Archive for the ‘Naomi’ Tag

Responsibilities, Insiders, and Outsiders   1 comment

Boaz--Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Boaz, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-22 (Monday)

Ruth 3:14-4:6 (Tuesday)

Ruth 4:7-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 94 (All Days)

1 Timothy 5:1-8 (Monday)

1 Timothy 5:9-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 4:16-30 (Wednesday)

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The Lord will not cast off his people:

nor will he forsake his own.

For justice shall return to the righteous man:

and with him to all the true of heart.

–Psalm 94:14-15, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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The composite pericope from 1 Timothy comes from a particular place and time, so some of the details do not translate well into contemporary Western settings.  May we, therefore, refrain from falling into legalism.  Nevertheless, I detect much of value in that reading, which acknowledges the existence of both collective and individual responsibilities and sorts out the boundary separating them in a particular cultural context.  One principle from that text is that relatives should, as they are able, take care of each other.  Another principle present in the reading is mutuality–responsibility to and for each other.

The lack of a support system, or at least an adequate one, is a major cause of poverty and related ills.  The support system might be any number of things, including:

  1. the social safety net (the maintenance and strengthening of which I consider to be a moral imperative),
  2. friends,
  3. relatives,
  4. neighbors,
  5. the larger community,
  6. a faith community,
  7. non-governmental organizations, or
  8. a combination of some of the above.

In the Book of Ruth Naomi and Ruth availed themselves of effective support systems.  They moved to Bethlehem, where Ruth was a foreigner but Naomi had relatives.  The women also gleaned in fields.  There Ruth met Boaz, a landowner and a kinsman of Naomi.  He obeyed the commandment from Deuteronomy 24:19 and left grain for the poor.  The story had a happy ending, for Ruth and Boaz married and had a son.  Naomi, once bitter, was thrilled.

One hypothesis regarding the Book of Ruth is that the text dates to the postexilic period.  If this is accurate, the story of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz functions as a criticism of opposition to intermarriage between Hebrews and foreigners and serves as a call for the integration of faithful foreigners into Jewish communities.  The Jewish support system, this perspective says, should extend to Gentiles.

Sometimes the call to exercise individual responsibility and to fulfill one’s role in collective responsibility becomes challenging, if not annoying.  One difficulty might be determining the line between the two sets of responsibilities.  Getting that detail correct is crucial, for we are responsible to and for each other.  The Pauline ethic (as in 2 Corinthians 8:7-15) which holds that those who have much should not have too much and that those who have little should not have too little is a fine goal toward which to strive, but who determines how much is too much and how little is too little?  And what is the best way to arrive at and maintain that balance?  These seem like communal decisions, given the communal ethos of the Bible.

If all that were not enough, we might have responsibilities to and for more people than we prefer or know we do.  John Donne wrote,

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

Do we dare to live according to the standard that anyone’s death diminishes us?  Do we dare to recognize foreigners and other “outsiders” as people whom God loves and whom we ought to love as we love ourselves?  Do we dare to think of “outsiders” as people to whom and for whom we are responsible?  If we do, how will we change the world for the better?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-27-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Loyalty and Perseverance   1 comment

23194v

Above:  The River Jordan, Between 1950 and 1977

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010000572/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23194

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God,

and strengthen then our faith in your coming, that,

transformed by grace, we may walk in your way;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:6-18 (Thursday)

Ruth 4:13-17 (Friday)

1 Samuel 2:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 146:5-10 (all days)

2 Peter 3:1-10 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:11-18 (Friday)

Luke 3:1-18 (Saturday)

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Some Related Posts:

Ruth 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/week-of-proper-15-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/proper-26-year-b/

Ruth 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/proper-27-year-b/

1 Samuel 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/proper-28-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-17-and-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/

2 Peter 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/week-of-last-epiphany-tuesday-year-2-shrove-tuesday/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/week-of-proper-4-tuesday-year-2/

Luke 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/fifteenth-day-of-advent-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,

whose life is in the Lord their God;

Who made the heaven and the earth,

the sea and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise forever;

Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong

and bread to those who hunger.

–Psalm 146:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Book of Ruth is a story of loyalty–loyalty to people to each other and to God.  The theme of loyalty occurs again in 2 Samuel, where David praises those who had been loyal King Saul, who had tried to kill him more than once.  But Saul had been the anointed one of God, despite his many faults.  Loyalty to God, according to St. John the Baptist, was something one expressed by, among other things, treating each other honestly and respectfully.  And we read in 2 Peter 3 that God’s sense of time differs from ours, so we ought not to lose heart over this fact.

Another Recurring theme in these readings is the human role in God’s good work.  Jesus became incarnate via St. Mary of Nazareth, who was not the passive figure many have imagined her to be.  St. John the Baptist was far from “respectable.”  And Naomi and Ruth conspired to seduce Boaz.  As the Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust wrote:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved, immigrant daughter-in-law, women can raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (New York:  HarperOne, 2011, page 33)

The methods of God’s grace can be scandalous and merely unpleasant to certain human sensibilities much of the time.  Will we reject that grace because of its vehicles?  And will we lose heart because God seems to be taking too much time?  Loyalty to God is of great importance, no matter hos shocking or delayed God’s methods might seem to us.

