7 November 2021
“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel!” Ruth 4:14
The mission of Back Bay is to strengthen neighborhoods, seek justice, and transform lives. They do a variety of work to help realize this mission. One such story that they recently published in their magazine, The Changing Tides, is about the process of getting an ID. A homeless man came to the Micah Day Center at Back Bay, seeking assistance. He wanted to be able to get housing, and eventually be able to find a job. Staff first helped him to apply for food stamps and find a food pantry. He received a list of places to get daily meals. To get a new social security card, he had to get a face sheet from a local hospital which temporarily takes the place of an ID. Then, he needed a new Medicaid card. Once he had both of these documents, he needed to order a new birth certificate. He would not have been able to get this birth certificate without his social security card and Medicaid card. Once he attained the birth certificate, he was finally able to go to the DMV and get an ID which he would need to secure housing. The center walks through this process regularly with those who seek their assistance. The staff is all about helping people to restart their lives as they get back on their feet.
Who do you remember who most had a profound impact on you in your life? Perhaps they are long gone by now; perhaps they are still with us. The Catholic Church especially places focus on saints who have had a profound impact on the church in some way. We also have those who have had a profound impact on us. I think of my friend John, who is always there for me when I have a difficult issue that I need to deal with. He is always there to encourage me when I am weak, or when I just need to talk through something. When I need to be strengthened in my spirit or in my faith, he is always able to do just that after we have a conversation. He lives in California now, but we grew up at the same high school. We were co-vice presidents of the Bible Club together. We actually ran against each other for Vice President of the school class; he won by about 20 votes. We both believe that we are going to be friends for life. I went to his wedding this past July, and he is planning to come to mine.
I also think about some of my elders, including teachers, some of whom have already moved on to the next world. All of my teachers had a profound influence on some part of my life. I have had many pastors do the same. I think of a friend I had from kindergarten until she succumbed to brain cancer in 2019 at the age of 23. She loved to write and she loved to travel and see the world. I love to do both of these things. The last time I spoke to her was a couple weeks after I had come back from visiting Australia for the first – and still only – time. As I told her the story of meeting Alanna, she was so thrilled and excited for me. I will always remember that. And now, often as I am writing a letter to someone, I think of how she loved to write and how she was convinced that people were losing the joy that could be found in writing on paper. For every one of us, there is a saint in our lives who we think back to, who positively influenced us, and who encouraged us. Think of who that might be for you. Chances are that you do not have to think too hard because you think about them every day. You thank them for doing something for you every week. They changed who you are today, perhaps in what you believe, perhaps in how you express yourself, or perhaps in the confidence that you now have.
Ruth and Naomi may have been each other’s saints. After Ruth married into Naomi’s family, they lived under the same roof for nearly ten years. Ruth learned about Naomi’s religion. Naomi learned about Ruth’s culture. When Naomi told Ruth to turn back, she only did so because she wanted the best for her. As a young widow, she was vulnerable. When they returned home to Bethlehem, it was the beginning of the harvest. Ruth went out to the fields to glean what was left of the crop after the harvesters had harvested. She happened to choose the field that belonged to Boaz. When Boaz found her, he asked the reapers who she was. When they identified her, Boaz recognized her according to the story that he had heard, that Ruth had been caring for and supporting his kin Naomi. He took favor on her and allowed her to take some of the best grain from the harvesters. She remained in his fields until the end of the harvest. But when the harvest was nearing its end, Naomi wanted to act on her desire to help Ruth have a good future. She had never lost this desire for her since she had told her to go back to Moab. Today’s reading picks up where Naomi tells Ruth to go to Boaz and lie down next to him. Essentially, Naomi is telling Ruth to propose marriage to Boaz. Boaz agrees, though needs to check with another kinsman first, who would have first claim to Ruth through her father-in-law Elimelech. The man refuses to take Ruth in fear that it would damage his own inheritance. So, Boaz notes in the presence of witnesses that he will take Ruth as his own.
There is a lot of drama within this story. First, Ruth goes to glean in the fields at risk of being caught and humiliated. Yet she did not have any other option. Second, Ruth goes to the threshing floor not knowing how Boaz will respond to her. I can imagine the fears that would be present in her mind: What if he refuses me? Would my reputation be publicly soiled? What would I do then? Though it doesn’t seem that she has any qualms about doing exactly as Naomi asked; she knows that she has to gain some security. Third, Ruth waits as Boaz checks with another kinsman to see if he would like to claim her instead. We have to believe that, amid all these fears, God had a hand. God guided Ruth to the right field. God knew that Boaz would have a positive response, and perhaps that is why God moved Naomi to ask Ruth to do this. God knew that Ruth would end up with Boaz despite the other kinsman. Even when you are afraid, are you able to listen to your saints and trust what they are telling you to do? Are you able to trust God? It was probably very hard on Ruth, but she did not question Naomi’s direction at this point in the story. Unlike when Naomi had asked Ruth to turn back to Moab, she has now had reason to believe in her faith again. She no longer believes that God has forsaken her. When Naomi saw how blessed Ruth was in gleaning, she had exclaimed, “Blessed be [Boaz] by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (Ruth 2:20).
First, you need to rely on the saints in your life who have been placed there by the Lord. They help you return to the right track as long as you seek their help. Some may help you through mere memories, others will help you through their words and actions. But always lean on your saints. God places people into your life for a reason. Believe in that. Trust the good people in your life. Second, believe that God is working behind the scenes. When your life doesn’t seem to be going well, if you do not turn to God, you will not turn it around. Naomi had been on the road running from one problem to the next. She ran away from famine, and then she lost her husband. Nothing seemed to be going right for her. She doubted God. But Ruth was her saint. She found God again through the good that Ruth was able to bring back to her. Trust in God. Be patient for the Lord’s blessings. God will bless you. The key is to not give up on God. Third, do not be afraid to go down to your own threshing floor. Do not be afraid to take a bold step in your life. Sometimes, in order to find what is best for you, you need to take a bold step to make it happen. 1 Thessalonians 2:2 tells us, “The Spirit of God emboldens us to proclaim the gospel without fear.” In Philippians 1:14 we read, “Boldness is contagious. When we are bold for Christ, enduring hardships for our faith, others are provoked to do the same.” How can you be bold for Christ this week? Can you take a step in your personal life that may involve a risk which has prevented you to this point? Can you bless a friend who may or may not receive that blessing well? Can you join a board in our community that is working within a Christian perspective to give back to those in need? How is God full of surprises for you? Do you believe in those surprises? Remember, God wants to use you. But God cannot use you if you are afraid all the time of the risks involved in being bold and reaching out toward a destination that you cannot fully see. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase.” Are you faithful to God? In that case, take the first step.
Do not be afraid to be a public Christian. When you are asked to gather at the beautiful river that flows by the throne of God, what will you say? Will you say yes? It is where the saints have traveled before us. It is where the saints will travel again. But it is also where you must travel if you want to be a saint for someone else. It is where you must travel if you want to be a saint for God. Soon, we will reach there, if we put boldness into our step. This week, I want you to ask yourself what you can learn from your saint. What have you not picked up on before? How can you be bold for Christ as they were? As we remember our saints today, on this All-Saints Sunday, think about Ruth and Naomi. Think about what they learned from each other. Think about the widow who gave all that she had in the temple. She did not hold anything back. Do you? Pray for wisdom. Pray for boldness. Find a way to be bold for Christ, and take a step you have only have dreamed of taking. Thanks be to God! Amen.
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
3:1 Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you.
3:2 Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.
3:3 Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
3:4 When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.”
3:5 She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”
4:13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the LORD made her conceive, and she bore a son.
4:14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel!
4:15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
4:16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.
4:17 The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
9:24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
9:25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own;
9:26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.
9:27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment,
9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
12:38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,
12:39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!
12:40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
12:41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.
12:42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.
12:43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.
12:44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”