Week of Proper 15: Saturday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Boaz and Ruth, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Righteousness, Genuine and Fake

AUGUST 26, 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 2:1-11; 4:13-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a man of substance, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.

Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi,

I would like to go to the fields and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone who may show me kindness.

She replied,

Yes, daughter, go;

and off she went.  She came and gleaned in a field, behind the reapers; and, as luck would have it, it was the piece of land belonging to Boaz, who was of Elimelech’s family.

Presently Boaz arrived from Bethlehem.  He greeted the reapers,

The LORD be with you!

And they responded,

The LORD bless you!

Boaz said to the servant who was in charge of the reapers,

Whose girl is that?

The servant in charge of the reapers replied,

She is a Moabite girl who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.  She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’   She has been on her feet ever since she came this morning.  She has rested but little in the hut.

Boaz said to Ruth,

Listen to me, daughter.  Don’t go to glean in another field.  Don’t go elsewhere, but stay here close to my girls.  Keep your eyes on the field they are reaping, and follow them.  I have ordered the men not to molest you.  And when you are thirsty, go to the jars and drink some of [the water] that the men have drawn.

She prostrated herself with her face to the ground, and said to him,

Why are you so kind as to single me out, when I am a foreigner?

Boaz said in reply,

I have been told of all you that you did for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you had not known before….

So Boaz married Ruth; she became his wife, and he cohabited with her.  The LORD let her conceive, and she bore a son.  And the woman said to Naomi,

Blessed be the LORD, who has not withheld a redeemer from you today!  May his name be perpetuated in Israel!  He will renew your life and sustain your old age; for he is born of your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons.

Naomi took the child and held it to her bosom.  She became its foster mother, and the women gave him a name, saying,

A son is born to Naomi!

They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, father of David.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who all fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Matthew 23:1-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus addressed the crowds and his disciples.

The scribes and the Pharisees speak with the authority of Moses,

he told them,

so you must do what they tell you and follow their instructions.  But you must not imitate their lives!  For they preach but do not practise.  They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders–yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them. Their whole lives and planned with an eye to effect.  They increase the size of their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their robes; they love seats of honour at dinner parties and front places in the synagogues.  They love to be greeted with respect in public places and to have men call them ‘rabbi!”  Don’t you ever be called ‘rabbi”–you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers.  And don’t call any human being ‘father’–for you have one Father and he is in Heaven.  And you must not let people call you ‘leaders’–you have only leader, Christ!  The only ‘superior’ among you is the one who serves the others.  For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.

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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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“…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king….”

–Matthew 1:5-6a (Revised Standard Version)

I type readings into these posts as part of a spiritual exercise.  Slowing down long enough to enter each word via my fingertips helps me pay close attention to the texts.   Sometimes whimsical thoughts occur to me as I interact with the stories.  So it was, that as I typed part of Ruth 2, I read that Boaz greeted his reapers with,

The LORD be with you!

and that they responded,

The LORD bless you!

If they had answered,

And also with you,

I mused, they might have been Episcopalians.

Seriously, though, good-natured denominational humor aside, I detected a common thread:  How we treat each other is vital in our faith life.  Let us begin with the Book of Ruth.

Boaz was a pious, kind, and wealthy man.  He did not have to permit Ruth to glean in his field, but he chose to do so.  And he, older than Ruth, fell in love with her and married her.  Furthermore, they had a son, Obed (Hebrew for servant or worshiper), who became the grandfather of King David.  I wonder if Boaz’s sensitivity to Ruth’s situation was related to his ancestry, as his mother was the prostitute Rahab, who rescued Hebrew spies in Joshua 2.  He does not seem to have been the kind of man who measured people according their pedigrees.

The genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17, is quite interesting.  Most of the names are male, so the occasional mention of a woman by name requires careful attention.  There is Mary, of course, but one also reads the names Rahab (a prostitute) and Ruth (a foreigner).  Bathsheba is also there, but not by name; she is “the wife of Uriah.”  So this family tree mentions four women, three of whom had dubious sexual reputations during their lifetimes.  The fourth was merely foreign-born, a fact about which some people were sensitive.  Why else would local women associate young Obed with Naomi, not Ruth?

Anyhow, the love match of Ruth and Boaz enriched their lives and that of Naomi.  It also constituted another link in the chain leading to Jesus.  That chain included some seemingly unlikely and not respectable people.

Jesus condemns some respectable people in Matthew 23.  There was nothing wrong with tassels or phylacteries; both are Biblical.  (See Exodus 13:1-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41; and Deuteronomy 22:12.)  But ostentatious displays of religion and quests for social honor attracted our Lord and Savior’s condemnation.  No, he said, one ought to seek opportunities to serve, not to be served.

Obed was the son of Boaz and Ruth.  His name meant “servant” or “worshiper.”  The greatest, Jesus said, was the servant of all.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted.  Or, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, “For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.”  This is the order in the Kingdom of God.  Thanks be to God!  May we learn this lesson, inwardly digest it, and act accordingly.  In so doing may we transform ourselves, each other, our communities, our societies, our politics, and our world.

KRT

A PRAYER OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is despair hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/righteousness-genuine-and-fake/

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