Scriptures 1 Samuel 1:1-18, Mark 5:21-43
*Melissa: Make note about Samuel reading - Our first text for this morning addresses a pain that many women and many couples experience - that of infertility. I know that this journey, as well as that of miscarriage and child loss, is not one that is talked about openly in many spaces - including the church, and so I want to honor and acknowledge that this story may touch a tender place for some of you. Likewise, the story of the woman who touched Jesus’s robe in our gospel text also deals with reproductive health, again, an area that can bring up painful feelings. If this is something you or a loved one have suffered or are suffering right now, please reach out to me if you need someone to sit or connect with. Know that I see you and that you are not alone in this.
1 Samuel 1:1-18 (New Revised Standard Version) - EmilyThere was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. 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.
Mark 5:21-43 (The Message) - Ed21-24 After Jesus crossed over by boat, a large crowd met him at the seaside. One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” Jesus went with him, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling him.
25-29 A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.
30 At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
31 His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”
32-33 But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.
34 Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”
* * *
35 While he was still talking, some people came from the leader’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?”
36 Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”
37-40 He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader’s house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: “Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn’t dead; she’s sleeping.” Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn’t know what he was talking about.
40-43 But when he had sent them all out, he took the child’s father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child’s room. He clasped the girl’s hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room. Then he said, “Give her something to eat.”
Where does it hurt?
Being a parent of two small children, I ask this question a lot. I joke that at Genevieve’s age, she has all of the mobility and none of the discretion, which, of course, leads to countless numbers of scrapes, bumps, and falls. Sometimes the source of the pain is obvious; sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes, the pain isn’t physical - it’s anger as I won’t let her do everything she wants to do, frustration as she can’t always figure out how to do the things she wants to do, sadness as she can’t snuggle with me or Ben or her brother.
As we grow, so do the places of pain. Michael, of course, still gets plenty of owies (some of which a kiss will still solve) - but also those places of hurt on the inside grow. I’m so thankful that right now, I have a kid who will answer the question “where does it hurt” when that hurt is on the inside, and who feels safe with Ben and I when talking about his feelings - even when it’s Mom or Dad who hurt them.
Where does it hurt?
I think sometimes, we don’t like to acknowledge that we carry pain inside of us. Or maybe we do acknowledge it, but we minimize our own suffering because it’s not as bad as what someone else is carrying. Or we try to put it in perspective by counting our blessings and by keeping our minds on all the good things in our life to cover up the parts we’d rather not look at - we oftentimes distract and deny our suffering - discounting it as not worth our attention.
Perhaps we hide our suffering and pain for other reasons - maybe we believe deep down that our pain is shameful, that other people really don’t want to hear about it (I mean, how many times has someone asked - even genuinely - “how are you?” and your response was “fine!” or “ok” - we all know that we do that, even with those we care about).
But we all experience pain - job loss, the medical diagnosis - or lack thereof - miscarriages or abortions or the death of a child, coming to terms with our sexual idenity and wondering if others will embrace us, being betrayed by friends or family, the loss of loved ones, the lingering experience of trauma - the list can go on and on. No one pain is more or less valid than another - all pain is legitimate and real - and as we bear witness to the pain of another, it helps us cultivate compassionate hearts that allow us both to be compassionate about the pain we experience ourselves and that allow us to be compassionate to others.
I see this dynamic played out in both of our stories for this morning - both of our stories center women with struggles related to reproductive health. Hannah’s pain is continually dismissed and mocked by Penninah. Elknah, Hannah’s husband, cannot understand why Hannah is upset, thinking that his love - the double portion of the sacrifice to God in the Temple - his affection and care and attention - should be the balm to soothe her pain. Even Eli the priest dismisses her prayers as drunkenness. Her pain is rooted in not being seen - she is whole just as she is - but those around her blame, mislabel, and misunderstand her.
Instead of turning away in dejection, she bravely addresses Eli, sharing that she has been naming her pain before God. And to Eli’s credit, he doesn’t try to fix or solve Hannah’s problem - because he can’t - but he is able to bear witness to her pain - to be present with her….and to be present with her before God. Hannah is able to trust God with her wounds - and from that, she is able to trust Eli with her suffering as well. Her pain has been noticed; she is not alone in her suffering. She finds peace in knowing that her pain has been noticed and she has not gone by the wayside.
