Preacher: Sr. Promise, SSM, Seminarian at St. Michael’s Church
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.
I don’t know about you, but for me when I heard the reading from first Samuel it reminded me of the big holiday that is coming: Thanksgiving. Which is supposed to be a time of rejoicing, fun and happiness for family members to celebrate together. Where Republicans, Democrats and Independents will get together to celebrate. Despite the joy and the excitement of celebration, there is plenty of room for rivalry, because we human beings have difficulty accepting and celebrating differences.
Whatever the differences might be, either skin color, language, accent sexual orientation, political party, having children and not having children, we can always find something to put another down. I have a friend of mine who always finds it difficult to go to family event, because his family will always make fun of him for his sexual orientation, which make him very uncomfortable, since our culture imposes on us what is normal and what is not normal. It was like this even in the ancient world because of this there is plenty room for judgement. Sometimes, we forget that if God is love and that God takes delight in us. Knowing that God is delight in us, is enough to make us go around and give everyone we meet a hug, except that they might think we are creasy.
In the ancient world, it was very important to have children and if you didn’t have children it became an embarrassment for you. Anyone could choose that circumstance to shame you or to make your life miserable. In the first reading we hear that Elkanah had two wives Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had sons and daughters while Hannah had none. Year after year Elkannah would go to the temple to offer sacrifices and Hannah would have to be face to face with Peninnah who would make her life miserable. Hannah would cry again and again. Though Elkanah loved her dearly, that was not enough to overcome her distress. Hannah was the victim of the culture she was living in, plus the victim of Penninah’s insult.
Year after year, when Hannah goes to what “supposed” to be a moment of celebration, a moment she was supposed to be looking forward to, being with her husband and the rest of the family. To worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of host at Shiloh. It turned out to be one of the stressful events in her life.
However, Hannah never lost hope and faith, but she was persistent in her prayer, because God never stops listening to our prayers. Hannah knows that she belongs to God and God loves her and takes delight in her. As Psalm 16: 8 tell us: “I keep the Lord always before me; because God is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” In the face of humiliation and insult Hannah never let go of God. Hannah persisted in her prayer and she never gave up. God is not deaf to our prayer, God is present in our life and God never fails to listen to us. Our Hope and Faith in God will carry us through.
I as a Sister knows that, but I must confess to you that it is not easy to accept that God is listening to our prayers. I have been praying for so many people and I encounter so many people that pray for healing for a cure from an illness or for cure for cancer and yet they don’t survive. I remember Sally. her husband moved to New York for a job, while she stayed back home in another state to continue with treatment for cancer. Finally, after her husband settled down, he brought her to New York.
When she came, she went straight to the hospital. I went to visit her. Since we did not know each other, I told her who I was. After our conversation, I offered her communion and I prayed with her. That was our first encounter and for 4 years, I prayed with her in her house or in the hospital, whenever she made it to Church and over the phone. She never lost her faith. Until the night before she died, her husband called me and told me she wanted me to pray with her. I asked her if she would you like me to come over and she said I didn’t have to come. I prayed with her over the phone. She said, “I love you” and I said I love you too.” The next morning around 7:30 her husband called me to let me know she passed away. Hannah prayed God and asked God for a son and God gave her a son. As God answers the prayer of Hannah and granted her the gift of a son, I would love for God’s to heal Sally, and all the others that I prayed for. But, as the psalm said, “I keep the Lord always before me,” the Psalmist does not say I keep the Lord before me only when God fulfills my desire or grantes me my prayer request, but instead the psalmist wrote: “I keep the Lord always before me.” It becomes a way of living to keep the Lord always before us.
We belong to God always at all time and through all circumstances in our life. It is our faith in God that hold us through difficult time, the outcome of our prayer is in God’s hand. I learned from Sally that having faith in God does not mean our desire will be fulfilled the way we want it, because God’s desire for us is bigger than our desire. God will always enfold us in his arm and God will always be with us and God’s grace and love will prevail. We are invited to pray and surrender our desire to God. As Sally did until the last day of her life. Now she is celebrating Thanksgiving with God in heaven.
