Twenty-sixth Sunday ater Pentecost
November 18, 2018
1 Samuel 1:4-20
The Church Has Left The building; well, most of the Church anyway. What an appropriate demonstration of gratitude for all that God has given.
I’ve only been here a couple of months but I’ve heard your stories. How parishioners first celebrated at the Lexington Woods Clubhouse before moving to the white church. How the prayers and discernment led you to call Jimmy as your new rector and the growth that has occurred over the past six years. The hope and faith that has resulted in the construction of the new sanctuary.
I know this isn’t Stewardship Sunday but I think that The Church Has Left the Building, sharing time, talent, and treasure out in the world, reflects our spiritual relationship with God and the community.
Hannah knew this, too. Even before her prayer is answered, she offers her treasure, her very heart’s desire back to God. She vows to set her son before God as a Nazarite. He is to be consecrated to God, not for the customary 30 or 100 days but until his death. She gives him up to serve God and the community of Israelites. Hannah has a grateful heart.
Peninnah, who despite having a share in Elkanah’s household and her own children treats Hannah with disdain and ridicule. Was she jealous? Did she not see her own treasure? Did she feel there wasn’t enough? Whatever her reasons, she does not have a grateful heart.
A grateful heart finds joy in what has been given and gives in return. It shares that joy through compassion, service, and kindness. It looks for ways to bring joy to others, not for recognition or reward, but because it knows that all things come from God and we are merely stewards. It views others as companions on the journey and looks for ways to lighten their burdens.
A fearful heart sees scarcity and becomes self-centered. It views that there isn’t enough to go around and so it hoards rather than shares. It increases the burdens of others because it views them with suspicion or animosity.
A fearful heart looks similar to Peninnah. A grateful heart looks like Hannah.
Hannah’s offering is an act of devotion, an act of worship. It is an act of faith and testimony.
You have heard Paul say, “it is better to give than receive.” In our day, much of what we do has become a transaction, a mere exchange of goods and services. The deeper relational connection short-circuited because of our busyness. Phone calls have been replaced with text messages, and there is little time or in some cases effort to tend to our neighbors. Although our neighbors are right next door, in some ways they are as far away as the next state.
I remember watching my mom sit on the porch with our neighbors for hours peeling potatoes or snapping beans, or the knock on the door asking for a cup of sugar. Even Mr. Brooks, our mailman, would drop in for a quick coffee on his rounds. I remember running to grab a neighbor’s clothes off the line because rain was coming and they weren’t at home.
It was a time when sharing the burden, compassion, and kindness were the norm rather than the exception.
I am grateful that these are the norms at Holy Comforter. I am thankful that Jimmy said yes when asked to be my mentor. My heart is joy-filled because of the welcome I’ve received from Faith and many others.
I am thankful that The Church has Left the Building. As you build and keep those connections with your neighbors, you get to show your gratitude, your devotion, because God has given us much.
It is a testimony to our own faith and witness to others. It is a form of worship; as we gather in community to share our time, talent, and treasure because of the love and grace we have received from God.
These days of Thanksgiving week and through the rest of your days, may gratitude and joy fill your hearts. May the love of God and neighbors be your offering and testimony.
Let us pray
Gracious God, apart from you we are nothing and have no things; as we celebrate our gratitude for all you have done, are doing, and will do in our lives, let our hearts not get distracted by our own comfort and abundance that we become callous and self-centered; may we see and respond to the needs of others in our world with compassion and the servant’s heart of Christ; this we ask in the name of the One, Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.