Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | October 18, 2009

Sermon on the Doxology and Amen

This sermon is the final in our series on the Lord’s Prayer, following the outline of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, it deals with the Doxology and Amen.

The Exclamation Point of Faith

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.  Amen. Does it trouble you that those words which we use to conclude the Lord’s Prayer aren’t found in Matthew or Luke?  Look it up.  They’re not there.  They’re only included in a footnote, because the various manuscripts of the New Testament don’t agree on whether Jesus spoke those words or not.  Copies of Matthew’s gospel, dating from the second to fifth century, originating in Egypt, Italy, Palestine, Syria, and North Africa don’t include it.  On the other hand, manuscripts from those same times and same places do include them in a variety of forms.  In fact, one of the earliest non-Biblical documents we have, known as the Didache, dated by some as early as the 70s AD, or at least reflecting those years in the life of the Christian Church, includes a shortened form of the doxology in its teaching of the Lord’s Prayer.  Clearly, just 40 years after Jesus, at least a portion of this doxology was in use.

What’s the deal?  Some scholars, including Lutheran ones, maintain that there is enough textual evidence to say that Jesus spoke these words and taught them as part of the Lord’s Prayer.  Others aren’t willing to say that.  They suspect one of two things.  Those who tend not to hold the Bible in as high a regard as we do, say that the words of Matthew are a “later” version of the Prayer, with Luke’s shorter version being the original.  Matthew represents the version used at the time that the person who used Matthew’s name wrote.  Of course, we, who hold the Bible in high regard as the inspired, inerrant, infallible, unmistaken Word of God, reject this premise.  We find no problem with Jesus teaching the same prayer in two different forms on two different occasions.  Haven’t you ever heard sermons that sounded similar?  Haven’t you given similar, but not identical advice to people at different times and on different occasions?

The second possibility is one we’re more likely to accept:  if Jesus didn’t speak them here, the words were added later.  How could that happen to Matthew’s original text?  Picture this.  A monk is copying down the Gospel of Matthew and he comes to the Lord’s Prayer.  In the margin, however, he puts a note indicating some words used to conclude the prayer:  for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.  Amen. Perhaps he even puts it in the text in parentheses or with an asterisk, kind of like the notes in our modern day study Bibles.  Imagine another monk making a copy of that copy.  Perhaps he gets lazy, perhaps he misunderstands, and suddenly those words are no longer a note, but part of the text.  Voila! Variant readings!

Whatever the case may be, this doesn’t have to bother us.  Because we, like most theologians, readily admit that the words are Biblical.  They sound a lot like David’s prayer that we heard earlier, don’t they?  Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our Father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.  Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom, you are exalted as head over all.

So you don’t have to ask, “Are we sinning?  Are we adding to the Word of God?”  We’re not.  We add Trinitarian endings to our psalms.  We paraphrase the words of Scripture in hymns, in canticles, and in various sung and spoken responses.  We elaborate on the word in sermons, Bible classes, and personal conversations.  So too, we’re free to put a final stamp on this prayer.  Call it an exclamation point!

That’s what our “Amen!” is, an exclamation point.  The word “Amen” comes to us from Hebrew and is used in both the Old and New Testaments, sometimes simply transliterated as Amen, sometimes translated as “surely,” “truly,” “verily” or “so be it.”  It’s an expression of confidence.  I think it’s what Luther has in mind when he ends the explanations of the Creed with This is most certainly true. It’s an expression of agreement.  “Yes, Lord, you’ve said it, we’ll do it.”  It is an expression of ownership.  It’s your way of making the prayers I spoke on your behalf your prayers.  “This prayer my pastor has spoken, it’s my prayer too!”

Yes, it is an exclamation point.  And so, exclaim it!  It’s not, “Amen.”  It’s not, “Amen?”  It’s “Amen!”  Otherwise it’s not of faith.  Luther writes in his Large Catechism:  It is, therefore, an evil deception on those who pray as though they could not dare from the heart to say “Yes!” and positively conclude that God hears them. Instead, they remain in doubt and say, “How can I be so bold as to boast that God hears my prayer? For I am but a poor sinner,” and other such things. And while it sounds like a humble thing to do, it’s not.  It’s the opposite.  It’s arrogance.  Luther continues:  The reason for this is, they do not respect God’s promise, but they rely on their own work and worthiness, by which they despise God and accuse Him of lying. And Luther’s not out on a limb.  He agrees with James who writes:  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. It’s not humility, it’s unbelief, that refuses to exclaim “Amen,” that reserves just a touch of doubt about God’s ability to protect and provide, that wonders if it’s really me who should pray to God, that fears just a little that God’s love in Christ was for that other guy, but maybe not for me, that wonders if heaven really is my home.  This “humility” puts the burden on me and takes it off of Christ.  You’ve inserted yourself into the salvation equation.

Let your faith exclaim, because your faith has something to exclaim.  The Kingdom is God’s.  The power is God’s.  The glory is God’s.  Forever and ever.  It’s true.  It’s real.  It’s fact.  It’s most certainly true.  And it’s the foundation of everything you pray.  In Christ.  The apostle Paul indirectly comments on these words in 2 Corinthians:  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ…was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Christ has shown us the kingdom, the power, and the glory of God.  Christ, the Yes to all God’s promises, in His death and resurrection, made our prayers possible.  His blood shed became the source of our being washed clean.  His empty tomb became the hope of our leaving this tribulation.  He is the Amen, the faithful and true.  He says, “Pray,” and we can be sure.  We can say, “Amen!”  We can say it, because wrapped up in our prayers are all our hopes, all our faith.  And all our faith is wrapped up in Christ, through whom and because of whom, John’s vision is a blessed reality:  After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”  All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” That certainly puts an exclamation point on it.  Amen!

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Responses

  1. Amen


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