Ruth 4: Somos Uno

Listen: https://beingtim.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/ruth-4.m4a

God within us,Ruth_orange_238
divinity connecting us.
We are one.
Somos Uno. 

+++

The Moabites were despised by the Israelites because they were descendants of a sexual union between Lot and his eldest daughter. 

In the first chapter of Ruth when Naomi and her husband emigrated to Moab, they were crossing an entrenched border separating humanity.

Maybe it was the famine.
Maybe it was the Holy Spirit.
Regardless Naomi crossed that border. 

For ten years they lived in Moab. Naomi’s sons married Moabite women. Then her husband died. [pause] Then the two sons died. 

Her whole family dead, Naomi mourned. She cried out “call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me very bitter! …The Lord has testified against me” (Ruth 1:20, 21 CEB).

Abandoned through death, they were two women without men to care for them or protect them or give them status (as was necessary in ancient times). And so Naomi went home to Bethlehem. 

Though she would be despised in Israel, Ruth, Naomi’s Moabite daughter-in-law emigrated with her. 

Maybe it was desperation.
Maybe it was love of God and Naomi.
Regardless Ruth crossed that border.

Because she was from a despised group the Israelites kept their distance from Ruth. They failed to welcome Naomi with anything more than curiosity. 

Without a means of supporting herself or her mother-in-law, Ruth turned to gleaning the fields. 

(Ancient custom and God’s command required that the edges of the field be left for those in need.)

There Ruth met Boaz. He was the landowner and a kind man who ordered his workers not to assault or humiliate her. Later Ruth learned he was a kinsman redeemer in the family of Naomi’s husband. 

A kinsman redeemer is a relative who’s expected to support widowed family members. Another redeemer, however, was in line to do so before Boaz.

 

With few options, Naomi and Ruth strategized a means for survival. Ruth went to the threshing floor. After Boaz was good and drunk and passed out, she uncovered his feet and lay at them. 

Waking in the middle of the night, Boaz saw Ruth and asked:

“Who are you?” … She replied, “I’m Ruth your servant. Spread out your robe over your servant, because you are a redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9 CEB)

“Don’t be afraid,” Boaz told her, “I will do all that you ask.

Maybe it was infatuation.
Maybe it was the divinity within.
Regardless Boaz crossed that border between Israel and Moab. 

He immediately went to the town gate — the place where legal issues were decided. 

A man of power and influence, Boaz called a minyan of elders as witnesses. He called to the first in line redeemer. He used his skills to convince the first in line redeemer to give up his claim to land…

and, of course, to Ruth just as he had promised.

Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. 

May the LORD grant that the woman who is coming into your household be like Rachel and like Leah, both of whom built up the house of Israel. (Ruth 4:11 CEB)

They were married, were intimate, and gave birth to a son. Through their son’s lineage will come King David. Ruth, a despised Moabite immigrant will become the great grandmother of Israel’s most revered king: David.

Maybe it was Ruth’s bold action.
Maybe it was the Holy Spirit.
Regardless the newborn weaves immigrant blood into the lineage of Israel.

+++

On its surface this is the story of Naomi’s grief and restoration. She moves from despair at the loss of her entire family to cuddling her grandson Obed.

 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.  (Ruth 4:16 NRSV)

And that is Good News. In the surface story, the nature of God is revealed. Though difficult times come upon individuals and nations, transformation and resurrection are the way of creation.

[pause]

But we’d be remiss if we skipped rocks on the surface and failed to dive into the deep baptizing waters of the Book of Ruth. 

We’d miss the depth of God’s dreams for humanity if we saw only the tale of Naomi’s hardship and return of her hope.

[pause]

The ancient world was a harsh and dangerous place. To travel was difficult. Customs were developed about how to treat the sojourner and immigrant. 

But people are people. We get suspicious of others. We fear. We don’t always follow customs or rules. One of the most famous — and, frankly, misused sections of the Bible — is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

It’s remarkable really that this story has been turned into an excuse for hatred of those who are LGBTQ+ when it is a story of the opposite. 

