Unexpected Togetherness | Gentle Reverence | Disruptive Compassion
1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. 15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” 20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
The Bible contains numerous stories of God drawing people together who it would appear should have never had any connection. God does the same thing today in our own lives, leading us to the places and people who he knows that we need in our lives, especially when they are people who we would never meet, much less befriend, if it were not for His work. In thinking about your own life, who is a person with whom you are now close that you would never have believed you would be drawn into a deep relationship? How have you seen God working in your own life, or in the lives of those who you know, to accomplish this form of togetherness?
In the book of Ruth, Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, build a deep and abiding relationship that is best characterized by Ruth 1:16 that says, “where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” While this connection might seem fairly normal to us, it was unexpected as Naomi was an Israelite whereas Ruth was a Moabite, one of the tribes of people who inhabited Israel prior to the Exodus.
Ruth’s story ends with her marrying a man named Boaz and having a son with him who became the grandfather of the famous King David. Ruth’s desire to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, resulted in the birth of the most storied member of Israel’s royal line, and through him, Jesus.
One of Paul’s closest companions during his ministry was a young man named Timothy, whose mother was Jewish and father was Greek. His heritage would have marked Timothy as an outsider to both the Jews and the Greeks, yet Paul describes Timothy as “my true son in faith.” Timothy also ran into issues in his ministry due to his youth.
Timothy’s companionship with Paul provided support to him throughout his missionary journeys, while Timothy also went on to become one of the great leaders of the early church. Their joint ministry helped established theological truths that we still use today, while also reaching many early Christians through both of their preaching.
One of the common ways that we as a church celebrate our unity is by gathering together in worship of God, which we do through songs of praise, prayer, the proclamation of Scripture, and the celebration of the Sacraments. These acts of worship draw us together as the family of God.
As we are invited to partner with God in joining Christ daily in the restoration of all things, think about the ways in which unexpected togetherness can help in God’s restorative mission. This mission is not one which we can undertake alone, but rather it requires that we reach out with all people in working towards the day in which God makes all things new.
God of grace, we thank you for the ways in which you have called people in all times and in all places to work within your great work. We ask that you help us to see the people around us through your eyes rather than through our own. Help us to see the many gifts that you have given your people that we might understand the masterwork that you are creating through our joint endeavors, and help us to strive to be open to people in unexpected ways. Open us to your vision and your leading as we continue to join you in the restoration of all things. In Christ’s name, we pray; amen.