1 Samuel 1:4-30; 2:1-10
Proper 28 (33) - Year B
The "house of the Lord" [by extension the Temple, the sanctuary] is a place of hope and prayer, a place to make vows, and a place of of satisfaction.
This very same place continues such hurtful premises as children are the measure of a woman (today, that gender orientation is the measure of purity), is a place of last resort rather than first thought, and a place where leaders can't tell the difference between drunkenness and desperate prayer.
If you were to make one change in the holy space sensibilities of our present time, what would it be?
On a different tack, what, in your experience, is "closed" and needs to be "opened"? An online study by two congregations here of Henri Nouwen's "Wounded Healer" is suggesting the closed reality in our lives is that of "loneliness" and the opening this creates is that of "hospitality." How do you connect Samuel and Nouwen? Is open hospitality the issue of this and every day?
Whether it be Lady Wisdom in the beginning or Hannah or a Psalmist or Mary or you or me - when we stop long enough to listen there is the echo of a far-off hymn hailing a new creation.
Are you hearing the assurance that such a new creation is a given? Even if it gets us into all manner of issues of how such a strong future allows such tragedy at the present to continue, we still proceed as though it were true. To do anything else is to settle for what is and "we are far too good not to be better" (a quote quoted two nights ago by our cluster church conference preacher).
Even in the midst of our humility may we sing loud and clear - a new order is growing among us. Don't give up for you are one of the stepping stones of its arrival; you bear within you new life.
Look! What a large Enemy!
It will take a trebuchet to do in this large an enemy. One smooth river stone or five stand no chance.
Look! What a large Temple!
Nothing could ever bring down such stability. No number of armies with the biggest siege engines could prevail here.
What fantasies we conjure as we face fears and attempt to continue our present course. In both cases we exaggerate our situations. We are at one and the same time too weak and too strong.
Take a second and third look. G*D as rock is an interesting image. G*D enlarges on the way from sling to forehead, becoming irresistible. G*D reduces so temple walls can be stepped over and be no barrier, becoming approachable. G*D as rock is no static image, but is as transformable as any Living reality.
- - -
lead me astray
from solid falsehoods
told with volume enough
to fool all the people all the time
lies that grow
rumor so seemingly so
plausible to irresistible
small lie masquerading
as big truth
lead me astray
from popular memes
so believable everywhere
and all too repeated
in sanctuary space
having connected with god
our least fears
are projected large
children and strangers
of all sadness
this grieves most
big lies hold sway
in holy space
to be provoked
In Mark we have stones, already built together, falling apart. In Samuel, Hannah is pursuing a keystone for her life to put in place.
Whether from a perspective of things frozen in place or a lack of something to hold on to (Remember Martin Buber's descriptions of evil) there is a desire to understand the ununderstandable, to keep cognitive dissonance at bay. Disciples want to know when and where and whether they'll get a reward. Elkanah is trying to figure Hannah out. Hannah was having a reverse-Job experience of being tormented by what she didn't have available to be taken away. Eli was working on why a rational sacrificial system brought so many sad drunks his way.
"In due time" both comforts and antagonizes us. We appreciate that some things are outside our control and, yet, knowing that something is possible, we want it right now.
May you appreciate the caughtness of your own due time and laugh at how you try to alternately ignore it and run after it.
A prayer is a psalm, a song of the heart.
Try this one from Jim Taylor . . .
The Lectionary suggests 1 Samuel 2:1-10 as the psalm reading for Sunday November 18. It’s supposed to be Hannah’s song, celebrating her pregnancy, but aside from verse 5 which refers to “the barren” bearing children, it sounds to me more like the victory cry of a triumphant military general. I tried to recast it (rather loosely, I admit) as a woman finally becoming a mother.
Oh, my God, what’s happening to me?
I feel new life moving within me.
It kicks my kidneys; it compresses my bladder;
I love it!
They said it couldn’t happen.
They said I would never have a child.
Now they have to eat their words.
I thought it was my fault.
I wasn’t trying hard enough.
I didn’t realize God couldn’t act
until I quit trying to run things my way,
until I quit playing God.
God helps the helpless; the rest just help themselves.
My clock was running out;
Menopause lurked beneath the bed.
Then it happened -- the spark of life!
I don’t know what lies ahead –
it may be heaven, it may be hell.
I don’t care; I’m committed.
I’m committed to life; I’m committed for life.
There is no turning back now.
I know, beyond any flicker of doubt,
that this is what God intended for me.
My child may be a genius or a dunce,
a cello virtuoso or penniless poet…
But God will watch over her.
God will give her the strength I cannot give.
I had lost hope.
I shall call her Hope.
For this and other paraphrases, you can order Everyday Psalms through Wood Lake Publications, firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-663-2775.
One of the biggest blocks to moving ahead is our perception that day follows day, year follows year. Eventually we are reduced to tears. We loose track of what we have (a loving Elkanah) and can’t see that we will have to give up that which we have yearned for (a potential Samuel).
Do apply the stages of grief to this short story.
After doing so, don’t confuse getting through a grief with a particular result. Finally going in peace with a promise of fulfillment is not the same as arriving at some “due time” that is your due. Playing the grim-determination-of-the-soul game is no guarantee of getting what you desire. While rejoicing in a Samuel, I can still refrain from buying into Hannah’s process of wanting something she promises to leave behind if only her want can be fulfilled.
Do apply the placebo effect to this short story.
After doing so, don’t confuse effect with cause.