Narrative Lectionary Companions,
The first thing to note this week is that we are a long way from the golden calf! If you are using this Narrative Lectionary cycle to help people gain a better understanding of the full sweep of the biblical narrative, it might be worth mentioning that we’ve skipped over six books to get from last week’s text to this week’s.
After skimming over Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel’s stories in previous weeks, we now get to pause and spend some time with one of the Bible’s beloved yet barren wives. Yet, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob intercede with God on behalf of their wives, Hannah takes matters into her own hands. She risks embarrassment and reprimand to approach God directly, and she’s not afraid to tell God exactly what she wants: a male child. As God honored the prayers of the patriarchs, God also honors the prayer of this faithful woman.
Of course, any time we preach about God answering prayers, we have to be mindful of the people listening who have unanswered prayers–or prayers that were answered in difficult ways. Also, stories of barrenness and childbirth can be difficult—for those who have wanted children but not been able to have them, for those who have children who died, even for those who have chosen not to have children and feel judged about that decision. So we have to tread lightly and gently this week.
What I’m most excited in the reading is Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving! The poetry is beautiful, and the more familiar prayer of Mary echoes these themes from Hannah. As a former college poetry teacher, permit me to geek out just a little bit here. The primary poetic device of Hebrew poetry is parallelism: one line will be echoed by the next; the two lines either say the same thing or opposite things. If you go through Hannah’s prayer, every line can be paired with another line except one: “For not by might does one prevail.” Perhaps that is the good word people need to hear this week.
Please share your insights with us in the comments below.