The story of Hannah, and of her son Samuel, is a story of infertility – and of birth. It is a story of being mocked and misunderstood. It is a story of a woman who came in front of God weeping, and was ridiculed by the priest. It is a story where the closing and opening of the womb is attributed to God’s action. It is a story where God’s favor is shown in the birth of a son. It is a story of polygamy. And it is the Lectionary text for Sunday, November 15, 2015. How will you be worshiping with Hannah on Sunday?
This text can be particularly difficult for those women and men who, like Hannah, yearn for a child.
Or for those who, like Hannah, have prayed, fervently, to God for the gift of a child, but who have not become pregnant.
Or for those whose grief, like Hannah’s grief, has been treated like a spectacle.
Or for those who engage the idea that infertility is a sign of worthlessness – in the eyes of the community and in the eyes of God.
And so we must be very careful when we invite Hannah into worship.
She is often used, her fertility grief co-opted by people standing behind pulpits, bent to make points about the power of prayer and the seeking of God’s favor. Her grief is often treated lightly: the lonely grief, chilled by her husband’s nonchalance; the tormented grief, picked and prodded by Peninnah; the raw, wild grief that brought her weeping into the temple; and the aching grief that haunts the story – the grief of letting go of a young child, or releasing a toddler to God – as if that is something to which one might aspire.
When Hannah is invited into worship her story must not be sanitized and made more beautiful than it is. When Hannah is invited into worship, her grief must be welcomed along with her joy, her barrenness along with the idea of baby Samuel. When Hannah is welcomed into worship, we who gather there must be willing to come along side her and sit with her in her grief. And we must say: you were never worthless.
How will you be worshiping with Hannah on Sunday?
Please join us in praying for all who long to raise children in peace. For those who remain childless, and for those who have lost children to illness and to violence. Join us in making space for bitter weeping.