Scripture: 1 Samuel 1:4-20
Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
http://www.FranklinCircleChurch.org
Cleveland, OH 44113

To see the Video of this sermon, please go to: http://youtu.be/aTdo_H9ZjDg

To see the PowerPoint slides we were unable to show on Sunday, please go to:  EllenHuffmanSermonPresentation1

The sermon individual slides from the sermon are below the Call To Worship.

Call to Worship: (written by Rev. Ellen Huffman)
One: Let us worship our God; the One who has created each of us with intention and care.
Many: Our hearts rejoice in the Lord, there is no one Holy like our God.
One: Let us in turn offer praise to our God, who offers deliverance to the faithful and forgiveness to all.
Many: Our hearts rejoice in the Lord, there is no one Holy like our God.
One: The Lord creates new life where there was no hope and joy where there was only weeping.
Many: Our hearts rejoice in the Lord, there is no one Holy like our God.
One: The Creator watches our steps and creates a way out of no way. Let us lift up our praise and open our hearts that the God of tremendous hope and and attentive love may enter in.
Many: Our hearts rejoice in the Lord, there is no one Holy like our God.
(Adapted from 1 Samuel 2:1-10)

Sermon – 1 Samuel 1:4-20

Title Page

– Welcome and thank you.  Sermon vs. message.

– This morning I would like to begin by inviting you take a look with me at some art.  The pieces are the size of a postcard and were mailed by the anonymous artists to the Post Secret art project.

– P. S. slides

– The story of Hannah fervently praying for a child at the shrine in Shiloh is a few thousand years old.  However, the core issue – that of infertility and a longing to reproduce – is one that is still present today.  Even in the 21st century, society assigns women around the world their worth based on their ability to give birth and care for their children.  Women that do not have children, whether by choice or circumstance, are often judged as lesser than.  Cultures around the globe inform these women that they do not have the oh so important “maternal gene”; and are thus not as feminine or godly as their motherly counterparts.

– Explore with me if you would, what this mindset meant to Hannah.  We enter the story at the beginning of First Samuel and learn that Elkanah had two wives: Peninnah who had many children and Hannah who had none.  It was certainly not uncommon to have more than one wife at this time in the biblical narrative and it seems as though Elkanah has the best of both worlds: many children and a wife to bear them and a wife that we are told he loved.

– We discover as we read on that Hannah is not happy in this life.  On the contrary, she is incredibly sad and feels worthless.  Why?  As a female, Hannah’s worth is decided by how many sons she bears.  While it certainly seems as though Elkanah is satisfied with her – surely because he has another woman to continue his line – Hannah is forced to examine herself and her life.  She has not had any children and is thus of no worth or importance in her society.  I cannot stress this mindset enough: according to her culture, Hannah literally has nothing to offer because she has not had children.

– I also see another layer to Hannah’s discontent.  This is quite a personal story that the Samuel narrative opens with; women are rarely the main character in any biblical story.  Now we know how important childbearing was in the time of Hannah and Elkanah and additionally, the author paints a very real picture of Hannah’s despair.  I believe that her unhappiness goes deeper than failed attempts to satisfy society’s expectations and rules.  Once a year Elkanah’s family travels to the closest worship place for the God of Israel.  This would have been a place where people could get closer than usual to Yahweh.  There was a physical location where one could offer sacrifices as well as priests to mediate.  Worship and unity with God was not necessarily done in the general places of life; the yearly journey to Shiloh offered families the opportunity to praise God and make petitions of God.

– I find that there is more to Hannah than first glance because she goes through this every year.  She finds herself taunted by her husband’s other wife and by the children at her feet or at her breast.  She comes before God and cries out with her anguish and disappointment.  It certainly seems as though Hannah has a deep longing within herself, a yearning to create life.  I think this is more than a desire to fulfill a societal expectation, Hannah’s is a raw need that can only be fulfilled with the quickening of her heart, the growing of her belly and the unconditional love of a child.

– Can you imagine this scene?  Can you picture Hannah at this moment?  Don’t you think that Hannah has reached the end of her rope?  In ancient times, the belief was that children were either created through sex or divine intervention.  God was thought to be inexorably linked to reproduction with the power to grant children or to withhold them.  I imagine that Hannah has used every trick her mother and female friends taught her to get pregnant.  They have failed; Hannah is still without a child and is wild with desperation and yearning.  And she stands before the presence of God begging for the desire of her heart.

