“Lessons from Hannah, Our Mother of Faith”
(1 Samuel 1:4-20; 1 Samuel 2:1-10)
Today’s lection is the last of three weeks that focuses on women at the margin of society. Like Ruth last Sunday, Hannah is a woman who was marginalized and discriminated for reason beyond her control. She was barren or childless, and it was a shame for a woman not to bear a child. In the Bible, God is said to be one who opened and closed the womb, and there is no biblical story about an infertile man. So like many cultures, barrenness is considered a woman’s problem, not a man’s. Barrenness or infertility is thus construed as a divine hand or curse. Now, having a son would validate Hannah and restore her status in society.
In many male-dominated cultures, having no children, especially male children, was a sign of failure in life. It is seen as lack of a future because the “bloodline” is continued through the male child. Walter Brueggemann in The Prophetic Imagination says that barrenness is a metaphorical reference to “a loss of a future and therefore to hopelessness.” He says that “the notion of barrenness may be taken as a condition of despair in our society.” Indeed, it could be taken as a condition of our churches today. Many churches lament that they don’t have young people, youth and children. These are our future who have vanished and have very little or no interest in church. Where then is the future of the church? Hannah’s barrenness, wilderness, emptiness or insecurity of the future is perhaps a reflection of the state of the church today.
Also think of so many people who experience a deep sense of the lack of a future ahead of them. They see no way forward. Think of the veterans who suffer mental problem with no hope for future. Think of undocumented aliens who face deportation and separation from their loved ones any moment. They may be working hard, but their future is grim and uncertain. But the good news is that God “opened” Hannah’s womb and she gave birth to a son who became one of the greatest prophets. The church is called to be hope for the hopeless, to hold out hope and make a way for those who see no way.
Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church