Proper 28 Year B 2021
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lath, be there at our labors and give us we pray, your strength in our hearts, Lord at the noon of the day.
Think of your favorite Super Hero.
Who comes to mind?
A loved one?
Someone who was strong, courageous, convicted, weathered all time?
Someone who loved you and sheltered you or others?
Many of you might already know that I love Super Hero movies. I was not a comic book fan, but I am a sucker for a big action movie on the big screen (Covid has been hard!)- I love the retelling of the iconic super heroes and learning about new heroes that those who love comic books have always known about.
Recently we had Wonder Woman reinvented and re-visioned. (Though, Linda Carter, you stole our hearts in the 70’s) In this new legend story, Wonder woman struggled with her own identity and claiming her own powers. She also struggles to understand mere mortals and she had to be convinced that even while there is much brokenness in this world, hope wins out.
In the final battle of the 2017 Wonder woman movie, with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman triumphs in the end because of her deep hope for humanity and this transformation gives her the strength the push the super evil villian back. She has a moment when she comes to the brink and is almost consumed by despair but in a surge of strength she realizes that even one little ounce of hope is bigger and more powerful than all of the evil in the world. It’s quite a movie ending which, in turn, is a new beginning for humanity.
Perhaps our desire and glamorization of super heroes is that they embody hope when we can only see despair, they show us the way, the light, the path when everyone else is saying “it’s too much, just give up.”
Instead, those superheroes are all in for those who are the weakest, those who aren’t even their people. Super heroes are ALL in emptying themselves out for saving the world.
Today’s Old Testament reading speaks about some of my favorite super heroes of the bible. Yes, we hear of David and his slingshot defying Goliath,
Yes we hear of Moses and dividing the red sea…. But ya’ll……
Remember Shiphrah and Puah? These midwives kept delivering the Israelites babies when the Pharoah said to kill them all.
Remember Esther, who risked her life for the protection of the lives her people?
Today we hear Hannah’s song, but before that passage in 1 Samuel, we hear of her prayerfulness, her devotion to God. In her pain and isolation of not being able to have a child, rather than growing distanced from God, Hannah grew closer to God. (She is a bit like Job in his trials.)
Hannah, like Job, refuses to abandon her hope in who God is and neither does she desert God in her own pain. The message here is not that if you pray hard enough your loneliness, isolation, barrenness will depart. The message from Hannah’s life is that in your prayers, your pain is heard, your hope is renewed , God will not abandon you and you will bear fruit.
Hannah’s hope wins out, her hope in a God who always draws near, who always leans into the pain with us, is there with her.
Emptying herself out in prayer and faithfulness gave her the song we receive today.
Hannah’s expression of hope is the one that ripples through scripture, of a God who sees triumph and victory in wholeheartedness, in drawing close and transforming each of us to see that the very now is not the forever after.
This sort of hope continues through Scripture- when you hear of Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke. Elizabeth’s story is similar to Hannah’s and so is her song.
Then of course, with Mary, the mother of Jesus, we hear of one more song. A song filled with her own sense of hope and God’s faithfulness, god’s nearness and god’s power to change the world of brokenness through the unexpected.
As we follow Mary, we find ourselves walking with Jesus. We walk the roads of Galilee, the highways to Jericho and Jerusalem, we sit for a while under the trees and see healings, we hear new teachings that refresh and change our understanding of the old laws of the Old Testament and we hear Jesus giving hope in the world of the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire, of the culture wars between Samaritans and Jews, of the inclusion of all women and men who have ears to hear.
Here we find ourselves with today’s Gospel- words that taken out of context sound NOT very hopeful. “when you hear of wars, of nations rising against nations, of kingdoms against kingdoms, of earthquakes and famines- this is just the beginning of the birth pangs”
When these things are occurring, Jesus says, birthing pains are occurring.
Birth Pangs, commonly known these days as contractions, signal that new life is coming, not ending.
If you have ever seen a child being born or merely watched Call the Midwife – that birthing pain means things are about to change drastically- a new beginning is on the way- there is hope.
No kingdom, famine, war, earthquake can destroy that hope you see in a new child. No, at the moment of birth, you see pure love, hope, and joy. This love can bring your through the challenges.
Jesus was speaking to the disciples to remind those around him and US, that even in our darkest moments, God is doing something new. Drawing near and new beginnings are occurring.
The civil rights lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson says, “Hope is our superpower”- it truly is. We do not need a fancy uniform or a spider to bite us to give us some crazy superhuman power.
Think back to your super heroes and why they stand out to you. It comes back to a crazy, unquenchable, hope, doesn’t it?
This past week we remembered our Veterans on November 11th, we remembered them not to glorify war and celebrate victories, rather we remember those whom we sent on our behalf to fight- who were young, who were trusting, who can often not speak of their experience. These same people whose isolation and despair at actions often haunt(ed) them the rest of their lives.
We remember our veterans because we offer to God all of their experiences and our hope is to live in a world where such wars and death will never have to happen again.
Hope is our super power.
Hope is what Jesus is reminding the disciples of in this passage, that Jesus would draw close and offer his whole self for the world, emptying himself out on behalf of others, FOR others- all in.
We too, should be all in.
We will have moments where the earthquakes in our life will shake our faith, the isolation, despair and division will seem to be winning….and yet we have hope.
We see, through our own heroes, examples of faithfulness through adversity.
We are reminded of our biblical and earthly mothers and fathers who endured, drew close and fanned the faith of hope grounded on the love of a God who drew close to us and gave us all that God had.
All our hope on God is indeed founded. Amen.