The text of the sermon delivered by Rev. Kirk Moore at Union Congregational United Church of Christ in Somonauk, IL on November 15, 2009
This morning’s Bible reading is from 1 Samuel 4:1-20
I must admit . . . I don’t like her. Peninnah treated Hannah cruelly. She provoked her just to irritate her. What she did to Hannah was awful, unkind, unconscionable and simply mean. In this week’s reading from 1 Samuel 1:4-20, her cruelty is glaring.
Yes. She was jealous. Elkanah was more generous with Hannah. Peninnah acted out that jealousy. But what she did was bullying. It was cruel and unnecessary.
I am one who seeks to live the phrase, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey . . . you’re welcome here,” I also say, and try to live the words, “God loves everyone – not just the people you like or agree with – EVERYONE.”
And I have a real difficult time showing kindness and love for folks who bully, manipulate, exploit, ridicule, and abuse others.
I have a real difficult time showing kindness and love for folks who make up lies, distort what other people say, use fear and hate as weapons, call some of God’s children evil and cruel names, and do it all while calling themselves Christian.
“Why don’t you tell us how you really feel, Kirk?”
Some have looked at the relationship between Peninnah and Hannah and said that Peninnah did what she had to do to keep Hannah praying so that Hannah would have a child.
My single word response to that one isn’t appropriate to say. Let me temper it somewhat.
There is no justification for bullying, manipulating, exploiting, ridiculing or abusing anyone.
I read the beginning of this Bible passage I get angry at Peninnah.
But – the reading isn’t really about her. There’s more.
Hannah has really upset about not having a baby. Elkanah tried to console her. He didn’t do a great job. “Aren’t I better than 10 sons?” No. Hannah was still deeply distressed. One translation says that she had ‘bitterness of soul.’
And she prayed.
She prayed and prayed and prayed. She promised God that if she had a boy that she would dedicate him as one who would serve God always.
She prayed constantly. She prayed without making noise – but still moving her lips.
Eli the priest thought she was drunk. She wasn’t. She told him why she was praying and he said, “May God grant your request.”
Hannah had a son named Samuel. He served God. He grew up to be the leader who anointed Saul and David Kings of Israel. Happy Ending.
The Bible doesn’t say that Hannah made snippy comments back to Peninnah. It doesn’t say anything more about Peninnah at all.
I’m going to still hold onto that anger directed at Peninnah – but I’m trying to focus on what Hannah did.
She was upset
She was greatly distressed
She wouldn’t eat
She was miserable
She was anxious
She was vexed.
She wasn’t drunk
And she prayed. She poured out her soul to God.
There is nothing we cannot pour out to God in prayer. God can sift through jumbled thoughts and powerful emotions. God gets our prayers even when we have trouble naming, feeling or even acknowledging what it is we are praying about.
God hears our prayers.
I know that the happy ending Hannah experienced isn’t the way things always happen. Maybe it’s not the way things usually happen. But God does hear our prayers – no conditions.
Trouble forgiving someone? God hears our prayers
Angry? God hears our prayers
Happy? God hears our prayers.
Thinking lightning would strike you if you ever came to church? God hears our prayers.
Scared? God hears our prayers.
Drunk? God hears our prayers.
Made a mistake? God hears our prayers.
Strong? God hears our prayers.
Don’t think you’re good? God hears our prayers.
Grieving? God hears our prayers.
Doubting? God hears our prayers.
Not doing it right? God hears our prayers.
Filled with bitterness? God hears our prayers.
God hears our prayers. Angry, happy, unbelieving, scared, drunk, mistaken, strong, not good, grieving, doubting, not doing it right – even – maybe especially — prayers filled with bitterness of soul.