Sermon Ruth 1:1-18 November 4, 2018 Ordinary Time Communion. All Saints.
Go Where You Go.
Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. “Be still,” they say. “Watch and listen, you are the results of the love of thousands.”
How many of us know the name of our great grandmother? How many of us have known our great grandmother or heard her stories? Thinking back that far gives us a reference point for thinking about the woman of Scripture today, Ruth.
Ruth became the mother of Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who became the father of David, who became king. Her story became the redemption story not just for one family but for all the people of Israel. Her story has been spoken for thousands of years and we know all about her. We care about her, we love her, and we too speak her story because in it we too find redemption and we find ourselves.
We stand upon the ground facing the day ahead of us.
The day can be filled with obstacles and challenges that seek to prevent us from having the strength to go forward and do the things that need to be done.
Yet, we remember we are not alone when we stand.
We remember we are standing on the shoulders of several generations who have overcome obstacles.
We remember their strength as they forged their way in a new country.
We remember their resilience as they fought against disease, famine, injustice, and discrimination.
You look at me and say, but my ancestors were Irish or Italian.
It seems that in every age when people have come to this country in droves escaping from places where they have been suffering they have been rejected, disliked, and discriminated against.
The Irish were not to be trusted and could not find work. They were poor and could not find housing. No one would dare allow their child to marry, let alone, be seen with ‘one of those’.
These large influxes into our country over the years, the German Catholics and Lutherans to the Midwest, the Irish and Italians to New York, the Cubans and South Americans to Florida all came to be greeted with great animosity at first.
But, as the century went on, these very diverse people became the interwoven fabric of our nation and who we are as a people. If our family has been in this country for more than three generations we have a powerful legacy to learn about. We have the shoulders of those people to stand on. We have the shoulders of those people to push us up and get us on our way.
Ruth was a Moabite, the enemy of the Israelites.
The irony of Scripture is it turns our understanding of things upside down.
God will always come and open our hearts to receive love and to receive acceptance no matter who we are or how we are. God will stand us on our head with stories that force our hardened hearts to open to grace. This story of Ruth is exactly one of those life changing opportunities.
Ruth becomes the saving grace for Naomi and for all the generations who follow her.
Ruth becomes this one person whose resilience and faithfulness to a person and God she doesn’t know sustains Naomi through her grief, bitterness, and emptiness.
Do we know anyone in our story like that?
Perhaps God is calling us to be that person for the generations to come.
Who are the nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren of our future or our present?
Perhaps, without even knowing it, they are already standing on your shoulders as you pray their way in the world.
Perhaps you are building their story of resilience and strength long before you will hear how you were an instrument in their life. Looking back allows us to look forward.
Looking back to Ruth and her response to Naomi allows us to look forward to our responses to others in our life story.
Naomi had gone to a distant land in the time of famine, a land of her enemy, to survive. There she was met with one disaster after another. Her reliance on her own abilities and her anger at the God of her birth only brought her bitterness.
But can we blame her? I don’t think so.
We are all too much the same.
Often our circumstances cloud our perspective.
We make quick decisions in our heightened anxiety,
we assume things are urgent
and require immediate responses-we react,
kind of action.
We shove everyone we love out of the way,
while we try to fix our own problems
and leave room in our heart for no one.
God’s grace is amazing because it is often extended to us through unsuspecting carriers of grace.
God finds circumstances or people to extend grace even if they themselves do not know God.
There are angels unaware everywhere.
An open heart is open to the unexpected
and can receive the gift freely.
Ruth refuses to receive the rejections from Naomi and chooses to live by her name.
Ruth means woman friend or companion.
Three times Naomi tries to make Ruth go away and three times
Ruth proves her love and her faith.
According to Jewish tradition three times is the test of faithfulness.
Where you go, I will go,
where you lodge, I will lodge,
your people shall be my people,
your God my God.
It is her faithful heart that saves the generations to come.
It is her story that is the story that opens our hearts and changes us.
It is her story that gives us strength to be the shoulders for the ones who come after us.
Friends, we are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Be still,” they say. “Watch and listen, you are the results of the love of thousands.”
Let us be the same. Let us be the ones who extend grace unsuspectingly to change the hearts of those we have yet to meet. We have a story to tell, keep it alive, keep telling it. Amen.
Reverend Monica Gould