Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jesse Tree Day 15 - Ruth

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favour.’ She said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you.’ They answered, ‘The Lord bless you.’ Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘To whom does this young woman belong?’ The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.” So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.’
Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.’ -- Ruth 2:1-9

Until we recently changed to the Revised Common Lectionary, we never heard the book of Ruth read as a lesson in church on Sunday. Probably the part we are most familiar with is Ruth's statement," Wherever you go I will go," which is often heard at weddings either as a reading or in some musical form. What most people don't realize is that Ruth is actually speaking to her mother-in-law Naomi and not to some bridegroom or suitor.

In the genealogy of Jesus, Ruth was the first outsider, the first foreigner, to be introduced as one of his ancestors. Sometimes it seems odd to have such a story with all its connotations as a part of the Old Testament canon. What it does is to introduce the idea that upright living and obedience was sometimes more important than bloodline and place of birth. Ruth chose to be guided by her mother-in-law and chose to act on her mother-in-law's advice with an eye to Naomi's well-being as well. By doing so, she gained not only security and a new family for herself but a sense of redemption for Naomi. Ruth married Boaz and gave birth to a son, Obed, who  was Naomi's only grandchild and undoubtedly a joy to her and a comfort. Obed was later known for his Torah study and his righteousness amd also as the father of Jesse and grandfather of David.

What can I learn from Ruth? Sometimes you have to relocate to make a change to the better in your life. Sometimes you have to be guided by the wisdom of others to make the right choices. And sometimes you just have to pick the right field.

Joy often follows tragedy. 

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