Ruth-A story of redemption

Scripture Reading: Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17

Holy Spirit – Come to us, reside in us, that we may sense the will of God alive in us, empowering us to do what it is you would have us do. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Marcia Mount Shoop writes, “Ruth stands among the ranks of women challenging us to disturb any kind of seamless lineage of “Women of the Bible” by taking up a more ambiguous space in the canon. Ruth is substantial, she is complicated, and she seeks out meaning in her life with a kind of quiet resolve. The canonical conversation is enriched profoundly [by her existence]. She inserts into the conversation a counterpoint to… Priestly codes concerning not mixing with the unlike and vehement opposition to intermarriage clearly voiced in Ezra and Nehemiah.” [1] You may recall Deuteronomy 23:3, which states, “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord…;” yet here is a Moabite, almost defiantly against all tradition, standing as a powerful example for all. It is almost as if she foreshadows the parable of the Good Samaritan. Because of Ruth, the conversation is enlarged, as Shoop says, “to include more expansive possibilities for those included in and identified as the “people of God.””[2]

Personally, what interests me about this book, besides that you can sit down and read the entire book in one sitting and it reads like a novel it is so good, is that it is the last book canonized in the Hebrew Bible and may actually be one of the latest books chronologically before the great silence between the testaments.

A silence broken only by the Apocrypha we’ve been lately discussing. For such an enigmatic inclusion in the canon, what can we learn from the book of Ruth? Or perhaps the person of Ruth? What kinds of role modeling can we adopt from her time and place for our contemporary context?

Commentator Martin Copenhaver identifies two main themes throughout the book: hospitality and fidelity,[3] to which Frank Yamada adds redemption[4]. For all three themes, there is a Hebrew word that appears (coincidentally, three times) in the book of Ruth, bringing at least to my mind some clarity about how we can appropriate something of the movement of God for our own time and understanding.

The word hesed, which means, roughly translated, loving kindness, is what I think Copenhaver is trying to get at through identifying the themes of hospitality and fidelity. Ruth and Naomi devote themselves to the betterment of one another, remaining together and seeking the best for one another through their entire experience. Ruth especially exhibits hesed with her attendance and devotion to Naomi, whom legally she would have had no relationship to once Naomi’s son died. Instead of returning to her own people, Ruth remains faithful and loyal to Naomi – even to disavowing her own god, theological heritage, and people for Naomi’s God, theological tradition, and people; a people that incidentally have been ongoing political rivals.

Enacting such hesed toward one another and the strangers in our midst is indeed at the heart of hospitality; and to best learn it, we must practice it. Hesed is also at the heart of fidelity. There is a component of genuine truthfulness and honesty in it that speaks deeply of its core importance.

The third theme, redemption, is a gift of grace, a response of divine hesed that shows how God is at work. In Ruth, and I submit, for many of us today, this is behind the scenes. I would also submit, such “behind the scenes” activity of God sets the stage for how God will be moving for the next 350 years of silence in the Biblical witness: behind the scenes, silent, yes; but very much at work as the people of Israel navigate the morass of a shifting political landscape. Through this time a new community focus within Judaism develops in response to include the culture of the synagogue; an institution that in effect prepares a rich a fertile field for Jesus to cast the seeds of his own ministry; and an institution that sets the foundation for our own model of community-centered worship today.

What can we take away from this story of Ruth and Naomi?   Perhaps it is an affirmation that the Holy One is at work in the simplest, the earthiest, and most authentic of human experiences. The story “calls for us to remember that God works every day. God labors on the ground, in the heart, among the folk, and through life circumstances. God weaves [together] simple gestures, feelings, decisions, and actions in ways that bring good things. And it all happens despite loss and trouble, opposition and tyranny, displacement and pain…

The story of Ruth and Naomi depicts a world of struggle. Their faithful actions toward each other lead to their eventual deliverance. Though enmeshed within the problematic male-centered world of ancient Israel, these women lay hold of their salvation. They survive in the face of death and eventually secure their own redemption.”[5]

“To read this story and become lost in its charm empowers [a] sense that each of us, no matter where we are in our ordinary living, is playing a part in the coming of the “child of destiny.” The servant of God is born when we exercise our best human words and wiles across the crowded ways of life.”[6]

After reading through Ruth, perhaps you could more easily write your own story of redemption. Your own experience is no less sacred than stories from the sacred written tradition; for God is indeed still at work, in you, in me, in all humanity and indeed the whole of Creation, redeeming all of us.

May all glory be unto the One who is a Son of David, and a many times great grandson of Ruth: the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ.

Amen? May it be so.
[1] Shoop, Marcia Mount. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Copenhaver, Martin B. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[4] Yamada, Frank M. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Sinclair, G. Malcolm. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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