I was very glad to spend last Thursday evening at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary with Ben Ollenburger and his Old Testament Theology class, talking about the Old Testament and Christian Spirituality. In hindsight though, I wish that I had said more to summarize our discussion of Hannah and Elijah, so below is what I wish I had been able to say (don’t you hate that when your better thoughts only come afterward!?). Below that, I’ve also included links to the original sources discussed in the “lecture” portion. Thank you for your gracious reception!
Spiritual expressions in Hannah’s story (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10)
- regularly worships and sacrifices with her family (v. 3, 19)
- brings her distress to the Lord in prayer and with tears (vv. 1:10-13a)
- does not eat, whether because she is so distraught or as a deliberate form of fasting (v. 7)
- is misunderstood by her husband (v. 8) and by the priest Eli who mistakes her praying for drunkenness (v. 13)
- explains her situation to the priest and receives a blessing (vv. 15-17)
- brings her joy to the Lord in prayer with praise and singing vv. 1:26-2:10)
Spiritual expressions in Elijah’s story (1 Kings 19:1-15a)
- spends some time alone (v. 3: he leaves his servant and goes into the wilderness alone)
- honesty about himself in prayer (v. 4: Elijah pours out his despair to God)
- sleep (v. 5, and see my earlier post on sleep as daily sabbath)
- eating (vv. 5-8: the angel directs Elijah to eat and drink so he will have strength for his journey. As human beings with body and soul, spirituality and physicality go together)
- walking/journeying (v. 8)
- prayer/hearing the word of the Lord (v. 9: prayer was not only Elijah talking to God; prayer also meant hearing from God)
- silence (v. 12)
- questioning (vv. 9, 13)
- he receives a commission from God—it’s not clear that Elijah receives relief from his feelings of despair or that his questions are answered, but he receives conviction about what he must do next (v. 15a)
Links to other sources (in the order they were mentioned):
Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article 18 Christian Spirituality.
Christo Lombaard’s article on how the Old Testament has been undervalued in Christian spirituality, pages 1-26.
Walter Brueggemann speaking on psalms of disorientation.
MaryAnn McKibben Dana on her book, Sabbath in the Suburbs.
And from the second half of the class, here’s the link to Gary’s site on perspective criticism.