It is about the  importance of love of neighbor, of hospitality, and welcoming sojourners and immigrants.

This is true literally, interpretively, and even the Bible itself tells us this is so. The prophet Ezekiel said,

This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; 

but she didn’t help the poor and the needy. (Ezekiel 16:49 CEB)

It was not by chance that this story in Ruth is about immigration from Israel to Moab and from Moab to Israel. Recall that Moabites were descendants of the sexual union between Lot and his eldest daughter. 

Abraham’s cousin Lot was an imperfect man to say the least. He did offer his daughters up to be raped by men pounding on his door after all. He did sleep with his own daughters and began the lineage of the Moabite people.

But Lot got one thing right. He knew that God expected us to welcome the stranger. He knew this — love of God and neighbor was sacrosanct. In fact, that’s what got him into trouble in Sodom.

[pause]

Lot was an immigrant in Sodom who followed the ancient custom of taking the outsider into his own home. He puts up and feeds the strangers who come to Sodom.

And for listening to God’s command, for his hospitality, the men of the town threaten to rape him. (That’s where people get the idea that this is about homosexuality.)

You see, the men of the town hate outsiders. They barely tolerate the immigrant Lot and are ready to harm him for stepping out of line.

And so, Moabite lineage is of welcoming others as much as it is about Lot’s sexual immorality…(though the Israelites fixate on the sexual.)

[pause]

When famine strikes Bethlehem, Naomi and her husband emigrate to Moab. Their success in Moab implies they are welcomed by the Moabites as custom and God requires. 

Their sons marry Moabite women of some standing. (Some sources believe Ruth and Orpah came from a royal family.)

[pause]

When tragedy strikes the family, it is Ruth who becomes the immigrant. She crosses the border into Israel where she is ignored and derided as an outsider. 

Recall in chapter two when Boaz first meets Ruth, his workers go to great pains to remind him that she is Moabite. The implication is clear: Moabite women are less than. She is not worthy of Boaz.

But Boaz crosses the border, too. He sees the whole image of God within Ruth rather than rejecting her as subhuman.

Maybe it was his character.
Maybe it was the Holy Spirit.
Regardless the greatness of Israel will come through this immigrant woman.

+++

In the surface story, it is Ruth who is redeemer for Naomi. Diving deeper, we find that it is through Ruth and her actions that wholeness is restored not just one woman but to Israel. 

Through an immigrant woman — a woman whose people are derided by the powerful and commoner alike — Israel’s King David will lead the nation to greatness.

[pause]

We, too, can trace our spiritual roots to this bold immigrant woman. In the gospel of Matthew we learn that she is forebear in the lineage of Jesus whom we call savior.

Jesus continued Ruth’s tradition of crossing borders. He stood with the marginalized. He sided with the poor, the widow, and the oppressed. He saw the image of God within all he met. 

May we, as twenty-first century disciples of Jesus cross the borders that divide humanity. May we love extravagantly even in the face of derision and spite.

God within us,
divinity connecting us.
We are one.
Somos Uno. 

Amen.

Tim strives to share God’s extravagant love for all–no matter what & without strings. Seeking to follow the lure of the Spirit, Tim writes about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in an era where Christianity has come to be associated with hatred and political wedge issues. “Heinous things have been said & done (& still are) in the name of the One who breathed in the Divine,” notes Tim, “but Jesus shows us that God loves extravagantly.” Following the teachings and life of Jesus is about inclusion not exclusion. It is about compassion, grace, and admitting no one has all the answers. It is about responding lovingly to the best of our human ability. It is about people not institutions. It is about social justice. It is about caring for creation. It is about being who we were each created to be. Tim is a former early childhood educator, a runner, a hiker, a devoted husband, father of two adult children and their spouses, and a grandfather of two perfect babies. Tim serves as Lead Pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Albany, Oregon. He writes from home, from the coffee shop, and wherever the trail leads him.

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Posted in Old Testament, Ruth, Ruth 4, Sermon, Uncategorized

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All materials by Tim Graves unless otherwise noted. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

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