Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Sermon on Ruth by My Student, Robin G.

The Book of Ruth was one of the "Three Biblical Tales" that my OT-33 quarter-course read this fall. One of the seven seniors in the class, Robin Gulick, just sent me a sermon that she recently preached at her field site based on the first chapter of Ruth. Thanks, Robin! Here is a long excerpt from the end of her text:

In the story we just heard. Naomi leads her daughters-in-law away from Moab towards her home in Judah. All three women have lost their husbands. All three women are leading very insecure lives. Their future is not assured. They hunger for food, and for life.

They begin a journey to satisfy their hunger. Their destination is Bethlehem of Judah.

Bethlehem – the name translates to “the House of Bread”

Naomi is leading her two daughters-in-law to the House of Bread. To a home far from the famine that has marked their lives for over a decade.

They are on a journey back towards God’s people, back towards God’s favor, back towards God’s life-giving bread.

Naomi pauses on that journey and tries to part form her daughters-in-law. Yet Ruth reminds her that they are not strangers on the journey.

For a moment Naomi does not see why her daughters-in-law would want to go with her. Ruth, on the other hand, sees clearly.

At this moment she is determined to make a statement of friendship, family and faith. She will not let Naomi travel alone. Nor will she allow Naomi to keep her from following Naomi’s God.

She says,
“"Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God…”

When we experience times of spiritual famine in our own lives, we can take a similar journey.

We take the journey in relationship with others – those whose faith is strong and those whose faith is faltering - there can be no strangers on this journey.

When we know others who are experiencing that dry and desolate place where God seems so far away, we can invite them to walk with us.

When we experience the famine in our own lives, we can ask, as Mother Theresa did, for others to pray on our behalf.

To pray that we may be reminded that where ever we go, God will be there. Where we lodge, God will lodge. Where we die, God will be.

Famine demands that we journey with others to a new yet familiar territory - that we return home, to the place from which we came.

Our destination is the same as it was for Naomi and Ruth.

Each Sunday we travel to Bethlehem. We take with us all the memories of famine in our lives. We bring with us the pangs of hunger. We bring our vulnerability and fear. We bring it all to the House of Bread.

We bring the memories, the hunger, and the fear through those doors and into this space. We bring those feelings of separation – that feeling that our relationship with God is somehow broken or disrupted – up the aisle and to the altar rail. We offer it all to God.

We see the breaking of the bread, the reflection of our own fears of brokenness, and we hold out our hands to receive God’s gift of recognition – God’s very self.

We hunger. We return to God.

And each time we are fed.

We call the Eucharist the Great Thanksgiving.

And we are thankful because the Lord has considered us and given us food.

We are, right now, in the House of Bread.

We are right now in a world experiencing real and spiritual famine. Next time we come, who might we consider bringing with us?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Cook,
You continue to inspire! As has been said, what a wonderful course! Between Ruth & Esther and all the rest! I bet many miss your commentary on the OT but fatherhood parenthood should be #1. All the best! We hope to see you in May '08.
Chuck & Adele

Wed Oct 24, 12:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thanks for your kind words! Yes, Rebecca gets a lot of my time now. Her baptism is coming up on Friday, November 2nd. ---S.

Thu Oct 25, 07:51:00 PM GMT-5  

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