Monday, February 27, 2012

Final Thoughts from Ruth

I finished my series in Ruth yesterday, and I thought I would post some of my final thoughts here.  If you want to hear the whole sermon, click your clicky thing HERE.

I'm not really sure what drew me to preach through this book, but I have to admit that even I didn't expect to find all that I found as I walked through this story.  What has always been presented to me as a story of loyalty and faithfulness is really a much deeper and more subversive tale.

First, Ruth is an Old Testament equivalent to the "Good Samaritan."  Ruth, who is the very model of Godliness, is in fact a Moabitess.  She's one of THEM.  You know, THEM, that group that God cannot possibly love because they are so.... not US!  The only way I can compare it for modern ears would be to tell a parable of the "Good Arab," or the "Good Communist," or the "Good Fundamentalist," or the "Good Homosexual," depending on which audience I was talking to at the time.  Ruth who is racially and religiously "impure" is the very model of faithfulness, loyalty, hard work, and honor, and God blesses her not only in her life, but also by making her a part of the lineage of King David.

Which brings us to point number 2 - nobody is "pure."  One of the reasons Ruth was written was in response to "purity" laws being put forth during the rebuilding of Israel after their exile and return.  These laws were charged responses to the fact that some people had intermarried with foreigners during exile.  This didn't sit well with Jews who felt they had suffered by remaining racially "pure," and so they developed a new set of rules of who would and would not be allowed to serve in important positions.  In the midst of this heated debate appears the story of Ruth, where the reader is left with one lasting thought - David is the great grandson of a Moabitess.  Even David wasn't "pure" enough for this standard.  We need to remember this lesson as churches when we are trying to decide just who God will or will not allow to sit in our pews, or serve in our pulpits.  Nobody is "good enough."  Nobody is "pure."

Finally, Ruth is a book that shows how full of surprises our God can be.  God is always making us say, "wow!"  He chose a stuttering murdering to lead His people from exile.  He chose a brash adulterer David to unite His people, and his womanizing son Solomon to be the very model of wisdom.  He Elijah, a foreigner, to be His greatest prophet and whole collection of cast-offs and nobodies to write those books we call "minor prophecy."  He chose a Moabitess as a model of faithfulness, and as the great-grandmother of David.  Of course, we know who ultimately comes from that same family, right?   Finally, He chose to conquer the world with a loving lamb.  He chose grace and mercy rather than armies and vengeance to fix the mess we had made.  God is full of surprises!  When was the last time you let Him surprise you?

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