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Rise Up, Hannah!

Pentecost 25, Common Lectionary Year B

1 Samuel 1:1-2:10

©2015 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Her name is Jaime Black. (slide: Jaime)
She is a Metis woman, born in Thunder Bay,
and living in Winnipeg.
She is an indigenous artist.
In her words, she uses her art
“as a tool to explore, connect and question,
to provoke and incite dialogue about critical issues in our nation.”[1]
This is her work: (image, red dress)
One woman, with 1200 red dresses,
each a silent witness to missing and murdered
indigenous women,
has stirred the conscience of a nation
to lament the racialized nature of gender violence,
and to transform government indifference,
through the ballot box,
into the seeds of systemic change;
one more step along the long road of reconciliation
between our First and immigrant Nations.

One woman. (Slide: Rise Up, Hannah)

Her name is Malala (slide: Malala)
a Pakistani girl whose nerdy thirst for knowledge
put her in harm’s way more than once
in a distorted culture that wanted to deny her
and girls like her, access to education.
A bullet to the head hasn’t stopped this Nobel Prize winner
from dreaming of the power of an open book
in the hands of a girl
to turn the world upside down,
or is that the right way up?

One young woman. (Slide: Rise Up, Hannah)

We began our exploration of the Biblical text
this morning
wondering what the story of one barren woman
and her plea for an impossible birth
has to do with the fate of nations.
But here, we sit this morning, of all mornings,[2]
considering just that, the fate of nations,
from France, to Lebanon, to Korea,
to Iraq, to Burundi,
and even our own,
wondering what on earth,
we can do with our own lives to effect
the fate of nations.

We sit here, today,
desperate to believe in Hannah’s Dream
of a Just and loving God
with power and will enough
to bring life out of this terrifying roll call of death.
And yet, we find ourselves weeping her bitter tears,
year after year, after year,
for it seems, the news is ever the same.
Hannah’s private and global barrenness prevails,
Peninnah’s flaunting of inequitable excess prevails,
Elkanah’s clueless and clumsy pablum of trite comfort prevails,
Religion’s ritual ineptitude prevails
as we prop up our doorposts
while the fat few feast and the world starves.

Until that is,
Hannah rises up,
Until she steps over thresholds
meant to silence or constrain her,
until she claims for herself,
in her own words,
in her own actions,
in her own body,
her faith in God,
in Life, in Hope, in Justice.

Until, that is,
Hannah and all her sisters,
Hannah and all her brothers, rise up,
shaming the terror and the darkness
with their defiant faith in goodness, in light, in hope,
in God.

Can you see her,
can you see them?
Rising up
until she walks past the barriers, the police tape,
until he stands in front of tanks in the square,
until she cradles the schoolkids with her body,
until she walks to the front of the bus,
until he wears out his shoes out walking to Washington, to Ottawa,
to Baghdad, to Peongyang,
for the right of her people to live, to work,
to drink clean water,
to educate his children,
to bury her dead in sacred ground.

Can you see Hannah,
rising up in the darkness, using his phone to light the way to the exit of a bombed-out theatre?
Posting the hashtag that the doors of kindness will remain open through this and every night of terror.
Keeping watch at the gates of a refugee camp to protect the vulnerable from the bigotry of closed hearts and minds.

Rise up, Hannah!
Whoever you are,
wherever you are,
step over the threshold of despair,
stand on the holy ground of hope,
clasp to your heart your faith,
and voice the one impossible thing
that will make your life,
all life, worth living.

Rise up, Hannah,
with your red dresses,
and your posters,
your voice, your body
declaring that one thing;
– that justice should be colour blind,
– that fair wages are something we must afford,
– that this place is, and will always be, a house for hope, and refuge for all.

Rise up, Hannah,
put your song on our lips:
stuttering towards faith
to call upon none less than the God of Life
Maker, Redeemer and Sustainer of this world.
to rise with us.

For there is no life, no hope, no future,
unless God opens the closed wombs of our fear,
unless God births in us a love defiant enough
to stare into the face of horror and death,
crying out with a defiant, joyful shout,
that the world is about to turn!

Rise Up, Hannah! (to the congregation)
Rise up and sing!….

Canticle of the Turning.



[2] i.e. two days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, and the attacks on a funeral in Baghdad and suicide bombings in Beirut in the same week, and with escalation of violence in Burundi  November 13, 2015. Paris. November 11,2015, Beirut.  Burundi. Baghdad.

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