Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church Experiencing Christ In Community

Sermons

Ruth 4:1-22
Julie’s story: fullness

Intro:   Skit Guys “I am Redeemed”

Some words in our stories are sometimes hard words
    They are significant parts of how our life has been they impact on us BUT
        It does not have to determine our future
of who we will be

I am redeemed is all about the power of Christ
    To forgive and remove our sin and shame

Isn’t that what we have now in Christ
    To be redeemed is the bigger story of God’s work in us
His work is totally YES in Christ for us

I am redeemed is all about God and not about me

Just like God’s loving mercy can seem to hit us sideways
    That so often we don’t see his loving kindness
 being shown towards us when it’s right there

Just like Naomi saw bitterness as one of her words
    she doesn’t need to stay there 
as we see today God is on the move in a surprising way

In the time when the judges judged and when everyone was just doing
    What was right in their own eyes
        God would use a refugee Moabite widow and
 a wealthy farmer to bring about his plans
of the future King

today we add 2 more the last of Naomi’s words
the ones we know for her are
Emptiness, returning, seeking, finding

Today we add Fullness and with that Grandmother
As we keep on seeing right through the life and story of Ruth, Boaz and Naomi the big vision of God is always in small steps and the ordinary things of our day working through his plans step by step

Look at that in Ruth & Boaz’s life

as we read in Ruth 4:1-4
1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there.  When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.

2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.” “I will redeem it,” he said.

Boaz is a shrewd character
    He also is a man of standing in the community

The timing here keeps us hanging on,
when Boaz gets the elders of the town to sit at the gate 
who should be coming through at that time,
but none other than the very man
being sort to resolve Ruth’s future.

There is the sense in which things keep on being propelled along

now we become fully aware of what the threat is for Boaz & Ruth

Boaz won’t rest until he has his answer
    so we need to step back here a moment
        Ruth here isn’t seem as property

There is something ancient going on here we need to get a handle on,
if we are to get what Boaz is doing
it’s called Levrite marriage (from Deuteronomy 25:5-10)
    which was a way a family name could continue on and survive

you might know about that one already
    but levrite marriage worked like this       

if the husband died, a brother or close relative could take his wife as his own so that the first born son would carry on the family name


Here Boaz is about to honour Mahlon and his parents Naomi & Elimelech’s name by seeking marriage with Ruth it’s what was meant by being a kinsman-redeemer

Verses 9-10

9  Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon.  10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!”

Boaz continues to be generous and kind to the living and the dead

they marry in time Ruth has a Son
    it’s here that Naomi gets a reminder of God’s loving mercy

Naomi’s return empty from having tried a hand at life far away
is now full in a way that will fill her up with joy
        she received a kindness she did not expect
            she is a grandmother

so it ends up Ruth takes us into a much wider view of God
we end up with David, King David
as the great grandson of Obed who has a son Jesse

King David is the reason for the telling of this story
    As it points us in the directions of Gods plans
 to redeem a people as his own

from the chaos of the time of judges 2 more generation would come and go before in the Kingship of David we would enter into a much larger and more grander promise of a messiah who would come

as Paul in 2 Timothy 2:8-10 spells that out a little clearer

8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.  10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

The love of God looked beyond always seeing Christ

Look down to how the women of Bethlehem greet Naomi with the news of this grandson now laying in her lap

Verses 14-15

14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!  15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Obed is the baby who fills Naomi’s emptiness
    As much as it fills Ruth’s as well
        The faithful daughter in law
Who chose her life to be lived as one of God’s people

we see the women of the town give a special place of honour to her

Underneath we keep on being brought back to seeing the bitterness that is lodged in Naomi’s heart

How as the returning prodigal daughter came back with her hands held out empty seeking the Lord she has to also learn the Lord’s loving Kindness again and anew

The town’s women honour Ruth in this time
    By reminding Naomi that her daughter in law
has been kinder and more generous than she still sees

In this most domestic of scenes comes something so fruitful
    It is the fruit of kindness

Kindness Ruth showed first to her husband
    Then to her mother in law

Kindness Boaz shows to Ruth and then Ruth to Boaz

It is kindness that will honour an obligation to preserve the living and the dead, even where we know there is also a genuine love here between Boaz and Ruth

