Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 57; 145, Ruth 1:1-14, 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, Matthew 5:1-12
Ruth is a short book, containing only 85 verses across 4 chapters. The book focuses on Naomi, a Jewish widow, and her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth. The Israelites considered the Moabites a cursed people because they were the descendants of an incestuous union between Lot and his older daughter (see Genesis 19 for the lurid details). As an ancestor of David (and therefore Jesus), Naomi is the focus of the tale but Ruth is its heroine.
This book explores interesting themes. First is the notion that God can be present in the world through anyone – even the “cursed and unclean.” While the Bible is full of instruction on how to be a proper Jew, and to a lesser extent how to be a proper Christian, many texts illustrate God’s unbreakable connection with all people. Beyond this story of a godly Moabite woman, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (a contradiction in terms for most of his contemporaries), Jonah explores God’s love for the reviled Ninevites, and Paul subjects himself to personal peril to extend Christ’s ministry to the Gentiles. As much as the Bible may be used to exclude people, it is also contains stories of radical inclusion, even in the Old Testament.
A second theme is the role of women in ancient cultures. The story springs from the lack of property rights for Israelite women, and the solidarity required to survive under such societal conditions. As we read Ruth, we can reflect on how things have changed for women, and how they still need to change.
A third theme is sexual behavior some might consider ungodly. In the pursuit of begetting a male heir for Naomi, Ruth instigates a sexual relationship with a man who isn’t yet her husband. Despite Jewish prohibitions around sex, there are no negative consequences for this action. Like inclusion of the outcast, this theme navigates an understanding of faith that is less black and white than we tend to make it. The book of Ruth challenges our understanding of what it means to be and to behave in the community of the faithful.
Comfort: Faith does not constrict us, but frees us.
Challenge: Pray for people you don’t like.
Prayer: Loving God, creator of this world of diversity, help me see you in all people. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever been surprised to see God at work in someone?
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