– When I was in high school, my step mom began experiencing debilitating back pain to the point where she could no longer work.  She went on disability and was constantly in pain.  As a result, I had to take on more responsibility and my home life began to revolve around taking care of her in the bad spells, reverting back to a daughter role when she was feeling okay with serious worry and concern on my part no matter what.  I cannot tell you how often I prayed that she would get better.  While my theology was not so fully formed as it might be now, I knew that God played some role in our family situation.  I wasn’t sure that God had the ultimate power that could heal my step mom, but I prayed for it just in case.  I remember one bad day, she was laying on the couch in excruciating pain, I was trying to help her in some way and give her what she needed while preparing dinner and cleaning the kitchen floor.  I found myself overcome with the enormity of my despair and escaped to the porch where I started sobbing and begging God to help us and make her better.

– It is ten years later.  My step mom is still on disability.  She is still in pain and while she certainly has good days mixed in with the bad, I would not say that she is better.  Or at least not better in the way I had been praying for.

– What does that mean?  Does God hear us when we’re begging for help?  When we’re asking for the deepest desires of our hearts?  What is God’s role when we feel alone, depressed, anxious and desperate?  How is God acting in our lives in those moments when it feels as though everything is falling apart and there is nothing you can do to stop it?

– In Job chapter 14, Job is replying to one of his friends as they discuss his many plights and sufferings.  Even amongst all evidence to the contrary, Job still possess hope and trust in the Lord…or at least he is asking the big questions of God.  In verse seven he says, “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again”.  Job realizes that where others might see only death and desolation, as a worshipper and server of the living God, he can see hope and promise.

– Is this what we are called to as Christians and lovers of the living God?

– Album Art

– The Church of the Beloved, located outside Seattle, released a CD several years ago that contained songs written and performed by the worship team.  The album is titled: “Hope for a Tree Cut Down”.  One of the leaders of the church says that the CD is about, “Hope that God is growing life out of our devastation, trust out of our cynicism, love out of our fear, community out of our isolation….. It is a seismic and humble shift when our heart can hear the words that God has been saying to us for all our lives, ‘…nothing can separate you from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus’.”

– This is what a relationship with God contains: even when your tree is cut down, hope for new life still exists.  This is what it means to have faith in our creating God: that even when you are violently slashed down, even when you are marked for failure; God is with you, whispering in your ear that this is not the last word.  This is one thing that the very nature of Jesus stands for.  Our hope is the risen Jesus, who reminds us that even death is not the end.

– A pastor shared a story this week with me about something he had read about walking to the edge of the shadow.  In order for two people to get from point A to point B in absolute darkness, one holds a flashlight and the other is sure to step only to the edge of the shadow that the flashlight creates.  As followers of God, we are not promised that there will be no darkness but we are assured that we will only be asked to come to the edge of the shadow.  As a community that strives to live like Christ, we are not told that all our prayers and desires will be answered as we would like but I can assure you that we are heard.  Our God is One who remains with us in those places of shadow, in the times when we are cut down, in situations when we feel taunted and unworthy.  Not only that, but the Creator of the universe feels those things right along with us.

– One last thing I would like to look at in our text for this morning is the role of Eli the priest.  After realizing that Hannah is not intoxicated but “bleak-spirited” as one translation puts it, Eli recognizes her discouraged and troubled soul and leaves her with a spoken prayer that her own silent one would be granted.  Eli does not even know what Hannah is praying for and does not push her for more information.  It seems that Hannah speaks and acts so passionately that Eli sees he only needs to pray for her to be heard.

– Then verse 18 tells us that after this benediction from Eli, Hannah is no longer acting or looking bleak spirited.  We are meant to be in community with one another.  It is not necessarily Hannah’s prayer that makes her feel better, it is another person saying, “I see that you’re having a hard time.  I know that God hears you.”  Of course we are also called to help each other in a myriad of ways, but sometimes all you can do is offer up a connection with someone else.  Sometimes there is nothing else to say except, “I hear you and so does God.”

– And so this is not just a message and a text announcing that Go

d remains close by when we are at the edge of the shadow but a reminder that as God creates hope in us, so you must foster that in others.  It might seem a small thing to you to simply say, “I’m hurting too because you’re hurting and I care about you” but I promise that it can make a world of difference.  Sometimes you are the one that needs that reassurance and sometimes you are the one holding the flashlight; creating a circle of light that warms and comforts.

– Some very dear friends of mine recently experienced a miscarriage.  They were devastated.  In turn, I was devastated because I care very deeply for them.  And all I could do, and all I did do, was listen to their grief and then let them know that I am sad too.  That God is sad too.  They are not alone.  And if we stick around long enough and hope with great expectation, we will experience God-given life and joy again.

– Tree Slide

– In the midst of death, God creates life.  In places of deep wounds, God hurts along with us.  In times of despair, God cares.  You might be at the edge of shadow, but you are not alone.  You are heard, you are loved, you are hoped for.

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