Rock of Power and Providence

1 Samuel 2:1-10                                                                  Gratitude Season

Elizabeth M. Deibert                                                          15 November 2015

 

Hannah, mother of Samuel.   Mary, mother of our Lord.   Two uppity women.   Yes, they are.   They announce things that are not their place to declare. Women had no authority in these times to say such things.   Who do they think they are?    Well, they are people transformed by the power of God.   They have seen God doing some awesome things, and they are so convinced of the marvel of God’s ability to provide for them, they don’t really care what anyone else thinks.   These women are not uppity about themselves.   They are uppity on God.   They are rejoicing in God’s goodness, telling the arrogant to sit themselves down and pay attention to the One who rules in the heavens and the earth.   They are saying, “No more to the power structures that have ruled their lives, and the people making fun of them, the poor and beat down folk.   They are announcing to the world that poor lives matter, ignored lives matter, all lives matter.  There are no second class human beings.   God hears those voices long-silenced by others, and God responds with great gifts that turn the world upside down.

 

Listen for the prophetic word of God coming from Hannah.   Then hear the sung version of the Gospel from Luke 1, Mary’s Song, which announces the greatest entrance of God’s power on earth ever, the entrance of a child, who will live among us, suffer and die for us, and be raised for us to carry God to us and us to God.   Sit back and imagine a world, in which God enters to make things right, especially for those who have been hungry, poor, left out, stumbling along, or needy in any way.   Imagine a world that God can and will change – where gunmen and suicide bombers can no longer terrorize innocent civilians like the Parisians this week-end.   Imagine a world in which children are no longer abused, ignored, left to die from hunger and preventable diseases.   Imagine a world, where people live for God, instead of themselves.   This world is coming by God’s power and providence.    Cling to that rock.   God will rescue.

 

 

 

 

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Then Hannah prayed: My heart rejoices in the LORD. My strength rises up in the LORD! My mouth mocks my enemies because I rejoice in your deliverance. 2 No one is holy like the LORD-- no, no one except you! There is no rock like our God! 3 Don't go on and on, talking so proudly, spouting arrogance from your mouth, because the LORD is the God who knows, and he weighs every act. 4 The bows of mighty warriors are shattered, but those who were stumbling now dress themselves in power! 5 Those who were filled full now sell themselves for bread, but the ones who were starving are now fat from food! The woman who was barren has birthed seven children, but the mother with many sons has lost them all!

6 The LORD! He brings death, gives life, takes down to the grave, and raises up! 7 The LORD! He makes poor, gives wealth, brings low, but also lifts up high! 8 God raises the poor from the dust, lifts up the needy from the garbage pile. God sits them with officials, gives them the seat of honor! The pillars of the earth belong to the LORD; he set the world on top of them! 9 God guards the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked die in darkness because no one succeeds by strength alone. 10 The LORD! His enemies are terrified! God thunders against them from heaven! The LORD! He judges the far corners of the earth! May God give strength to his king and raise high the strength of his anointed one.  (CEB)

 

Paraphrase of Luke 1:46-58 (Magnificat)

Words: Rory Cooney (1990)
Music: STAR OF THE COUNTY DOWN (Irish Traditional Folk Song)

 

My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the one who waits.
You fixed your sight on the servant's plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me.
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn. 

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
These are tables spread, ev'ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn. 

Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise that holds us bound,
'Til the spear and rod be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around.

 

Refrain:
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears,
For the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn.

 

 

 

 

Let me remind you again of the chain of events.   These were the days of polygamy, so Hannah has a rival wife, Penninah, who provokes her and irritates her.   She makes fun of her because she has what gave women value in these days:  children and Hannah does not.   “So the ridicule went on year by year, as often as Hannah went to the house of the Lord, Penninah provoked her.   Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  Her husband Elkanah said to hear, “Hannah, why do you weep?  Why do you not eat?   Why is your heart sad?   Am I not more to you than ten sons?   That question is painful for several reasons. 

Then Eli, the priest, accuses Hannah of being drunk, when she is praying deeply troubled prayers, crying out to God with great anxiety and vexation.   Then Eli hears the story, tells her to go in peace and says “God grant you your petition.”   So Hannah does have a son, and names him Samuel, which means God has heard.    And Hannah gives her gift right back to God.  As soon as he is weaned.   What!? 

Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving, what we read moments ago, comes after she leaves her young son with Eli, the priest.   She offers her treasured gift to God.     Can you imagine this?   And she did it voluntarily and in giving him back, her joy seems to be overflowing.  She could have made a different choice.

 

To some degree, all of us do this when we bring a child to baptism.   We say, “This child belongs to God, more than to me.   This child belongs to the church, as Hannah understood Samuel belonging to the temple.   And because Hannah gave her son to God, Samuel learned to listen for the voice of God in the night.   He learned to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  He learned to speak truth to his mentor, regarding the unfaithfulness of Eli’s sons.   He learned to be a leader of his people, because his mother Hannah was willing to let go of him, instead of clinging.  

 

Are we able to do with our most treasured family relationships what Hannah did?   To give back to God, what God has so graciously gifted to us.   Hannah and Mary want to teach us that God is our Rock -- not our children, not our spouse, not our brother or sister, parent or friend, job or house.  God is the One who provides all we need.   The degree to which we are able to completely let go to God we can offer our most treasured gifts, the people we love, and know that those gifts will be even greater blessings when we do not hold them so tightly.   To cling to those we love is not to let them become who they need to be with God.  

Imagine if Mary had clung to Jesus, trying to protect him from his suffering.  Our children, our spouses, our family and friends, none of them belong to us.   They are gifts from God.    Enjoy them, give thanks for them.  Treat them well.   Share them freely – that they may serve their God-given purpose.   Their God-given purpose is larger than you; it is about more than making you happy.

 

When we are able to deeply trust in God, we can share the gifts we have been given with gratitude.   It’s a control issue.   If Hannah wanted to maintain control over Samuel, she could not have given him to God.   But she had a strong enough faith to know that God would provide everything she needed.   We pray to God for answers, but the answers are not our final solution, trusting in the God our Rock, the One who provides is the final answer we need.

 

And when we can trust God, and stop trying so desperately to guard what we THINK belongs to us, the world will change.   Don’t you see that nearly all the world’s problems come from people clinging too tightly, not recognizing God’s gifts as gifts, not trusting that God will provide so they can be generous with others.   What is violence but anger determined to take away another’s gift?  What is greed, but wanting it all for yourself, such that you keep from others?    What is disrespect but taking away another’s dignity, while trying desperately to cling to our own?  

 

Hannah could have been wasting her energy worrying about her rival Peninnah, but she got on with trusting in God.   She could have let the embarrassment of being misunderstood by Priest Eli, shut her down, but she got on with trusting in God.  Hannah could have given up, after her long period of suffering, but she kept praying through her tears.   Hannah could have taken the gift, long-awaited, and run, saying, “At last, my prayer was answered!”   But no, she sings a song of thanksgiving to God, reminding all who suffer to put their trust in God.   Suffering and tears may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning of God’s light and grace.   God’s power and providence will turn things around.   God is our Rock.  Hannah wants you to know that.   She has a grateful heart, so grateful that she has the courage to return her most precious gift to God, that he may become all he is intended to be.   What devotion!   What gratitude!