GROW. Growing in Sharing Faith - Week 3 - 6/22 - Pastor April's Sermon

This past week, I was talking with a good friend of mine who just recently moved away. The move was largely because of her husband’s work and so, for the past month, she has been looking for work.  

And she described to me the new rhythms of her day. Getting up early on the day when the new job postings are listed. Tweaking her resume and writing cover letter after cover letter. And then, the hardest part.

Lots and lots of waiting.

 

“It’s strange,” she said, “because you start to get excited about the possibility, but then you just have to wait. And most of the times… you never hear anything back.”

 

My friend is a person who is a hard worker. She likes to be busy – and so this change has been hard.

 

“But the hardest part”, she says, “is just NOT knowing. Not knowing how long this will stay in limbo, not knowing how many more weeks and months, I will find myself still looking, still searching, and still WAITING.”

 

There are moments in our lives that are really challenging. Where we face significant trials and hardships that we simply aren’t prepared for.

 

I was talking with a friend of mine who just went through surgery for cervical cancer.

 

And she said to me – the hardest part of this wasn’t actually going through the surgery, or even the radiation and the treatment afterward.

 

The hardest part was all that in between time – where we didn’t know what was going to happen. And all we could do is WAIT.

 

This month, we’ve been talking about SHARING our FAITH. We’ve been talking about the ways in which God challenges us to share our stories – to not be afraid to let the spirit move in us to bring praise – to share what God is doing – to use our voices.

 

And it’s important. It’s really important.

 

But one of the things I struggle with – and have always struggled with. Is that most of the time – I’m dealing with parts of my faith and my journey that I haven’t resolved yet. I am in the midst of learning something and the struggle isn’t over yet. I know there will be a lesson at some point – but I’m not sure I can speak about it.

 

And to be honest – I don’t want to share those parts of my story.

 

I want to tell you about the things I learned and figured out.

I want to tell you about the situations that have already been resolved.

 

I want to be OK and at peace and in a good, confident place – before I share with you my story.

 

Because then I can appear to be the confident and put together person – who is wise and in control. Not the messy, vulnerable person that I feel like most days – bumbling through the mess of the day – and trying to figure out which way is up.

 

I don’t want to share my faith in the midst of the struggle. In the midst of the waiting.

 

And that’s why I so desperately need to hear and read Hannah’s story.

 

For years, she has been waiting. She has been praying for a child. And things haven’t changed.

She’s even been ridiculed by one of the other wives – a woman who she sees probably daily. Who makes it a point to remind her that her prayer has not yet been answered.

 

And so she goes into the place of worship at Shiloh, a place where her family gathered year after year and presented herself before the Lord.

But Hannah couldn’t pretend that all was well with her soul.

Because it wasn’t.

She couldn’t pretend that she had it all together

Because she didn’t.

Hannah, who’s name means favored, couldn’t pretend that she felt God’s favor

Because she couldn’t.

 

It was a moment before God of great honesty. About how hard the waiting had been, how painful, and how deeply she longed for an answer to her prayer. And in that prayer she vowed to God that she would dedicate this child to god’s service.

 

It appears evident in the scripture, that Hannah was so focused on her prayer – so fixated on what she was saying to God that her lips were moving – but no sound was coming out.

 

And so, Eli, being the sensitive priest that he was – told her to stop her drunken spectacle.

 

Now, I think it might be difficult to fully understand the power dynamic that would have been going on here. Eli, was the priest, a man of God – a man of considerable authority and power.

The typical response was to simply do what you were told, especially as a woman in the church.

 

But Hannah needed to speak. In her struggle and in her sadness – she needed to speak her truth. She needed to claim with authority and boldness. That she was a woman of worth, a woman who deserved regard and respect. And a woman who was WAITING

On the presence of God.

 

Last night I was attending a concert at Columbus Commons – where Ben Folds, one of my favorite artists was playing with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

It was a beautiful night and a powerful concert.

 

And I was struck a number of times at the lyrics and power of the stories that Ben tells in his songs.

They aren’t happy uplifting songs – they are stories – about a man losing his job, they are stories about a woman in grief, about a relationship breaking up, and about whether or not we can find hope in the world.

 

And I’m looking around at the people – who, like me, were connecting with this music at such a level.

 

It’s so refreshing to have people tell stories that are really about our real life.

To name the struggle and to do it with honesty.

We appreciate it when music and art can do this for us –

Because these stories – are actually our stories.

 

Because -

When we are in the midst of a painful struggle –

When our heart is being wrenched in two.

It can be a very lonely place.

Because

People often DO NOT understand what it’s like.

Well meaning people

Religious people.

Often DO NOT understand.

And they DO NOT know what to say.

 

And so we tend not to share.

Our Story.

Because its too hard.

 

But something about how Hannah shares her story is a little different. She isn’t just naming her reality.

 

She’s naming it with a confidence and a trust – before the high priest –

She’s not just complaining – she is CLAIMING – that her story be heard by God – and that God will work in her life.

 

There is a trust in her voice – that god is listening – and that even in her sadness – there is hope.

 

Yesterday we marched in the pride parade.

 

I think about our LGBT brothers and sisters who are in the midst of their struggle.

I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be WAITING on God. To come back to a church who still doesn’t have it figured out and to work for the change that should already be here.

 

But I felt some of that hope – and confidence and trust yesterday. That even through the pain – we can perhaps seek to be a people finding trust again.

 

I don’t have a clue what it’s like to wait for justice to be done in the life of my son. To wait for change that should have already happened.

 

But I felt some of that hope in my conversations with families this week – who are bravely seeking a path of hope and trust in the midst of uncertainty.

 

There is nothing harder.

in the midst of our struggles and our challenges -

Than to trust that God is still working.

 

It can feel a little bit foolish.

 

Perhaps Hannah – felt a little foolish speaking to the High Priest this way. Sharing her story – and asking with confidence and hope that she be taken seriously.

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that after Hannah speaks her truth. After she shares where she is – with boldness.

That THIS is when Eli responds – may it be granted to you.

 

And Hannah – after all these years – seems to more deeply trust that all will be well. For her countenance was sad no longer.

 

Sometimes sharing that part of ourselves is what we need to do more than anything. It’s part of how we heal, it’s part of how we make sense of things, and often it is how we find the other side of things… it’s how we learn to trust that all will be well.

 

So I challenge myself and you this week – as you continue to wrestle with what it means to share your faith –

To not only step out and share the stories of joy and grace – but also to find spaces to speak about the struggle and the uncertainty.

Both for the blessing of others – but also for the healing of ourselves.

As we seek to become a people who walk into such places of uncertainty

With the confidence and the trust that God walks with us – and is at work. Even in ways we cannot see.