The liturgical observance of Advent acknowledges both scandal and perceived tardiness.  St. Joseph of Nazareth had to spare the life of his betrothed due to the scandal of her pregnancy.  And nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, where has he been?  But we should not lose heart.  May we not do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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“For Wherever You Go, I Will Go….”   1 comment

Above: Naomi and Her Daughters-in-Law, by Gustave Dore

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ruth 1:1-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.  They came to the country of Moab and remained there.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years.  Then those two–Mahlon and Chilion–also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.

She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food.  Accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living; and they set out on the road back to the land of Judah.

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,

Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house.  May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me!  May the LORD grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!

And she kissed them farewell.  They broke into weeping, and said to her,

No, we will return with you to your people.

But Naomi replied,

Turn back, my daughters!  Why should you go with me?  Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you?  Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married.  Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight, and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up?  Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage?  Oh no, my daughters!  My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the LORD has struck out against me.

They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell.  But Ruth clung to her.  So she said,

See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods.  Go follow your sister-in-law.

But Ruth replied,

Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you.  For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.

When [Naomi] saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.

When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them.  The women said,

Can this be Naomi?

She replied,

Do not call me Naomi.  Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite.  They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 22:34-40 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they came up to him in a body, and one of them, an expert in the Law, put this test-question:

Master, what is the Law’s greatest commandment?

Jesus answered him,

‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And there is a second like it:  ’Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’  The whole of the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Naomi:  Do not call me Pleasant.  Call me Bitterness, for Shaddai has has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Pleasant, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

–Ruth 1:20-21 (TANAKH), with name meanings taking the places of names

Names mean a great deal in the Book of Ruth.  Bethlehem means “the house of bread,” but there is a famine there.  Naomi means “pleasant,” while the name of her husband, Elimelech, means “my God is king.”  They have two sons, Mahlon, or “sickness,” and Chilion, or “consumptive.”  (Consumption was an old term for tuberculosis.) The name of  Orpah, who left for her mother’s house and (presumably) a second husband, means “back of the neck.”  But Ruth means “friend” or “companion.”  And, Boaz, whom we will meet in Chapter 2, bears a name meaning “in him is strength.”  Mara, of course, means “bitterness.”

Feminism has benefited women greatly, freeing many of them from economic dependence on men.  But Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth did not live in a society blessed by feminism.  Naomi understood that she was past the age to remarry, and that her life would most likely be difficult, given that her husband and sons were dead, and that there were no grandsons.  But Orpah and Ruth, her Moabite daughters-in-law, could remarry and find security.  Orpah decided to take this option, and why not, given the circumstances?  But Ruth chose a riskier path and attached her fate to that of Naomi, who had to return home, to Bethlehem.

Ruth was a Moabite, a member of a tribe descended from incest between Lot and one of his daughters.  That, at least, is the origin story from Genesis.  She was a foreigner and a polytheist.  Then she converted to the Hebrew faith, but she will still a foreigner.  So moving to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law meant living as an immigrant.  What neither she nor Naomi knew was that something far better than either of them knew awaited them there.  That, however, will come in the next day’s entry.

The reading from Matthew contains a famous quote from Jesus.  He fielded a trick question as to the greatest commandment.  So he gave an honest and excellent answer in which none of his would-be tricksters could find fault.  He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. His point was simple:  Human love is grounded in love of God.  Rabbi Hillel (died 10 C.E.) summarized the Torah by quoting the Jewish version of what we Christians call the Golden Rule.  ”The rest,” he said, “is commentary.”  Jesus agreed, and so do I.

Ruth grasped this simple yet profound lesson; her life bore witness to it.  May we do likewise.

As to Naomi, her bitterness was understandable.  I grasp it, in my own way.  Sometimes circumstances, which might me somewhat or entirely beyond our control, destroy our security, especially that of the economic variety.  Yet, without resorting to annoying and inaccurate Polyannishness or Leibnizian Optimism, hope remains.  Not everything that happens is for the best.  Voltaire was correct; some events are just bad.  But we are not alone.  God is with us, and people around us can be instruments of grace.  And what follows the disaster might be better, in God’s way, than what it replaces.  But will we trust God long enough to find out?

I am exploring these themes in my life as I write these words.  So the text of Ruth 1:1-22 hits home with me in a powerful way.  Perhaps they do with you, O reader, as well.  I, too, find it difficult to trust God sometimes.  I,  too, wrestle with bitterness, frustration, and disappointment.  Yet I know that abandoning hope is a sure way to hopelessness, and I refuse to travel that path.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/week-of-proper-15-friday-year-1/

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Posted May 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 22, Psalm 146, Ruth 1

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