Likewise with the woman that comes to Jesus for healing, after suffering for 12 years from doctors who wouldn’t take her seriously, who took advantage of her situation and left her destitute, who left her worse off than before - talk about dismissing and belittling someone else’s pain. (As a side note - as a whole, when men and women express the same amount of pain to a doctor, women’s pain is considered less intense based on gender stereotypes that study came out in April of this year in the Journal of Pain.)
Jesus doesn’t dismiss or deny her as she reaches out to claim healing. Jesus stops, is present to her, acknowledges her suffering and her story - even as the disciples try to dismiss the power of what has happened with the press of bodies in the crowd. Jesus listens to the outpouring from this woman - and even as her physical body was healed, her restoration also comes from being fully seen and known by Jesus, who in acknowledging her pain, also acknowledged her humanity.
Where does it hurt?
Friends, everyone carries hurt. We all have wounds and scars - some fresh and some faint with the passage of time. We’ve all experienced seasons when it felt like no one else understood what we were going through - perhaps even seasons when we’ve raged and shouted at God in the midst of our suffering. We’ve also journeyed through times of trial with people who have acknowledged and witnessed our pain - and we’ve known what a difference that can make. We all have that capacity within us to bear witness - to show up and be present - not to fix or to solve, but merely to hold space - for others in their sorrow.
As part of our faith, we believe God is present to us in those moments as well, that God draws close to us in our times of suffering - even when we’re feeling so hurt and abandoned that we rage at the divine. God sees us and knows us and loves us - so much so that God became one of us to experience our life - to know our joys and know our sorrows as an enfleshed and embodied being. We can be honest about where it hurts before God because God knows what that pain is like - not in a distant, far off knowing or in an empathetic show of solidarity - but because God physically experienced pain and suffering - hurt and betrayal, grief and shame, being misunderstood and denied, even the journey with death. With God as witness to our pain -- so too can we bear witness to the pain of others. In this we can know that we are not alone.
Bearing witness to the suffering of another means that we aren’t there to offer trite platitudes - the “it will all be OK” or “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” It implies that God is the cause of our suffering, or that our suffering isn’t truly valid at this moment because the end goal is this future without whatever is causing us pain right now. It means that we aren’t there to fix it either - unless that person wants us to help them problem-solve. When we move too quickly to the questions of “helping” or “fixing” which are good intentioned things to ask because we don’t like to see other people hurting...but if we skip to that point without allowing the other person to be seen or heard, what we inadvertently do is place ourselves at the center of the other person’s pain - it becomes about what we can do and not about what the other person is experiencing.
When we ask here does it hurt...and when we listen for their response...when we see and hear their pain...we do so with an open heart, with no agenda other than to be present. We can express our sorrow that whatever is happening is causing the other person pain and grief. We can express gratitude for the other person bravely sharing their story with us. Depending on the relationship, we can ask questions about where their experience of God has been in the midst of it all. We can say, “I can hear how difficult and painful this is for you - what of this might I be able to bring before God in prayer?”
Where does it hurt?
I invite us this week to carry that question with us - and to consider both that question for yourself and for others around you. Where does the world hurt? Where does our community hurt? What pain has been ignored, silenced, or unacknowledged - and what does it look like to acknowledge that pain - for individuals or for the collective - without trying to fix or solve - but simply to see and hold space for that suffering?
May each of us this week be challenged by God to go deeper with those questions us - listening to the hurt and pain of those around us...sharing and being heard and carried in kind...and may our courageous conversations lead us to glimpse hope, joy, and beauty -- and may our courageous conversations lead us to become the community God created us to be. Amen.
Scriptures Genesis 2:4b-15, John 1:35-51
Genesis 2:4b-15 (New Revised Standard Version)4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
John 1:35-51 (Common English Bible)35 The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus.
38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?”
They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?”
39 He replied, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
40 One of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah”. 42 He led him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
43 The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.”
46 Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”
Philip said, “Come and see.”
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these! 51 I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching the Facebook conversation about street signs on Chebeague unfold over the past couple of weeks, it’s this - even people who are from Chebeague have different understandings of what it means to be from Chebeague...and who have different points of reference - whether you had your formative years here in the 1930s… or the 1960s... or the 1980s.