Over all these kindnesses is ultimately the kindness of God


Here we come to the end of the story of Ruth, Boaz and Naomi
    we are left staring at a domestic scene
of mum dad the mother in law with Obed

and the family community all celebrating the supernatural loving kindness of God

God’s loving kindness invades the space of the ordinary

His loving kindness saw into the bitterness of a widows heart
    Showing mercy
He reached into the generosity of a wealthy farmer who got the law was always pointing to a relationship with a living and loving God

His loving kindness brought together a Moabite Refugee and an older farmer from Bethlehem and brought from this a family line that would see Obed bear a son named Jesse who would bear a son named David

Much later on in Matthew 1 Ruth and Boaz would also take their place in the genealogy of Jesus the one who God’s loving kindness would be seen in the flesh and through who each one of us would finally meet our redeemer the Son of God who comes to take away our sin

So now in your story
    What of God’s loving kindness do you point to?

If you looked at the words in your biography of your life
what word in them points out
the bigger view of God’s loving kindness in your life?

How is your life being intersected by the story of God

What of that story have you been sharing with someone else

have you been noticing
God has been on the move in you this last week,
this last month,

In your story what’s been helpful what are you thankful for in your walk with Christ? 

Sometimes we can see the faith that we profess we believe
    with the faith we actually live
        they aren’t always the same

our hearts are to prone
    to replace the sovereign place of God in our lives

Each day is part of a much larger story of God's salvation purposes going on all around us

So where are we seeing God on the move in us
        In our story

Just as we have been able to have the privilidge of seeing how God was on the move in the life and the story of a bitter widow who in returning home with a widowed daughter in law from a land far away

Bitterness gave way to fullness

Emptiness gave way to joy

Will we look up, will we look ahead

Will we see with joy the hope and the life we each have been given through that greater grandson of Boaz & Ruth

That through Jesus God brings us into his much larger story of grace, mercy and hope we need for the very small and ordinary things of today

In Christ I am not who is used to be I am redeemed…

Let’s pray…



Ruth 3:1-18
Cherryn’s story: finding

The story of Ruth is surprising when we peel back the layers
Today feels like a love story
With all the coy and cute steps in the courtship
of a refugee and a wealthy farmer

we know the pull don’t we to be settled down
to have and raise a family
to get into our own home
secure a job that will last us out

Marriage, Family and Home anchor us in place
The same as we meet in the story of Boaz, Ruth & Naomi

As we’ve been asking the question what’s your story?
When you look back at your life

When did you notice that it was suddenly part of the story of God, and where your life started taking it’s bearings off God for you, where you saw the Spirit of Jesus changing your attitudes or forgiving you that sin, or removing from you that shame

What of your character has undergone the most change as you think about your life story in the story of God?

We each have a story to tell
Just like Naomi, Ruth and Boaz

So remember back to those 6 words you’d use to describe yourself truthfully- the 6 word auto biography

Naomi keeps revealing her words to us
her first word was Emptiness
then she added returning and what would be
the other side of that coin of seeking
Emptiness, returning, seeking

the new word we add today is finding


in the book of Ruth we start intersecting the lives of where we live with the things from our past that are significant and we need to know them but that do not determine our future

For Ruth there is both the kindness she shows her Mother in Law
remarkably the sense in which she understands
through her own loss of her own husband

that her life and her future lay in the hands of Yahweh, the God of his people

Ruth was from Moab, a widow from a foreign land
A land far away from Bethlehem in both it’s place and future,

yet she was acting in a way that was more like God’s character in a time in Israel’s history where everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes

For Elimelech’s family the departure from Bethlehem was disastrous
Feeling the famine, Abandoning their home
Wasn’t met with what they dreamed it would be

A family group headed out,
the widowed wife and now widowed daughter in law return

No wonder Naomi’s first words on returning are bitterness
Naomi felt as if she had been abandoned by God

that’s where we meet with the surprise of the book of Ruth
Here amongst the sadness and loss and bitterness
God’s loving kindness keeps on surprising us

Naomi’s returning was without self-justification
returning with her hands held out and empty
looking and sensing
what repentance is like

I went away full and came back empty
Now I know that I must return and seek the Lord’s strength
To know the Lord’s forgiveness
To finally see the hand of the Lord

The emptiness of Naomi
Is met head on by a sense of fullness and now expectation

In the vulnerability of Ruth and Naomi’s situation
They are met with plenty


 

Just as Ruth found out when she went to see what she could get from the plenty of barley being harvested in the fields of Bethlehem

She ends up in the fields belong to Boaz
A distant relative to Naomi,
a man who will surprise us some more
in what kindness he will show

Boaz is a generous man who opens wide our view of God
he goes further in his compassion for those in need

He greets his workers in the field by saying to them “The Lord be with You” and they reply “The Lord bless You”

Just as he acknowledges Ruth’s kindness and care of Naomi

Ruth 2:19-20
Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”…20 “The LORD bless him!” “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”

We are not to miss it Naomi is the object of God’s kindness
Ruth gleaned enough food to survive on
There is generosity in her grief

Returning home to the Lord is now seeing his loving kindness and waiting patiently on his deliverance in her pain

In the times of the judges where everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes

Our eyes are going to be drawn wider to see the plans of God
his plans of salvation for his people
start with a widowed refugee from Moab
And a kinsman redeemer from Bethlehem

now the harvest is fully brought in the important work began
Where the potential of the harvest is fully understood
It’s here Ruth and Boaz will meet again

Things in this story keep moving Ruth and Boaz together
it’s the initiative of Naomi to find rest for herself and Ruth

Everything here is moving towards rest
The harvest is brought in and after the threshing is completed
there is rest

In Naomi’s case it is rest that will see her daughter in law married and settled in a home of her own

Naomi has a plan
As we read in Ruth 3:2-4
2 Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”

Kind of reads like you might have gone through when you went out on a first date, well the first part anyway, everything is done to impress

Things are about to move fast in this relationship
Ruth shows us more of her character

Listen in to how now Ruth describes herself in her relationship to Boaz

No longer is she the trailing refugee widow who’s gleaning whatever left over barley she can find so she and her mother in law can survive

Ruth does exactly what Naomi tells her to
now she seeks to be brought in also under the claim
and the protection of the God she has come to put her trust in
Boaz had worked hard, the harvest had come in
After years of drought there was plenty in storage
He is relieved and full of the sense of accomplishment
That comes from when you get to where you hoped

We’re told he eats, drinks, things are looking up
So in good spirits he lies down
see how it unfolds next verses 8-9

8 In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!
9 “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”


 

Ruth had done everything Naomi asked of her
It’s not like she doesn’t understand what’s going on
She keeps on looking for kindness
as much as she gives out kindness herself, that’s her character

so maybe you’re wondering what’s going on here in this uncovering of Boaz’s feet

The simplest explanation is Ruth’s most boldest plea
It’s refuge

What Ruth asks for in uncovering Boaz’s feet
is exactly what Boaz had said to Ruth before
when Ruth first came to his attention

Ruth 2:12
May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wing you have come to take refuge.

The same wing of refuge is now sought by Ruth from Boaz
There is no clearer picture of refuge

Put your cloak over me, protect me so that I might find rest with you

It should draw us to see just how being brought under God’s wing
Is also his protection over us

Just as Jesus would say on his entry into Jerusalem say in Luke 13 the lament of those who refused to see the Son of God and come under his care, nurture and protection. The one thing stopping all this was the people’s refusal, they simply didn’t want him to do so

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Ruth came to Boaz for refuge
It’s a precious moment and one Boaz is poised between
Recognizing what is being asked for by Ruth

Look down at Ruth 3:10-13

10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”

There’s something he knows she doesn’t
Boaz sees Ruth’s noble and kind character, he decides to act

Like in your story who gets who you are?
Are there people who see where God has intersected your life
Where his loving kindness has made it’s mark in you

In your life is the wing of God’s protection over you
Or are you just hoping unsure if you are good enough
If God can be trusted enough
For you to have his mercy and know his forgiveness

Sometimes we get talking about God
We ask WHY we are filled with sorrow for our sins
and those that sinned against us

The question is have we actually talked to God about it
Not just talked about God in it

Have we listened in to his questions of us
Owned up to where we carried our own sense of pride
Or the functional gods we set up in place of one true God

We seem to think all is well
here we are met with the surprise that keep us on tenterhooks
There is someone closer than Boaz who is a nearer kinsman redeemer

One last thing notice at the end of chapter 3
Boaz has been listening in
He’d heard Naomi speak the words
of a broken empty bitter women

Boaz sees to it that she is full and Ruth returns home with a pledge of food that also shows us he will act to see this through

so we are left dangling with Ruth and Boaz and the future we hope for will be the future that unfolds

Again for what happens next you’ll have to come back next week

so this week
What is it from your story that you will share with someone
that helps point them to Jesus

What is one word from your 6 words that you see the glory of God’s love for you shine through and where your life has been intersected by God’s plan for you

Until then let’s pray…

Ruth 2:1-23
Mark & Jane’s story: seeking

Martin Luther, the great 16th century reformer who spoke about life being about God’s grace being all about God’s work and God’s story once said
This life, therefore is not righteousness but growth in righteousness
Not health but healing
Not being but becoming
Not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it;
The process is not yet finished but it is going on;
This is not the end but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.[1]
So when you become aware of a shortcoming in your life, do you find yourself treating it as a great crisis? Do you find yourself run to despair, do find yourself reaching for excuses, do you wish for instantaneous perfection or deliverance.
So often we face the question for ourselves
What is our life like
What’s your story
Last week as an exercise I asked you to think about if you could use only 6 words to describe yourself, what would sum you up what would you write? A 6 Word Autobiography…
Like Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Friend
Seeker, Finder, Sought-After Found
Fearful, Forgetful, Ambitious, , Angry
Trying, Stumbling
6 words you’d use to describe yourself truthfully- not 6 words others have given you but 6 words from yourself
Naomi’s first word was Emptiness

Today Naomi adds another to hers returning
we start intersecting the lives of where we live
Where the things from our past are significant and we need to know
That they do not determine our future

so the recap on the book of Ruth so far

We started out with the story of a family from Bethlehem
Who head out to Moab to chance their hand at better fortune
After severe drought devastates the land they know

Elimelech leads his family out, his wife Naomi
His two sons Mahlon & Kilion who then marry a couple of local girls from Moab

The story we soon see spirals downwards
In this new town trying to settle in and make a new life
Within 10 years both Naomi’s husband dies followed by the death of her two sons

Naomi returns to Bethlehem
It’ s during the time of the Judges and everyone is doing what they think is right in their own eyes

Naomi’s return is a reminder for her of the loss and bitterness of the life she has now left behind in Moab

Moab is now the burial place for her husband and her only 2 sons


On the way to returning Naomi spells it out for her 2 daughters in law Orpah returns home Ruth clings to Naomi

The Moabitess will leave her land having never been before part of this new community except through marriage

Ruth sees things this way
16 “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.”

Naomi is bitter in her soul, she has returned empty and lacking
She too is on her journey with God and we soon see
God is about to show her grace

It is all about to turn because this is about the great story of God


 

Grace is something we receive even when we don’t go looking for it
Sometimes isn’t our story that in the hard things of life
We can keep seeing bitterness

Ruth will be for us that window to display the grace of God

It’s been a long start
But now we shift our gaze and come upon the story of a Moabite widow, the daughter in law to Naomi to the story of Ruth

In Bethlehem the Barley harvest has begun
Production is in full swing
It was all hands on deck

now two widows are about to see mercy reach out to them


As we read in Ruth 2:1-3
1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.
2 And Ruth the Moabitea said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”
3 So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

Naomi and Ruth were living on the edge of poverty
In Boaz we meet a wealthy man, a man of standing

we are also about to meet a kindness that hinted at
it will unfold in its right time

when Boaz & Ruth meet there is an exchange of kindness

listen in to what they say
Ruth 2:11-12

11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to
live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

Ruth 2:10, 13
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”

13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”


Boaz is as generous as he is kind
As we know Ruth gleans in the field
Takes a smoko with the harvesters and is invited to stay behind the harvesters gleaning until the field was finished

In Boaz we seem to strike a man who loves God
and is generous to the vulnerable and poor

These women need protection as we sense there is a dark shadow here where in another field Ruth as a foreigner and a widow by herself may have met with harm

Boaz is protective as well as providing

Boaz observes more than the spirit of the law
He moves beyond any sense of obligations

Like we might feel we have obligations to the poor or to our family, to those who are victims or those in need

true generosity begins when we do the those things but then also choose to go further to be surprisingly gracious and extravagantly loving in the situation

just like in forgiving someone Jesus was asked by Peter in Matthew 18:21-22 “Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Not just forgive us our sins but forgive those that sin against us


 

Grace means that God meets us more than half way, and pours out on us more than what we deserve, sometimes we find it hard to stop looking at ourselves to look out to see what God is doing right now

the bitterness and grief and emptiness of Ruth & Naomi now starts to give way to promise and kindness

Seeking is something we find ourselves run to so often
How many of us seek answers starting with the question WHY?

WHY GOD DID YOU…?

The surprise we start running into with what goes on in the life of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz

Is a story that models grace
God is the redeeming God who goes out in pursuit
of those who are far off and brings them

Our God is the God who takes the low and the grieving the sad and the downcast and he lifts up their faces and points them his way

he draws us on a narrow path that leads to life

Naomi stayed home bitter in her soul she is soon caught up with God’s grace shining through a generous man Boaz who let her daughter in law glean a barley field and protected her from harm

We are drawn by an inkling that something else is at play in this generosity that we see as readers but that maybe Boaz or Ruth haven’t

Except that one is generous the other seeking survival is met with abundance that would ensure she or Naomi would not starve

All this happens close on to the dramatic return after 10 years of loss

Returning home is a rich word
How often do we return after struggle

Even when we may not have left where we live but we certainly put distance on the people we love and share our lives with

Returning is also a rich word in the Bible
That same word of returning Naomi used in Ruth Chapter 1
Is the same word the prophets used for repentance


Repentance is like someone who seeks their fame and fortune in a foreign land, who turn their back on following the God they love seeking to strike out without his hep or his assistance an then watching it all fall apart and when finally on our knees then cry out for mercy and to seek out loud for forgiveness

Oh Lord have compassion on me in your unfailing love forgives us our sins, help us to forgive those who sin against us

It is fitting with Naomi’s return that she comes without any element of self-justification

She returns home which she knows in her heart is where she belongs
Like the returning prodigal daughter –she casts her life in God’s care

The saving history of God is continuous and planned is at work in the ordinary moments of our most basic days

As Paul leads us here as followers of Jesus
What do we find ourselves seeking to drive us

Romans 8:28-30 , 37-39

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified…
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is that your hope – is that part of your story

What’s your story as a traveller in Christ
For in the Story of Naomi and Ruth seeking gives way to finding and that we will have to wait until next week to find out

So let’s pray for each one of us now
[1] Martin Luther, *Defense of All the Articles*, Lazareth transl., as found in Grace Brame, *Receptive Prayer* (Chalice Press, 1985) p.119


Ruth 1:1-22
Wendy’s  story: emptiness

Over the next 4 weeks
I want us to think about what’s our story
        Where do you come from?
        What’s shaped your life, influenced your decisions
        Helped you or harmed you encouraged or rebuked you

The people and the places of where we come from

I want us to get a bead on over these next 4 weeks of where have you been seeing your life wrapped up in the story of God

Where Jesus intersected your life, and where you are seeing him on the move right now in the stuff you are facing

 What’s your story?

We’ve got 4 stories to get us going in Ruth

A story about Naomi and her daughter in law
    And their journey

stories about emptiness, seeking, finding and fullness

like Jesus would say speaking form a mountain side when it comes to the story of God and our lives

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

In Ruth the door we open is to a story about a woman from Bethlehem

A women’s story of grief and emptiness
Of story of a journey of leaving and returning
Of bitterness and changes of fortune
A story about hope and finding
A story about fullness that looks up and forward to the bigger story of God

The story of the God who brings those who are far away close in
    finding a commitment in life
        that begins with committing your life to God

Ruth is a real story that in it’s parts is a little bit the story of us

What’s your story?

So as an exercise I would like you to think for a moment if you could use only 6 words to describe yourself, what would sum you up what would you write?  A 6 Word Autobiography…

Like Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Friend
Seeker, Finder, Sought-After Found
Fearful, Forgetful, Ambitious, , Angry
Trying, Stumbling

you get the idea 6 words you’d use to describe yourself truthfully

Have a think, each one of those words tell us something about ourselves and who we think we are, and shape our lives and direction

Just as it is in today’s story we come across a women called Naomi in Ruth 1
One of Naomi’s 6 words is Emptiness
Naomi is a woman who leaves with her husband and her 2 sons and sets out to find a new home in a new town when times get tough in the streets where she had grown up


So often in the stories of the lives of those we read of in our Bible we meet ourselves

Like who of have left our hometowns, the places we grew up in

Who of us have gone to places far away from where we knew
    We’ve left because we needed a new job
        We moved because we got married
            We wanted a change

For Naomi she lived in a time when Israel had entered the Promised Land, Naomi lived in the time of the judges

Judges was a time of chaos, a land without a ruler
The short hand summary of life in the times of Judges is Judges 21:25
“every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

It’s during this time we meet Naomi and her husband Elimelech citizens of Judah living in a farming community of Bethlehem
The story starts with departures

Ruth 1:1-5
1  In the days when the judges ruled, a there was a famine in the land and 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 Elimelech, 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 Elimelech, 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 Kiliona also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband
A famine hit the land they knew 
It was time to try their hand somewhere new like Moab

The verses speak for themselves we get the names
    We get what happens
        We get to see what unfolds in the loss and leaving

For Naomi the 10 years that pass are a spiral downwards
In those10 years Naomi looses a husband and 2 sons
She is left destitute now with the added burden of 2 Moabite daughters Ruth & Orpah
She is empty and without

So Naomi turns to the only way she knows she’s gong to survive
To returning
Ruth 1:19-22
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 Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
We live our stories
    They are not inconsequential activities to get past or through
        Each day is part of a much larger story of God’s salvation purposes going on all around us


 My day to day life has an impact on me whether I want to acknowledge that or not

Widowed, impoverished returnee with an alien in tow
    A refugee whose life is about to be interwoven into the tapestry of God’s salvation

we all have a life story like for Naomi, she may not have had much of a choice in the going away

Yet she takes on full responsibility in the returning

Just as it was for Ruth the widowed Moabitess refugee who now comes as Naomi’s daughter in law

Naomi doesn’t hide us from how she feels
    She’s a plain spoken kind of gal
        She is like a returning prodigal daughter

Who sought success far away
    Who now returns with open empty hands

It is here we meet plainly with a reality of life
    Where we place our allegiances
        The thing that most captures my heart gets my time
            It gets my attention

See what captures your eye in this story, it’s the remarkable passage between Naomi, Orpah and Ruth

Verses 8-9
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

Orpah turns back returning to her home
Ruth shows us in to the door of grace

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.”

we are only at the start of this story

here we meet with someone who reaches out for hope
    finds she receives a mercy she never expected to receive

Naomi shows us she sees the kindness Ruth and Orpah had shown her 2 boys

And here Naomi expects no kindness for herself
    In fact she can’t see the kindness that Ruth holds out to her

Because the story about grace is that this is story of the God who loves us and moves towards us in the most unexpected way

With forgiveness, tenderness and love

It is the story of compassion and forgiveness that is all about the God who comes seeking us out who finds us and redeems us even when he knows the stuff we’ve done and said and acted on and hurt

I am drawn to Ephesians 2:19-22

19  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
With Naomi and Ruth newly returned , they are two destitute woman who arrive in Bethlehem at the start of the Barley Harvest each of them is met with a surprise in what would stat to shape their lives anew.

But  that’s next week

Let’s Pray…


Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church
EMAIL: minister@TCPC.org.au
PH: 02 6765 2865