Strong Women of Faith: “RUTH”
Rev. Tully M. Fletcher IV
Decatur Presbyterian Church
July 17, 2022
This is the story of love and loyalty that grew out of deep pain and loss.
It is a story of a female leadership and empowerment, a story of women making bold and brave decisions. Women taking decisive action.
But this story is also so deeply rooted in the patriarchy the principle plot of the story is one woman’s quest to find a husband.
For the Hebrew people this is a story they knew well. It was one like Esther, Moses, & Abraham that was retold over and over again. Keep in mind, back then they didn’t have Netflix or Disney+ to entertain them. These stories were as much about entertainment as they were about passing along the faith from one generation to the next.
The story of Ruth ticks all the boxes, love story, enthralling plot, danger, and even a wedding. In the end of the story, Ruth goes on to become great grandmother to King David.
The book of ruth is a bit like a Disney movie, you get this incredibly long and painful and complex back story, where a parent dies, leaving a young person on their own and ready for adventure. And all of that plays out in like the first 30 seconds of the movie, before the title screen.
This story begins with a refugee crisis, with a food crisis
There was a famine in the land.
While walking to Moab
NAOMI her husband, and two sons Chilion & Mahlon were Israelites. They worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They didn’t worship idols.
They didn’t mix with enemies of their people .
But life didn’t go the way they thought. Famine was in the land, and they had to (or perhaps were led to) the land of Moab.
The Moabites, however, were a disdained people. Their offenses were so grave that in Numbers 25, Moabites were banned from the assembly of the Lord. If you were a Jew, you had to be pretty hungry to migrate to Moab. These were not people good Jews consorted with much less married—
yet both of Naomi’s children, Chilion & Mahlon, do so.
This was exactly the kind of intermarriage that was feared and opposed by the religious leaders of the Jewish people.
Chilion & Mahlon get married.
The story continues, while intermarriages were what the leaders feared most, death is what a spouse fears most, and death is what happened.
After some time, Naomi decides to head back to her home of Bethlahem.
Ruth is like Youth Ministry
The story of Ruth has a lot in common with Youth Ministry, and a lot in common with a mission trip.
1- First of all, Ruth and Orpah, were likely teenagers
2- Starts with a really terrible event
3- Feature a wise female chaperone.
4- They go on a trip together.
the trip is not that same kind of trip for the youth as it is for the chaperone. For Naomi it’s like going home, going back the important place from her own youth, for Ruth it is going to a strange new land
This is what youth trips are like, for the adults it is a return to somewhere they’ve been before, somewhere comforting.
But for the youth, it is a wild new adventure.
5- There’s some kind of work project that has to be done, the adult knows how to do it, and teaches the teenager what to do, but in actuality the teens do all the hard work, while the adults are off doing boring things.
6-There’s a social justice aspect to every good youth mission trip, and there’s a social justice lesson in the story of Ruth too, it’s a lesson about gleaning.
What is gleaning…
For the farmer it means lost income, lost crops, less produced
For the people in need it is life saving.
I lament that we have lost the biblical practice of gleaning. The mass industrialization of farming means that it is not practical to go to a farm, walk around the edge to get some food. Most farms are too far away that just getting there is impractical. Also, the bigger the farm, the less edge there is around the outside, the less there is for the land owner to give away.
6.5- There’s another social justice lesson in Ruth, about welcoming the stranger, the foreigner in your land. This is a book about immigrants, their struggles for equality, and their potential to rise to greatness. Ruth the immigrant, becomes great grandmother to the most powerful and important political leaders Israel ever had, King David.
And she is among the ancestors in a direct line to Jesus.
7-outsiders, and unexpected heroes.
Ruth is the unlikely hero, the outsider, the widow, the immigrant. Ruth is not expected to do great things.
As is the case with the way or society often treats teenagers. They are considered outsiders, they are overlooked, ignored and exploited.
8- is about when its time to go home
I always wonder about Ruth, what was her home life like before she met Naomi. Was it good? Or was it bad? Did she have a bunch of brothers and sisters that she liked or that she found really annoying?
Obviously she wanted to get away from, she preferred her new family, her marriage family, her family of choice, over her family of origin.
This kind of story plays out all the time in youth ministry and at school. Teenagers are caught between their school friends and their family, their church family and their biological family, the family they choose verse the family that was chosen for them. This tension is a natural part of adolescent development, and I see it in full swing on a mission trip .
8.5 my story
There are 2 types of people who go on a mission trip, those who get to the end of the trip and want nothing more than to get home. And those who get to the end of the trip and wish there was just one more day, one more work project,
We see both of these types in this story, orpah is the kind who gets to the end of trip and wants it to be over. Ruth, on the other hand wants the experience to keep going.
For me, in my own experience, I remember very well that sad feeling in the pit of my stomach when my first mission trip came to an end. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted another day on the trip, another day with my youth group, another day with the wise old chaperones.
In some ways, I’ve never really come home from that 1st trip. At least the Tully who left in the church parking lot that hot day in June of 1998, that kid never came home.
I’ve chosen a career and calling where I get to go on youth trips all the time.
But I’m still on a mission trip. Every day.
Every day is an adventure with God.
Everyday is just another service project.
There are a couple of more similarities between Ruth and youth group…
There is an element of risk here, a bit of danger, people having to leave their comfort zones. We see this risk for Ruth when she is out in the field next to the workers.
With mission trips we see this risk too in a variety of ways. We did work in bad neighborhoods, we visited the wrong side of town almost every day, because that’s where people in need are.
And for us in those rough neighborhoods, just like in Ruth, God showed up to provide protection and guidance.
10- Lastly, There’s a love story in Ruth, as is often the case in youth group.
Ruth even has a secret midnight rendezvous, which also happens from time to time on a youth trip.
The closing thoughts…
1-Be more like Ruth.
2-Be loyal and loving like she was with Naomi
3- Be adventurous willing to follow God’s call
And don’t just Go on a mission trip, but treat every day like it is a mission trip.