God is in the midst of our confusion and our helplessness. Do not lose hope in your journey. Just keep walking and be faithful and stay open and available to God Spirit. God is in the midst of the migrant workers and God is with the people at our border, who are risking their lives through a long and difficult journey in search of a better life for their family. God is walking with you and me all along the way. You were never alone, and you are never alone whatever journey you are walking in because each one of us is on a different path and our hope is that it will lead us to the source where love dwells.
As God was walking with Hannah the whole time when she was facing humiliation from Peninnah, God is with the Republicans as well as the Democrats. God is with the one that feels rejected from their family because of their sexual orientation. Whatever you are deeply troubled with, remember that God is watching over you. Whatever you are happy and excited about remember that God is watching over you.
Within all this pain God sees Hannah because God never stop loving us, we are in God and God is in in us in all circumstances in our life. God loves for us is greater than the circumstances in our life. God’s grace, love and compassion for us is greater than our culture and whatever we might think about each other. So, Hannah faithfully prayed to God and asked God for the gift of a son and God answers her prayer.
What I found interesting is that the bible does not tell us that Elkanah told his wife Peninnah to stop the insults, but what the bible tells us is that when Hannah was crying, he said: “Am I not worth more then 10 sons to you?” and the Bible said he loved her very much. The Sister in me make me feel like saying “Well sir Elkanah, sometimes love asks for action and sometimes even some difficult action.” God’s loves for us is reflected in Jesus’ death and resurrection, so love demand action. Why doesn’t Elkana makes Penninah stop humiliating Hannah if he loves her so much? Then I realized that God has a plan for Hannah and God has a plan for each one of us here this morning.
Hannah thinks now, she can no longer take it, she must go to God who is the only defender. Sometimes God is the only one who can do something when the people you rely upon cannot defend you. She can no longer endure the pain of humiliation and insult. So, she went to the temple where the Priest Ely was sitting. She went there silently praying and pouring her heart to the Lord, the only one who could understand her Pain.
Yet Hannah met with Judgement again, instead of being offered some pastoral support. Ely told her: “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself. Put away your wine. (1 Sam.14”). Can you imagine hearing those words from any of the priests at Saint Michael? You would probably fly out of the priest office and will probably never set your feet back at this door again and would probably even take it to social media.
Instead Hannah spoke to Ely with great humility and grace. “She said “I am a woman deeply troubled, but I am not drunk, instead I have been pouring my soul into the Lord. 1 Sam. 15” Ely does not understand Hannah expression of pain before God, however, Hannah’s conversation with Ely help him to change his heart and now he joins Hannah in praying for the gift that she was asking God for. God always has a mysterious way to open our eyes.
See, she was described as drunk, but she did not describe herself that way, but instead as deeply troubled. Hannah’s desires were to have a son and she faithfully prayed that God would grant her a son, that was all she wanted, and she prayed that if God granted her a son that she would dedicate the son to God service. Hannah was not drunk, but circumstances in her life make her deeply trouble. In our present day, Hannah respond to Ely remind me of the people at our border, who will probably describe themselves as deeply trouble from their native land and that they are not criminal, but circumstances in their life make them take their children in search for a better life. Sometimes, our judgement did not reflect what is going on through a person it is always best to have conversation and listen to each other with open heart and mind. Because God is the one who guided the lives of God chosen individuals such as Hannah and you and me.
We have a God who has already prepared a high way for us. God is inviting us to walk in it; we are invited to work with God. God wants to walk it not for me or for you but to walk with us. Just as Hannah discovered that she must do her part by Going to God to express her deepest desire to God, may we also never shy away from expressing our deepest desires to God. As Hannah left the Temple, she was no longer sad, because she surrenders everything in God hand. May we pray and surrender our deepest desire in God hand.
God is the God of history and who controls time and space, God is the God who control when and where of his chosen individual (paraphrase from a commentary by David Toshio Tsumura pg.71). God is in control of the democrats, republican, independent, black, white, poor and rich. God saving plan is fulfilled in the normal day today life of human being. so, let’s be compassionate and be kind to ourselves, to each other on Thanksgiving Day and in everyday life. Amen.