Bitterness to Sweetness

A final sermon in our series on Ruth.

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We began this sermon series on the Book of Ruth just a few weeks ago, and did so by looking at the person of Naomi. This morning we also end with Naomi. Specifically, we are going to pay attention to two scenes in which Naomi takes centre stage – two scenes that serve as bookends in the narrative, and two scenes which actually mirror each other. 

The first scene deals with the moment of Naomi’s return to Judah. We read in chapter one: “When Naomi and Ruth came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ Naomi said to the women who had gathered around, “Call me no longer Naomi (which means sweetness), but call me Mara (which means bitterness) for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.”

In that opening scene, we find Naomi surrounded by the women of Bethlehem, and we hear her announce to them her bitterness, her emptiness, her grief. Continue reading

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Boaz steps up

A sermon in our continuing series on Ruth.

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It seems that Baoz is not going to waste any time. His night with Ruth on the threshing floor is barely over.

Just a few hours ago she uncovered his legs and lay down beside him,

just a few hours ago she asked him to take her in marriage,

When Ruth returns to Naomi in the earliest hours of that morning, and tells her everything that has happened, Naomi responds. “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.” And Naomi is exactly right, for the narrative turns very quickly from a private moment on the threshing floor to a very public event at the city gate. And that’s where we find Boaz that next day – at the city gate.

Continue reading

salvation by courage alone

Another sermon in our series on Ruth. Again, I largely follow the Interpretation series commentary on Ruth.

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It was a fateful evening on the threshing floor – no doubt the events of that night were burned into the memory of Boaz. It was a night like no other. 

The threshing floor is out in the middle of a field – it is a place where the wheat and barley that have been harvested will bee processed. The valuable grain is separated from the stalk of the plant and from the chaff. After a long day of threshing wheat or barley, and after a meal and some wine with his men, Boaz settles down for the night. No doubt the combination of hard work and wine knock Boaz out pretty quickly – no doubt he is in a dead sleep not long after he puts his head down to rest. Continue reading

a woman’s story

A sermon interlude in a series on the book of Ruth.

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This morning’s sermon represents something of an interlude in our series on the book of Ruth. It’s not that we are turning away from that story today, but we take a step back in order to take a slightly different perspective on this wonderful narrative. 

As we take that step back, I want to remind us, or point out, that telling stories is a part of human nature. Even more, our story-telling ability in some sense makes a human, a human. This ability defines us. As human beings we tell stories that reach back into the past, stories that speak about our present experiences, and stories that reach into the future we imagine. The fact that story-telling defines us is particularly shown when we point out that if you really want to know someone – if you really want to know who she is – facts aren’t enough. Continue reading

Dumpster Diving (Ruth 2)

A sermon preached today – the second in a short series on Ruth.

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Have you heard of Dumpster Diving? It describes the practice of salvaging food or other material that has been thrown away. As Wikipedia informs us, “the term dumpster diving originates from the fanciful image of someone leaping head first into a dumpster as if it were a swimming pool.” But the humerous tone of “dumpster diving” is probably lost on those who must practice it – those who live in poverty. Since bakeries sometimes through out perfectly good bread, and grocery stores perfectly good groceries, and furniture stores materials that can easily be salvaged – dumpster diving can be a source of despeartely needed food or income for someone in poverty.

Perhaps this seems an unusual place to begin today, but we do so because the practice of Dumpster Diving is as close as we get today to a common Old Testament practice. In fact, the Wikipedia entry for Dumpster Diving makes the connection: “In rural areas in some ancient agricultural societies, a similar process to dumpster diving was known as gleaning…”

Some in our world today must live off what others have thrown in the trash.

And some in the ancient world had to live off pieces of grain left behind in the field. Continue reading

loving kindness (hesed)

The first sermon in a 5 part series on the Book of Ruth. In this sermon I largely follow the interpretation of Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, from the Interpretation series.

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As we begin taking a look at the story of Ruth this morning, I’d actually like to begin by drawing our attention to something that happens with some regularity in the Old and New Testaments – specifically, I’d draw our attention to the numerous times that God changes somebody’s name. 

On quite a number of occasions, God comes to some person and brings a dramatic change to his or her life.

God sets him on a new path of life.

God invites her to a new way of being.

God calls him to a particular ministry

God invites her to a specific task.

And as God does so, he announces a change of name that will both symbolize and help actualize that change of life or vocation.

Even as I’m speaking there are probably examples coming to your mind. Continue reading