for the properly prepared and rightly confessing is not a wacky quirk of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It was also practiced by the infant church (even apart from its biblical character). There is also a clear sense of liturgical order in Justin's wonderful description of the worship of the ancient church. Justin puts the lie to the contention that the ancient church was basically an informal social gathering that broke into occasional teachings, choruses of Kum-Ba-Yah, and ecstatic prayer. Justin names the presiding minister as being in charge of the service; a liturgical order, which he repeats for emphasis: a collection of an offering, specific Scripture readings, exposition of the Word of God in a sermon, a eucharistic offering to God's people and specific prayers. This sounds familiar, doesn't it?

 

I have begun to pay greater attention to what Justin says about prayer. Perhaps he highlights something that has gone missing from our practice and understanding of prayer; especially the corporate prayer of the church, namely, what is the meaning of the word "Amen?" If you polled any group of Christians about the meaning of the word, they would be hard pressed to tell you what it meant. The best they could probably do would be that "Amen" means the prayer is over: "the end." And yet, in our common speech we use the word "Amen" in the exact way that it is meant when the church uses it. When someone says something with which we absolutely agree, we will say, "Amen" to it. When we say "Amen" in the divine service we are assenting to and agreeing with what has been said. Amen is simply the Hebrew that means, "Yes, this is true."

 

Today, we too easily give our assent to all manner of words. This was not always so. To assent in this way is to become a willing participant in what is being said. This makes corporate prayer one's own. The presiding minister speaks; it becomes mine when I solemnly add the Amen. The ancient world more carefully guarded that assent than we do. In our media-driven society all manner of mad speech comes from the mouths of those who ought to know better. And we accept what they say and assent to it in the process. Words have very little value today, perhaps because there are far too many being produced (and maybe you would include these words here written). However, when the divine speech is God's or is addressed to God it demands our assent, just because God is the speaker or the hearer. Since God is true in all He says, we must assent to it: "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory" (2Co 1:20).

 

 

We dare not deliver our assent to that which is false or misleading. The ancient church began with the basic principle that that which was not understood could not be given the Amen; assent was impossible. So the Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians: "How can anyone in the position of an outsider say 'Amen' to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying" (1Co 14:16)? This is all the more the case for that which we understand, but which is not faithful to God's Word. Do I hear an Amen to that?

 

Justin Martyr

 

"No one is allowed to partake of the Eucharist except he who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. We do not receive these as common bread and common drink. As Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise we have been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by metamorphosis are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the accounts composed by them, which are called Gospels, have delivered to us what was enjoined upon them: that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "Do this in remembrance of Me. This is My body; " and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone.

 

Afterward, we continually remind each other of these things. The wealthy among us help the needy. We always keep together. All the things with which we are provided, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. On Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the accounts of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then, when the reader has finished, the presiding minister verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray. As we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the presiding minister in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying, "Amen." There is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over the Eucharistic elements, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the presiding minister, who relieves the orphans, widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are prisoners and the strangers traveling among us. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world and the day Jesus Christ our Savior from the dead. He was crucified on the day before Saturday; and on the day after Saturday, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration. 
 
Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66-67 
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have commanded on the lips of Your Apostle Paul that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. By Your Spirit lead us to pray fervently that we might approach Your throne of grace for all people. In the services of word and sacrament, enable us to intone a solemn "Amen" to all the presiding ministers say. To that end keep our shepherds faithful to the truth of Your grace that we might never be required to withhold our assent to the preaching and prayers. Amen

 

For Mark Porter, who will be undergoing surgery, that the Lord Jesus would grant him healing and a full recovery

 

For Joyce Backs, who is in the hospital undergoing therapy for an infection, that her heavenly Father would grant her healing and full recovery of strength

 

For those who are struggling for peace, that they would become peacemakers for others and blessed by the peace of God, which surpasses human understanding

Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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