November 19, 2006
West Side Moravian Church
Hannah's story is an example of narrative theology.
This is a story about one particular woman
who gave birth to one particular baby boy,
but it tells us about our relationship to God.
I want to hold up three lessons we can learn
from the story of Hannah. I list them under the words
Confidence, Constancy, and Conquering.
Hannah was full of distress, anxious and miserable.
But it is her confidence in the midst of anxiety
which is more important to the story.
The story does not say that Hannah's confidence
extended to her dealings with Peninnah or the other women.
The story says she was miserable
under the taunting of the women.
Hannah was unhappy but her confidence in God won out.
Hannah had the confidence
to approach God.
Hannah went to church at Shiloh,
following the custom of the day,
but she had confidence to do more
than just slip in with everyone else
to sit through the worship service.
The story says that after worship she
"presented herself before the Lord".
This tells us two things.
First, Hannah had confidence
that she was worthy enough
to come before God.
Hannah's dignity and self-worth
had been mocked
by "the other woman".
Yet she had the confidence
to approach almighty God.
Second, Hannah had confidence
that God would be willing
to hear her
and she had hope that God
might grant her request.
derives from this confidence
Even though she felt
small and worthless,
she was confident that she
was not so worthless
that God would not care about her.
Hannah's confidence in God was so great
that she had confidence to share
her deepest feelings and desires.
She told God how she felt.
She told God exactly what she wanted.
Hannah was faithful and God was faithful.
This story lays out a model of constancy
for the relationship between us and God.
God's constancy and reliability was the foundation
for Hannah's confidence.
Hannah's constancy and reliability is her response
to the constancy of God.
We should be as constant in worship and obedience to God
as God is constant in care for us.
We should be as faithful in approaching God
as God is faithful in love for us.
This was Hannah's example to us,
and it brought her victory.
Faithfulness in worship is the background
of the entire story.
Elkanah, Peninnah, and Hannah
went every year, regularly,
to make their offering.
The only exception to this constancy is Hannah,
shortly after giving birth to Samuel.
But this exception is an illustration
of Hannah's constancy in another way,
for she remained at home with Samuel
as part of honoring her promise
to dedicate her son to God's service.
Similarly, this story illustrates
God's constancy in keeping promises.
The story reminds us that God is reliable.
Overall, the narrative of Hannah is a story
of conquering difficulties and obstacles.
The most obvious victory is that
Hannah conquers childlessness;
she becomes a mother.
Hannah gains victory over
especially the other wife.
She also turns the tables
and brags about her victory.
She opens her mouth wide;
one translation says she gloats.
God also conquers.
God's victory doesn't eliminate Hannah's triumph.
She has still become a mother,
but the meaning of her motherhood
has been fundamentally changed.
She is not remembered as a woman who had a baby,
but as the woman who gave Samuel to God.
God conquered Hannah's selfishness.
In this way, God gained a woman who was loyal
and who lived up to her promises.
It is no secret that Hannah's desire
for a child originated
in her concerns about her reputation
with the other women.
God gave Hannah what she wanted
and helped her to want something greater.
God gave Hannah what she asked for,
and rather than grasping it
Hannah gave that gift back to God.
God also won a boy, Samuel,
who would be raised
to become a mighty prophet
and the annointer of kings.
Finally, God's victory resulted in a story
through which all of us
can understand how God acts
in our lives and in our world.
Hannah's full victory comes
by joining her life and her son's
with God's overwhelming victory.
When Hannah sings her prayer to God,
she celebrates God's victory more than her own.
When Hannah "lends" her son to God,
she acknowledges that it is God who has conquered.
Hannah's song begins
with her personal victory
but it turns quickly
to praising God.
She praises God for giving
children to barren women,
but only after remembering
for stumblers and hungry people.
Hannah celebrates the fact
that no person's victory
comes from her own strength
but only from the strength of God.
The story of Hannah is a narrative within which we can see
something of what God is like.
The story shows us that we can have confidence to come to God
and to share our hopes and our distress with God.
It shows that, if we respond with constancy to God's faithfulness,
we may also join in God's victory.
- Reading: 1 Samuel 1:1-8 [NRSV]
- Hymn: 729 — To the Hills I Lift My Eyes
- Reading: 1 Samuel 1:9-11 [NRSV]
- Hymn: 755 — God When I Stand
- Reading: 1 Samuel 1:12-19 [NRSV]
- Song: W&P 132 — Step by step
Prayers of the Congregation
- Choir Song: W&P 162 — You, Lord
The Rest of Hannah's Story
- Time with Children and Youth
- Reading: 1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28 [NRSV]
- Song: 723 — I Am Jesus' Little Lamb
- Responsive Reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-10 [NetBible]
Hannah prayed saying,
"My heart rejoices in the Lord;
my horn is exalted high because of the Lord.
I loudly denounce my enemies,
for I am happy that you delivered me.
No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one other than you!
There is no rock like our God!
Don't keep speaking so arrogantly,
letting proud talk come out of your mouth!
For the Lord is a God who knows;
he judges by what people do.
The bows of warriors are shattered,
but those who stumble find their strength reinforced.
Those who are well-fed hire themselves out to earn food,
but the hungry no longer lack.
Even the barren woman gives birth to seven,
but the one with many children withers away.
The Lord both kills and gives life;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord impoverishes and makes wealthy;
he humbles and he exalts.
He lifts the weak from the dust;
he raises the poor from the ash heap
to seat them with princes
and to bestow on them an honored position.
The foundations of the earth belong to the Lord,
and he has placed the world on them.
He watches over his holy ones,
but the wicked are made speechless in the darkness,
for it is not by one's own strength that one prevails.
The Lord shatters his adversaries;
he thunders against them from the heavens.
The Lord executes judgment to the ends of the earth.
He will strengthen his king
and exalt the power of his anointed one."
- Hymn: 687 — God Teach Us Peacemaking
- Hymn: 400 — Jesus Great High Priest of Our Profession
- Anthem: W&P 97 — May You Run and Not Be Weary
- Responsive Reading: Hebrews 10:11-24 [NRSV*]
- Every priest stands day after day at his service,
offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.
But when Christ had offered for all time
a single sacrifice for sins, "he
sat down at the right hand of God,"
and since then has been waiting
"until his enemies would be made a footstool
for his feet."
For by a single offering he has perfected
for all time those who are sanctified.
And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
"This is the covenant that I will make
with them after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,"
the Spirit also adds, "I will remember their sins
and their lawless deeds no more."
Where there is forgiveness of these,
there is no longer any offering for sin.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence
to enter the sanctuary by the
blood of Jesus,
by the new and living way that he opened for us
through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),
and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope
without wavering, for he who has
promised is faithful.
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.
- For our Lamb has conquered.
Let us follow him.
- Hymn: 587 — Our Lamb Has Conquered
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