There's a word at the heart of our Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday, from I Samuel 1:4-20; 2:1-10. Hannah embodies it. Prays for it. And sings because of it. This word is 'Waiting.' Waiting describes our existence in relationship to God, in both the Old and New Testaments. Waiting. It's a difficult word; especially when we're so filled with anxiety and fear. Read these words from the Psalmist: 'My eyes grow weary while waiting for my God' (Psalm 69:3; cf. Psalm 130:5-6 and Isaiah 59:9).
The challenge is that waiting is perceived in our time as such a big waste of time. Hmm? Like ... 'But I can't wait I've got so much to do!' Or maybe, something like ... 'I can't take it anymore. It's hopeless!" As my mentor, Paul Tillich once observed: 'World history is a cemetery of broken hopes, of utopias which had no foundation in history' (Theology of Peace; p.187). And yet, this is exactly what kept Hannah in the game, hangin-in-there.
For Hannah knew well the long history of her people Israel - of God's promise of steadfastness to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants (Genesis 12:1-3) ... that was the soil from which hope sprang forth: the story of Joseph, the Exodus event, David and Goliath, and at Creation itself, when God made somethin' even out of nothin'!
You see, the Old Testament people of Israel, like Hannah were able to wait because they had received God's promise, a word of hope, and everlasting Word, one that allowed them to wait. They received something that was at work in them, like a seed that had started to grow. And together they knew it would continue to grow, no matter what.
'Together.' This is such an important word as well ... especially for our time of individualism. It's why the church as 'community' is so vital. Religion might be a private matter but not Christianity. The whole meaning of Christian community lies in waiting together around God's Word of Promise - offering each other reassurance, especially in dark and troubling times, that the seed will still grow. A waiting that reminds us to 'Be still before the LORD' (Psalm 37:7) and watching that seed burst right through the seeming concrete impossibility of it all, and breaking finally into a song of rejoicing ... as with our beloved forebear in the faith, Hannah (I Samuel 2:1-10). God's amazing grace ...
dr. j.r. christopherson