For those not on social media - or who have had these conversations in other areas of their life instead of online - the presence of street signs on the major Chebeague roads has been one of great debate - and have surfaced fears around the changing demographics of this community, fears around suburbanization, as well as surfacing other values, like street signs don’t change how we care about each other. There’s been points made about people who are “from away” not understanding how things used to be or about how everyone should embrace the necessity to adapt with the times. It’s been messy and and polarizing in some aspects and highlighted to me just how much our perspectives are shaped by experiences and our particular locations in life - and so the question “where are you from” isn’t just about place or geography, but, like Dr. Nadella references, also about stories and values that made us who we are today.
Likewise, we all carry assumptions and judgments about others that can surface as we hear about where someone is from. When we take the time to hear the stories and experiences that accompany this question, we can acknowledge, disrupt, and release these automatic assumptions we make of others.
The goal is to build connection and trust - and to do that, we need to listen to each other’s stories to learn who and what has shaped us - and we also need to feel seen and known for who we are. Curiosity is a two-way street, as was mentioned in the video. And in this, we can acknowledge both the particularity of our identities - for example, my story as a white girl from Maine who has a Masters Degree - and the common ground we share - like that all of us here have some connection to Chebeague and common love of this place.
The two stories we heard this morning from scripture point to our shared creation and call - and how sometimes we need to disrupt our assumptions (how can anything good come from Nazareth?) to remind ourselves of that fact. Genesis paints this picture of mutuality - the creation story we claim as ours in the Christian tradition depicts a God with hands in the dirt, fashioning the human beings out of the mud, out of the soil, out of the very earth. There’s a charge to care for the land that Adam was made out of - and the story is very specific around the geographic bounds of that land. There’s a symbiosis here between the waters and the land and the human being made from the mixture of the two - and God breathing life into the midst of it all. Where are you from? All of us are of the earth...of the stars...beloved of God.
If the first story reminds us to reflect on our common humanity, our second story invites us to embrace our differences, noticing how our assumptions about people may need to be disrupted - particularly our assumptions about those who are from different places, who may dress or look differently, who may hold different values or think differently than we do.
Suspending our assumptions is a hard thing to do - especially when our culture reinforces stereotypes and unconscious biases go unchallenged in our news media and our television and movies. In our polarized country, narratives about “the other side” prevent us from being curious and actually engaging in conversation with those who hold different values. How did they come to hold such a position? What experience did they have that shaped them into the person they are?
That’s why Jesus’s invitation of “come and see” - an invitation that Phlip later offers to the skeptical Nathanael - gives an opportunity to stop and engage - that two-way street curiosity.
So in some ways, I feel like this street sign saga that has unfolded on Facebook and in conversations here and there around the island, is a perfect lens for us to practice staying curious - to not jump to conclusions because of where someone is from or not from - and to genuinely listen one another’s perspective, giving rise to a deeper understanding of one another - and giving an opportunity for healing and wholeness through being seen and heard and valued.
It reminds me of the poem that Rev. Sarah Are wrote for this week, entitled “We Are Not Strangers” - where in conversation around our particularities and our identities we can discover the common ground that sustains us and ties us together - that binds us together it ways that are deeper than street signs or being from away or growing up here or there or your political allegiances or your country of origin. Her poem goes like this:
If you ask me where I’m from,
I’ll tell you about the South--
about sweet tea, church pews,
slow drawls, sultry summers.
And if you pause,
then I may go on to tell you
how I’m from a family of preachers,
how I stand on the shoulders of generations
who believed that love could be the answer.
And if you’re still listening even then,
I’ll tell you that I’m from strong women
with tall spines who have carried the weight
of inequality on their backs with children on their laps.
And then I’ll tell you about
the kitchens that I’m from,
which have always cooked enough
food for unexpected guests—just in case.
Or I could tell you about the car
that carried us into the mountains, summer after summer
so that we could breathe again.
That’s part of where I’m from.
And if you haven’t given up yet,
then I may even mention the dirt--
the earth that catches me,
the earth that holds me.
The earth that reminds me of growth.
The earth that will eventually welcome me home.
You and I aren’t really strangers after all.
May each of us this week be challenged by God to go deeper with those around us - listening to the stories that have made each other who we are...sharing and being heard and carried in kind...may our courageous conversations lead us to glimpse hope, joy, and beauty -- and to become the community God created us to be. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.