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Sunday, February 19, 2017
Today's Scripture Reading | Ruth 1:15–22
So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. (NRSV)
A gift of the Hebrew scriptures is the variety of literary forms they contain. Ruth is one of the short stories I particularly enjoy. It artistically conveys the struggles and commitments of everyday life.
The words of today’s verses ring with familiarity in our ears, likely from wedding services, or they speak of a deeply loyal love that resonates on those joyful occasions. Of course we need to hear these words in context and recall that they are spoken by a widowed Ruth to her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi.
Further, Ruth was from the country of Moab, a neighboring nation with an uneasy, even hostile relationship with Naomi’s homeland of Judah. Should Ruth travel with Naomi as an immigrant to Judah, she was unlikely to experience acceptance. Yet the two set out together.
What an encouraging message to immigrants in our own day, as the story turns out. As these neighbors travel from unlikely countries of origin, yearning for a fresh future and new beginnings, they remind almost all of us of our own immigrant heritage. We recall, as well, the uneasy response to our forbears when they arrived in this country. Yet our ancestors enriched the shared experience of society and of church through diverse backgrounds and contributions, undergirded by their commitment and perseverance. May this life-giving pattern continue!
Accompanying God, who walks with each of us along our life’s journey, I thank you for the story of Ruth and Naomi. May it inform our own travels and refresh our openness to immigrant neighbors. Renew our service and our advocacy, we pray; through the welcoming love of Christ our Lord. Amen.
Written by Jeff Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults
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