Ruth: A study in sacred kindness

I’ve been away from this blog a bit. No illness, just working overtime in the parish. Parish life is great. But it is time consuming and draining — in a good way. At any rate, look for a blog here two times a week from now on out. We’ll consider a number of Bible women, “good” and “bad,” and figure out their relevance for our lives.

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The ground in Minnesota today has a bit of frost on it. It’s my favorite time of year: before things freeze but when the trees have begun their long slumber. There are no bugs now, thankfully. The frogs are silent. The days are short. Only the winter birds are left. The pheasants in the back yard have fled. I hope they will be safe during hunting season. Everything seems empty, open. Things would be much different if I didn’t have a warm house and food in the cupboards.

Not so with Ruth and Naomi in ancient Israel. Two women, alone, leaving Moab for Bethlehem, was dangerous. And preposterous. But Naomi had made up her mind to go and go she would. Ruth, with a heart full of hesed — the Hebrew word for sacred kindness — would join her, giving up all she knew to accompany an old stubborn woman who wanted nothing more than to die at home in Bethlehem.

So off they went. Fifty miles of wilderness travel could have killed them. Ruth, a foreigner in Israel, would be hated, scorned by most. But her sense of loyalty to her husband’s family and her brave heart put her on a journey that would forever mark Judeo/Christian history. She would give birth to a boy named Obed, who would father Jesse, who would father no less a son than David, Israel’s greatest king.

Funny thing there. David’s line would include Jesus. And all because a young woman was willing to leave home and family and start a new life. Ruth is one of four brave “outsiders” in Jesus’ ancestral line. Each of them contribute sacred and divine gifts to Jesus that make him whole, complete. And that’s a bit of a heretical thing to say, as of course he was complete. Mostly. Without them, he would not have been the same.

More of that next week.

If you haven’t read it, read the book of Ruth in the meantime. And blessings on your journeys!

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