Week of Proper 15: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

Above: Naomi and Her Daughters-in-Law, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

“For wherever you go, I will go….”

AUGUST 25, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ruth 1:1-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.  They came to the country of Moab and remained there.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years.  Then those two–Mahlon and Chilion–also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.

She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food.  Accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living; and they set out on the road back to the land of Judah.

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,

Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house.  May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me!  May the LORD grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!

And she kissed them farewell.  They broke into weeping, and said to her,

No, we will return with you to your people.

But Naomi replied,

Turn back, my daughters!  Why should you go with me?  Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you?  Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married.  Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight, and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up?  Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage?  Oh no, my daughters!  My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the LORD has struck out against me.

They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell.  But Ruth clung to her.  So she said,

See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods.  Go follow your sister-in-law.

But Ruth replied,

Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you.  For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.

When [Naomi] saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.

When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them.  The women said,

Can this be Naomi?

She replied,

Do not call me Naomi.  Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite.  They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

7 The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

9 The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 22:34-40 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they came up to him in a body, and one of them, an expert in the Law, put this test-question:

Master, what is the Law’s greatest commandment?

Jesus answered him,

‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And there is a second like it:  ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’  The whole of the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Naomi:  Do not call me Pleasant.  Call me Bitterness, for Shaddai has has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Pleasant, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

–Ruth 1:20-21 (TANAKH), with name meanings taking the places of names

Names mean a great deal in the Book of Ruth.  Bethlehem means “the house of bread,” but there is a famine there.  Naomi means “pleasant,” while the name of her husband, Elimelech, means “my God is king.”  They have two sons, Mahlon, or “sickness,” and Chilion, or “consumptive.”  (Consumption was an old term for tuberculosis.) The name of  Orpah, who left for her mother’s house and (presumably) a second husband, means “back of the neck.”  But Ruth means “friend” or “companion.”  And, Boaz, whom we will meet in Chapter 2, bears a name meaning “in him is strength.”  Mara, of course, means “bitterness.”

Feminism has benefited women greatly, freeing many of them from economic dependence on men.  But Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth did not live in a society blessed by feminism.  Naomi understood that she was past the age to remarry, and that her life would most likely be difficult, given that her husband and sons were dead, and that there were no grandsons.  But Orpah and Ruth, her Moabite daughters-in-law, could remarry and find security.  Orpah decided to take this option, and why not, given the circumstances?  But Ruth chose a riskier path and attached her fate to that of Naomi, who had to return home, to Bethlehem.

Ruth was a Moabite, a member of a tribe descended from incest between Lot and one of his daughters.  That, at least, is the origin story from Genesis.  She was a foreigner and a polytheist.  Then she converted to the Hebrew faith, but she will still a foreigner.  So moving to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law meant living as an immigrant.  What neither she nor Naomi knew was that something far better than either of them knew awaited them there.  That, however, will come in the next day’s entry.

The reading from Matthew contains a famous quote from Jesus.  He fielded a trick question as to the greatest commandment.  So he gave an honest and excellent answer in which none of his would-be tricksters could find fault.  He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. His point was simple:  Human love is grounded in love of God.  Rabbi Hillel (died 10 C.E.) summarized the Torah by quoting the Jewish version of what we Christians call the Golden Rule.  “The rest,” he said, “is commentary.”  Jesus agreed, and so do I.

Ruth grasped this simple yet profound lesson; her life bore witness to it.  May we do likewise.

As to Naomi, her bitterness was understandable.  I grasp it, in my own way.  Sometimes circumstances, which might me somewhat or entirely beyond our control, destroy our security, especially that of the economic variety.  Yet, without resorting to annoying and inaccurate Polyannishness or Leibnizian Optimism, hope remains.  Not everything that happens is for the best.  Voltaire was correct; some events are just bad.  But we are not alone.  God is with us, and people around us can be instruments of grace.  And what follows the disaster might be better, in God’s way, than what it replaces.  But will we trust God long enough to find out?

I am exploring these themes in my life as I write these words.  So the text of Ruth 1:1-22 hits home with me in a powerful way.  Perhaps they do with you, O reader, as well.  I, too, find it difficult to trust God sometimes.  I,  too, wrestle with bitterness, frustration, and disappointment.  Yet I know that abandoning hope is a sure way to hopelessness, and I refuse to travel that path.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/for-wherever-you-go-i-will-go/

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Posted February 24, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2017, August, Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 1

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