Ruth Ch 1-4

7th Sunday after Trinity

St Barbara’s Church; 10.7.16

Rev Tulo Raistrick

Today we are continuing our series on the Old Testament with a wonderful short story about faith, loyalty, kindness and love.

Its set in a time of chaos and national upheaval, but its the story of God making a difference in ordinary people’s lives, and  through them, making a difference in the world he has made.

Our story begins with a woman called Naomi. She lives in Bethlehem with her husband and two sons. But times are tough. There is famine in the land. So the four of them up sticks and head for the country of Moab to find food.

They live there for the next ten years. Her two sons marry local girls, called Orpah and Ruth. But very sadly, Naomi’s husband, and then sons, all die. Naomi feels very sad and alone. There is no one to look after her.

She decides to head back to her homeland of Bethlehem. Maybe somebody will take pity on her there. But amazingly, Orpah and Ruth, her two daughters-in-law, tell her they will go with her, that they will look after her.

Naomi is really moved by their offer – the Bible tells us she weeps – and she tries to persuade them not to come with her, that life will be too difficult for them, that they should stay with their own families. Orpah reluctantly agrees, but as we herd in our reading, Naomi refuses to leave Naomi. Instead, she speaks those remarkable words, “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”

Ruth steps out in faith. It would be much safer for her to turn around and go back to her family home. She would be looked after by her family. Instead she takes a huge risk. She loves Naomi and she wants to help her. As importantly, she has come to love the God Naomi worships – Ruth places her trust in Him.

In our lives we too can face uncertain futures:

at work we may not know how our jobs may be affected by the recent referendum

at home, like Ruth, we may not know how we are going to care for those we love, or like Naomi, we may not know how  we are going to cope as we get older

But Ruth shows us a wonderful example, Not knowing her future she places her life into God’s hands and trusts in him:

“Your God will be my God”, she says.

Through the storms and ups and downs of life we can trust in God. He is our rock.

When Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem they have a problem, however. They don’t own any land so there is nowhere for them to harvest crops. They face hunger, even starvation.

But Ruth is not deterred. She follows the workers in the fields who are harvesting the crops. Occasionally, especially round the edges of the fields, the workers may miss a clump of wheat, or they may drop a few ears to the ground by accident. Naomi picks these remnants up, and collects a tiny amount, but she will not give up. She works all day so that she and Naomi will have just enough to eat.

She is a great example of someone acting on their faith, taking the initiative, not just waiting for something to happen. She could have just said – “God will look after me” – and done nothing. We too need to trust in God, and we also need to use the gifts and skills he has given us.

But its not just a story of Ruth. Someone else who acts and puts their faith into practice is Boaz, the owner of the field. He sees Ruth working in the field and is incredibly kind to her.

He tells her that she is very welcome to all that she can find.

He tells her to stay with his servant girls so that she will be safe and not lonely

He tells her she can drink water along with his own workers

He tells his men to treat her with respect

He invites her to eat with all the other workers

And he even tells his workers to deliberately drop ears of wheat and miss clumps of wheat so that she can pick more

Boaz shows Ruth real kindness, even though she is a foreigner and needing to live off his land. In fact, he is so generous that by the end of the day Ruth has collected enough to feed her and Naomi for weeks – she has collected the equivalent of two months wages!

I was at a meeting this week where someone from Warwick was saying how five teachers from the local school who are EU nationals had all been abused and insulted in the street since the referendum. At such a time, there is a real need for the church to respond differently.

Our story continues and over the next few months Ruth and Boaz become friends and then fall in love. Its a touching story, a real love story. Boaz can’t believe that Ruth would be interested in him, an older man. Ruth can’t believe that someone would love her, a person from a different country. There’s a bit of tension as Boaz needs to get the permission of someone else in the family, but in the end, they are happy, and so he and Ruth get married. They have a baby boy. Naomi dotes over him, her first grandchild.

Its a lovely story, the type of story that gets repeated time and time again in every community, in every generation. The Bible captures the ordinary, and the wonder in the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary and the more obviously miraculous.

But there is something more in the story, dropped in at the very end.

Ruth and Boaz’s son is called Obed. He, when he grows up, will become the father of Jesse, who in turn will become the father of David. David will be Israel’s greatest ever king, the king who will bring peace and unity to a divided nation. And Jesus will be born from the line of David. In other words, Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David. This foreigner who believes in God becomes the channel of blessing for a whole people.

And if you ever looked at the very beginning of Matthew’s gospel  he starts with a genealogy, a list of Jesus’ ancestors, and Ruth is mentioned there!

All of us, no matter who we are, no matter how insignificant we may feel our story is, can be part of God’s plans for making this world a better place.

None of us are ordinary. All of us are special in his sight. And he wants to do amazing things through us, just as he did amazing things through Ruth and Boaz.