Blessings Are Challenging

Monday, February 22, 2021

Streams Like This Have Flowed Since Earliest Times

Just as God’s Blessings and Wisdom Have Flowed

Even in Difficult Times.

They Flow to Us in Our Traditions.

1 Samuel 1:11

Hannah 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.’

Luke 1:46-48

Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed’

Words of Grace For Today

Hannah is barren, unable to have children. Her husband shows her great favour, loves her deeply. But her husband’s second wife (who has borne him many children) persecutes Hannah because she is barren. Like faithful people of every age, Hannah turns to God and prays for a son, and vows in exchange for a son she will offer him to serve God, raised in the temple by a priest.

Out of Hannah’s suffering, her vow bartering with God, and God’s Grace, God gave us Samuel, a faithful servant of God who anointed and guided kings and rulers of Israel through his lifetime, including a king no less than David.

Out of our suffering God works wonders to bring about great things, greater than we could have imagined possible.

Mary, mother of Jesus, recognizes the blessings God bestows on her, as she is chosen to bear God’s own Son, giving him life in this world as one of us. Mary is remembered as blessed, all these many generations later. She will be as long as Jesus is remembered, which we trust will be for as long as humans live. That is a great honour, an honour that God bestows on a young woman, really barely a woman. A young woman caught in the poverty of a backwater eddy of life’s flow through Israel’s history and geography, Nazareth.

The blessings come at a huge cost to Mary. She will be shunned as a pregnant girl not yet married. Joseph in marrying her will take on her shame as well. Together they will struggle in poverty, and when Herod catches wind that there is a king born among the children around Bethlehem, they will have to run for their lives to Egypt. Herod will slaughter all the children of Jesus’ age in the area. That is just the beginning of Mary’s sufferings which continue until Mary will see her own son accused, condemned and tortuously crucified for crimes he did not commit.

There is no end of heartache for Mary, and we remember her for that, and for God blessing her.

When God blesses us, there is hardly any guarantee or example in our faith stories that this will mean we will live a ‘normal’ life, a comfortable life, a life of anything less than one filled with huge challenges.

We think we suffer greatly in this time of Covid 19. There have been many, much worse pandemics before. The church, and individual Christians in it, have been persecuted much worst many times over in our history. Now as then we are forced to be creative. Life is not as comfortable as before. We have to learn to be practical in entirely new ways. We have to learn to worship in new ways.

Along the way we see how little some leaders have valued the long-and-hard-won traditions we have inherited. Instead, feeling this is the first time anyone has faced any challenges as God’s faithful people, leaders are making up new words. Were those words profound and as meaningful as the words our ancestors of faith had written, edited, and refined through so many ‘difficult times’ that would be one thing. Unfortunately many of these words end up merely as trite and pithy as mass marketed greeting cards.

Our traditions are not weak, nor wrong, nor set in stone. They exist for us to tap, to adapt, and from which to create new and continuing traditions from.

That requires a deep and broad knowledge of our history and traditions, a profound wisdom about faith and the world, and a great humility that allows an ongoing confession of one’s own and our collective sins, from which God saves us again and again.

We pray (with no first born to offer to God in barter) that God will give us all we need, so that we will not set to ruin the church that we have inherited, the faith that we live in, and the awareness of God’s presence among us … especially in difficult times such as these with which Covid 19 presents us.

We pray, God save us. God guide us. God help us mourn what is lost. God help us rejoice at what is left. God help us celebrate what is new to us again, as it was to many who have gone before us.