Yesterday, we talked about Hannah, and approaching the altar of God. But the texts for last Sunday put the story of Hannah with a story from the book of Hebrews. In this story, the person standing in the presence of God for us to approach is Jesus himself.
The writer of Hebrews has spent several paragraphs before this talking about the differences between the priests like Eli and Jesus as our new high priest. In today’s text we have the summary of that comparison.
Hannah stood before the altar and prayed to God and Eli got off his chair and joined her in her prayer.
But as we read in Hebrews, after the Incarnation, Jesus himself was the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. And the chair he sits in isn’t next to the doorway, it’s with the Father. And when we are pouring out our hearts, our fears, our questions, we are talking with someone fully God and who understands those words from the inside. Jesus understands exactly why we might not be thankful this year because he knows the pain of death and betrayal and uncertainty.
And unlike Eli who says, go in peace, Jesus can work with us through the power of the Spirit to understand that we are loved in the middle of the grief, that we are sustained in the middle of the pain, that we are heard even when we don’t get our way.
The words from Hebrews end with words about how we are to treat others.
Often we take word like that and we say, “IF I am nice THEN God will notice.”
But the text is different. Because we are forgiven, because we are heard, because we belong, we can be compassionate to others, and encouraging of others.
I’m guessing that Hannah, when she was heard, when she was blessed, when she returned, she was gracious to Peninnah even in the teasing. “You mock me but God hears me.”
Our treatment of each other isn’t rooted in earning God’s favor, it’s a result of knowing God’s favor and forgiveness. When we come to the presence of God, we can go out grateful. Not always understanding why we face what we face, but knowing that in the presence of God is God.