From Hawai‘i Island with Aloha: Associate Conference Minister Reflects
Last spring as I was listening to Diarmaid MacCulloch's book, Silence: A Christian History, the Spirit opened 1 Samuel 1:9-18 for me. It grabbed my soul with the understanding: this is important! Listen! In this passage, Hannah is trapped in an ugly family fight and is brokenhearted. She goes to the place where she feels safe, the Temple, and she pours her heart out to God in silent prayer. But Eli believes Hannah is being disrespectful by praying silently and yells at her. After she explains, they are reconciled, and he blesses her. As the scripture notes, she goes away radiant and promises God that what she receives will be dedicated to God's service. This is the first time in scriptures that silent prayer is blessed and portrayed as a sacred way to approach our God. All of us who practice the spiritual disciplines of centering prayer, prayers of the heart, and other forms of silent prayer owe our spiritual ancestor Hannah a deep debt of gratitude.
A few months later after listening to MacCulloch's book, this was the scripture that I shared with the search committee as I interviewed to become a new Associate Conference Minister, and it will be the scripture that I explore with the Hawai'i Island Association at their 'Aha Mokupuni on November 6. I believe that the Spirit put this scripture in my heart to be the foundation of my ministry on Hawai'i Island. It is a rich and theologically deep passage that has so much to offer.
Today, I am sharing four major takeaways from this passage:
First, I see in Hannah the importance of pouring out our hearts to God in prayer. I need to be a person of prayer who pours out my heart to our God.
The second insight I want to consider is what Hannah and Eli teach about conflict. Hannah and Eli show the importance of dealing with miscommunication and misunderstandings to stop conflict from escalating. I need to commit myself to reconciliation, empathy, and listening as they did.
The third insight that I learned from Hannah is that it takes persistence and dedication to experience God's radiant grace. I need to dedicate myself to the hard work ahead.
The final lesson is that the proper response to God's grace is to give it back; to pay it forward. Hannah receives her deepest heart's desire from God, and she dedicates what she receives totally and completely to God. She pays it forward. I need to pay it forward!
This seemingly simple story of a woman pouring out her heart in prayer is that powerful. As I begin my ministry as an Associate Conference Minister who is deployed to Hawai'i Island, I ask for your prayers. And I ask you to prayerfully reflect upon 1 Samuel 1:9-18 and share the insights and wisdom that our still speaking God shares with you as you pray and reflect with these holy words. Drop me an e-mail and let me know your thoughts! I would love to hear from you.
Jonathan Roach Associate Conference Minister