“Happily Ever After”
Ruth 1:1 – 4:22
Sunday, October 28, 2012 – Children’s Sabbath
The Book of Ruth is a great short story about faithful living, loyalty, and compassion…As literature, it offers us a glimpse of an almost idyllic community where everyone lives happily ever after, in spite of the difficulties they may have faced…This story could easily be made into one of those Hallmark movies where we meet the characters, calamity strikes, the hero steps in, and all’s well that end’s well.
But, the really great thing about this story is that the real hero is God…This is a story about God’s faithfulness and God’s ability to work through unlikely people to accomplish God’s will…This is the kind of story that needs at least two hankies…One when Ruth returns home with Naomi…“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 I will be buried.” What love and loyalty! Another when Ruth and Boaz get married – I mean, who doesn’t cry at weddings?
In the end, we share a “to be continued” moment when we realize that this is King David’s ancestral history and, of course, we know who else comes from the House of David – right? It is this family lineage that helps us see the ultimate happy ending – The Messiah comes from the House of David.
But, let’s get back to the story of Ruth and Naomi…Our kids did a great job of helping us understand it a whole lot better. The main theme of this story is faithful living…The idea comes from the Hebrew word, CHESED, which means: Loyalty or faithfulness born of a sense of caring and commitment…This word is used to describe God’s relationship with God’s people…It is also used to describe the relationships we should have with one another…God cares for us and we are called to care for each other.
The story of Ruth and Naomi gives us a glimpse of the kind of community where CHESED is a way of life…In this community the marginalized are included, the elderly are cared for, and the children are valued…It is a blue print for the world God desires for his Kingdom on earth…It is a reminder that our culture is missing the mark of CHESED.
According to The Book of Ruth, God takes ten years to relieve the famine in Judah…God works through a loyal foreigner to provide for a destitute widow…And God uses a prominent member of the community to provide security and protection for a young widow from a foreign land…In these events we see that God’s faithfulness is present over time and works through many different individuals…We see that we must remain hopeful and be patient because God’s timing is perfect and appropriate to each task, even when we don’t understand it…We must also see that God’s work is often done through unlikely people…even people who we might not include within the circle of “God’s people”…It is apparent in this story that we often get things wrong.
That is where this story speaks to us and how we should demonstrate the same sort of faithfulness that God does…Based on ancient laws and customs, the characters in this story are under no obligation to help in the ways that they do…The Moabites don’t have to welcome Naomi’s family…Ruth isn’t expected to care for her widowed mother-in-law…Boaz has no reason to provide food for these women or to marry the widow of his deceased relative…And that is really the point – They are not obligated and yet they do the right thing anyway. We are not required to welcome strangers into our midst…There is no law that says we have to be nice to people we don’t know. Salvation comes to us through faith, not works, so we can avoid taking care of others…Of course, there is that thing Jesus said about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and so forth. I think you see where I’m going here…We can all probably find ways to avoid faithful living…We don’t have time…We’re spread too thin…“It’s not my job…” That doesn’t seem to be what God wants us to do though.
I wonder what would happen if more people concerned themselves with what somebody else needed…What if more people realized that they had plenty and there was more to share? What if more people looked for better ways to care for and nurture our elderly? What if more attention was paid to the needs of children and how we might do a better job of providing safety and protection for them? What might it look like if more people used God as the example for how they should behave? I think this is what that Hebrew word CHESED means for us: Loyalty or faithfulness born of a sense of caring and commitment…I think it means that we should live our lives truly caring about other people in our lives and in our community…I think it means that we must commit ourselves to following the lessons we learn from the Book of Ruth…Maybe then our story will end like this one does – where everyone lives happily ever after. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen