Lectionary Commentary

Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary

Readings, Commentary, and Discussion Questions for November 18, 2018

Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 28

THE READINGS

First Reading: 1 Samuel 1:4-20 Alternate: Daniel 12:1-3
4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5 but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. 6 Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.
8 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
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.”
12 As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.”
15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.”
17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.”
18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.”
Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. 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.”

Worth Noting: This story begins in the Temple in Shiloh in what later became Samaria (1 Samuel 1:3), one of the most important places of worship before 1000 b.c.e.
Starting back in June, the Lectionary led us through the history of the establishment of the monarchy in Israel, through the lives of Saul and David to the construction of Solomon’s Temple. In fact, this reading sets this whole history in motion. Why it’s here is beyond me.

Canticle 1 Samuel 2:1-10 Alternate: Psalm 16
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.

Worth Noting: The song of Hannah foreshadows the ensuing stories, of the exaltation of the lowly Samuel, Saul, and David to positions of national power and the exaltation of all of Israel to power in its own land. Hannah praises this strange God who prefers the poor, the weak, the hungry to the rich, the powerful, the well-fed. The Magnificat of Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:46-55) echoes Hannah’s prayer in a similar setting of joyful acknowledgment of new life. It makes sense that Mary and the earliest Christians would look to the Old Testament for the words to express their praise, hopes, and longings at turning points in their lives. Is it the practice of your community to delve into the Old Testament for words to pray in its moments of joy and sorrow?

Second Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25
11 And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” 13 and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
[15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” 17 he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.]
19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Worth Noting: “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” Isn’t that the call of every community – to provoke each other to love? How do we do that?

Gospel: Mark 13:1-8
1 As he [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”
2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”
5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”

Worth Noting: End times are always a fascination. We often measure the current state of affairs as beyond redemption and foresee impending doom. How does your community prepare for the end times? Or does it? Or do you care?  
This is the final reading from the Gospel of Mark until 2020.

CONNECTING WITH THE SCRIPTURES

Entering into the Scriptures

The Book of Samuel underwent several editions, probably over several centuries. The original text was tweaked and edited to provide a transition from the time of the judges (Deborah, Samson, etc.) to the establishment of the monarchy under Saul. Samuel himself is remembered as the prototypical prophet who check the absolute power of the monarch, as Nathan did David (see 2 Samuel 12) and Elijah Ahab (1 Kings 17).

Seeing with the eyes of God

Even in our century of unprecedented gains in understanding the human reproductive process, the birth of a child to a couple after years of childlessness is still a miracle. Yes, it happens all the time, but each time is a miracle. Our readings document the miraculous transformation of Hannah from depressed, if loved, to the vital, joyful wife of Elkanah. How did that take place? Were not Elkanah and Eli critical in the process? Did Elkanah not express his love and esteem for Hannah in every way he could? Did he and Eli not see Hannah with God’s eyes and hear her with God’s ears? They saw a woman crushed with disappointment, but still clinging faithfully to a relationship with God, heard her story, and responded with faith in the power of the Lord to act rightly.
Hannah’s prayer and her life to that point doubtless provoked God to “remember her” (1 Samuel 1:19). But her experience highlights the way God often enters into lives – through the caring ministrations of a cadre of believers. One listens and lifts the grey gloom of loneliness. A second offers compassion, and fans a flicker of hope. A third works to restore justice, and restores a measure of human dignity. Together, they provoke to love and good deeds.

Questions for Discussion

Hannah’s hymn (1 Samuel 2:1-10) presents an image of a God deeply concerned with the well-being of the lowliest. If you look around your religious community and listen to its prayers, is this a commonly expressed image of God? For your community, what does God care about? Why do you say that?

The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem forced a reconsideration of how Jews were to maintain their relationship with God who had demanded sacrifice at the Temple. Has your community experienced a catastrophe that forced reconsidering and restructuring communal practices? Have you?

Who have been people in your life – friends, family, teachers, co-workers – who provoked you to love? Whom have you provoked to love?

For a PDF version of this week’s Journeying, click here.

 

Dennis Haugh has enjoyed working with adult seekers for over 20 years. He aims to promote engagement with and reflection on the Scriptures. To hone his skills and burnish his credentials, he earned his PhD in Biblical Studies in the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology joint program.  He appreciates any correspondence: dennishaugh2011@gmail.com.

 

Unless expressly stated otherwise, all quotations from Scripture are taken from the New Revised Standard Version, © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
Photograph of Muslim Imam and Jewish woman praying together after the Manchester bombing was published by Newsweek on May 24, 2017.
Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary © 2018 Dennis Haugh. Recent postings may be accessed at https://www.sttims.net/journeying-through-the-lectionary/.
 

 

 

Leave a Reply