Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab):
Psalms 34; 150, 1 Samuel 1:1-2; 7b-28, Colossians 1:9-20, Luke 2:22-40
Today’s reading from Samuel introduces Hannah, one of Elkanah’s two wives. Hannah had no children, but Elkanah’s other wife did. Like many women in her situation, Hannah was sorrowful about her inability to conceive. She went to the temple and prayed for a child. Because her lips moved but she made no sound, the priest Eli assumed she was drunk and reprimanded her, which was ironic because she had promised if God gave her a son she would dedicate him as a nazirite – a sect that abstained from strong drink. When God rewarded her faithfulness and she gave birth to a son, she followed through on that promise.
When we follow our faith, people may look at us like Eli looked at Hannah. Actions of faith may seem crazy even to other believers, especially if our actions disturb the status quo. The person who suggests displaying grace to those taking advantage of a congregation’s generosity is as likely to be mocked as thanked. Someone who quits a secure job to follow a risky calling will be judged favorably by critics only if the results are successful by standards the critics set. Any member of a denomination who decries its corruption or injustices – racism, sexism, clergy abuse, homophobia, fraud – risks rejection and attacks from both the leadership and the laity. Like Elkanah trying to comfort Hannah by saying “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” many people will pressure us toward quiet acceptance. And also like Elkanah, who already had children by another wife, people seldom understand the need for actions of faith against injustices which do not affect them directly.
As a childless wife, Hannah was distinctly disadvantaged in her culture. Our faith history, from Moses to Jesus to the Civil Rights Movement to today, is the story of God’s justice delivering the oppressed. It always seems crazy to those in power, because by worldly standards there’s nothing in it for them. For those of limited privilege, radical faith actions may be the only sane response. For those who enjoy privilege, some radical faith may be unexpectedly liberating.
Comfort: God desires the liberation of the oppressed.
Challenge: Ask yourself what injustices you tolerate – or possibly participate in – because they don’t affect you.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see the world as you do, especially the places I’m not prone to look. Amen.
Discussion: What convictions have you followed despite negative backlash?
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