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Wednesday, November 04, 2009
As the story of Naomi and Ruth continues, faithful human actions restore the two vulnerable widows, and through them the whole people of Israel. The texts this Sunday invite us to consider what puts survival at risk, and what is received and offered through community as God’s people choose to take action on behalf of another’s good. Ruth 3:1–5; 4:13–17 In the focus passage studied November 1, Ruth chose to join her life’s journey with Naomi’s, forming an unlikely alliance for survival. In today’s focus scripture, these two widows navigate a decisive turning point. The stage for this account is set in the second chapter of Ruth, which tells of an encounter between Ruth and Naomi’s relative, Boaz. Ruth 2:20 identifies Boaz as “nearest kin.” The Hebrew word used here is goel. Elsewhere translated as “redeemer,” goel is a family member who is supposed to restore something that another family member has lost because of debt or poverty. As Ruth 3 begins, Naomi and Ruth plan what they might do for the sake of their future security. In 3:3, Naomi proposes action filled with double meanings. “Do not make yourself known…” uses a verb that can also mean sexual intimacy (Genesis 4:1). “Feet” can be a euphemism in Hebrew for genitals. “Threshing floor” has an association with sexual activity (Hosea 9:1). These sexual undertones move the text’s interpretation into a reflection on what it means to risk offence for the sake of survival. Ruth follows Naomi’s counsel. Boaz acts with honor as goel (“next of kin,” “one who redeems”) and marries Ruth. God gives conception. Throughout the book of Ruth, Naomi and Ruth are models of persistence and loyalty. As the narrative closes, we learn how their relationship expands into a larger community of women. These women recognize the child’s importance to Naomi. “He shall be to you a restorer of life” (4:15). “Restorer” is a translation of the Hebrew shub, that word of “turning” used throughout the book of Ruth. The women, not father or mother, name the child Obed. A story of widows who have no living children becomes a story of birth. A struggle to survive becomes the means by which God restores hope to these women and to Israel’s unborn generations. God sets into motion a promise – who will be David – through Ruth, the Moabite. The book of Ruth affirms that God works through surprising people and in unexpected ways in order to bring restoration to God’s people. Psalm 127 also asserts that children are a gift of heritage and hope. The balance to the psalm’s male imagery comes in the role played by women in Ruth. God will build the “house” (the word can mean “dynasty”), often in surprising ways. There is a sense of eager waiting for the unborn David at the close of Ruth. The writer of Hebrews 9:24–28 also conveys a longing, a sense of “eagerly waiting”– looking forward to the salvation Christ brings. The sacrificial imagery in Hebrews has a common backdrop with the temple scene in Mark 12:38–44. Jesus speaks out against shows of religious devotion that mask mistreatment of the most vulnerable persons in that day, widows. Whether by requirement or social conditioning, the widow who placed her coins in the treasury may have felt she had little choice. This woman takes a risk by entrusting all that she has as a gift to God, trusting that God’s providence will keep her. Communities today still wrestle with the consequences of economic injustice and racial and gender prejudice. As in all times, God’s people are called to seek restoration for those who are vulnerable and injured. When and through whom have you found your life restored, nourished, and encouraged? For whose sake might God be us to take a bold risk?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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