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The Songs of Hannah and Mary

Sermon: October 18, 2020

1Samuel 1.9-11, 19-20, 2.1-10

Luke 1.46-55

Prayer of the Day

God who answers prayer, We are blessed and humbled that you hear us when we call to you in our time of deepest longing. Receive our gratitude for your listening ear. Amen.

1 Samuel 1:9-11, 19-20; 2:1-10

1:9 After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow: "O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head." 19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, "I have asked him of the Lord." 2:1 Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. 2 "There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so very proudly,

let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. 5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. 6 The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. 8 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and on them he has set the world. 9 "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. 10 The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed."

Luke 1.46-55

46And Mary said,  "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel,  in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

What do you think about when you hear someone called ‘a prophet?’

And, what comes to mind when you think about what is prophetic, what is a prophecy? For most of us, maybe we think of a prophet as someone who can foretell the future, someone who predicts what is about to happen now, or in the distant future. And we think of a prophecy as being that message of what will come to pass.

If you look at the bible, however, a different picture emerges.

Sure enough, sometimes predictions of future events are part of the message. But, in the history of God’s people and of God’s actions that we find in the bible, what makes a prophet or a prophecy is so much more. A prophet is a person who speaks for God, who is appointed by God, or authorized by God to speak to God’s people on God’s behalf. And a prophecy is the message spoken by God’s prophets to God’s people; a message of what God is up to, a message of what God intends and desires, a message, a picture of what God’s real reign is.

What is the image of a prophet that comes to mind? If I mention Isaiah, or Jeremiah or Elijah or Elisha or Moses or Amos or John the Baptist, what does a prophet look like? What if I were to tell you that in today’s readings, we have prophetic words spoken by two different people that we might not think of as prophets, who speak God’s reality with such power and depth?

In today’s readings, Hannah, a barren, second wife of Elkanah, and Mary, an unmarried, pregnant teenager; two people that perhaps don’t fit our idea of what a prophet is, have much to tell us about who God is, and what God is up to.

I invite you to spend some time this week, reading these texts and ask these questions: What does Hannah and Mary have to say about who God is, and what does God do? And then, what does God’s kingdom look like? What does God want God’s world to be like?

For me, a couple of things become clear:

First, God is God, there is no other. God is mighty, God is creator and provider. God is merciful. God remembers the promises God has made with his people. And in Mary’s song, as she realized that she is carrying the savior of the world, Jesus Christ; God is a redeemer, saving God.

Second, what God intends is not the way things are now. Where might and strength seem to have center stage, what God intends is that the weak, poor, hungry and outsiders are the ones whom God will strengthen and provide for and feed and welcome.

In this time where so much is so wrong; where we are hurting and grieving and fearful right now; we have a song to sing that was sung from long before us; the song of Hannah and the song of Mary.

And that, my friends, is a song that gives me hope. Amen.

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