Uniting together, Caring for all, Seeking God

Service Sheet 23.08.20

Uniting Church Sketty and Wesley Church Clydach

‘Worship from Home’ 23 August 2020

This ‘Worship from Home’ has been prepared by Rev Leslie Noon

Part 4 of Bible Month, looking at the Book of Ruth

Opening prayer

In the beginning, before time, before people, before the world began, GOD WAS. Here and now, in our homes, enlisting the people of earth for the purposes of heaven, GOD IS. In the future, when we have turned to dust and all we know has found its fulfilment, GOD WILL BE. Not denying the world, but delighting in it, not condemning the world, but redeeming it, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. GOD WAS, GOD IS, GOD WILL BE.

O Christ, in whose heart is both welcome and warning, say to us, do to us, reveal within us the things that will make us whole. And we will wait; and we will praise you. Amen

Introduction

We’ve reached the final chapter of the Book of Ruth. I hope, like me, you’ve enjoyed reading and reflecting on it over the last few weeks. It seems to me that it’s one of those stories that can work within us, just like the parables that Jesus told. The characters are multi- faceted, it’s about everyday relationships, there’s no moral as such, and God is rarely mentioned! But that doesn’t mean that God is absent from the story, we just have to look more deeply! My commentary tells me that the book of Ruth is about redemption. That’s such a religious word, not used much in every day life, but the dictionary says ‘the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil’. For Christians of course, we see redemption in the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ – but perhaps the book of Ruth reminds us that God has always been and will always be redeeming the world, saving the world to Godself. The book is only 85 verses long, but the word redeem or its derivatives are used 23 times.

Sing: And can it be (StF 345)

A much-loved hymn – all about redemption!

Read Ruth Chapter 4

Today, in this last week of Bible Month, we read Ruth chapter 4 – but our reflection will encompass the whole story from the Book of Ruth.

Reflection part 1 – a letter from Ruth to Orpah

My dear sister Orpah

Now that I’m settled here Bethlehem, I wanted to write to you. I remember all those years ago when we were sisters, married to brothers Mahlon and Killion and living together with our mother-in-law, Naomi. It’s almost like another life time.

I think of you often and wonder how you are doing. When, all those years ago at Naomi’s urging you turned back to Moab and I continued on the journey with her, I wondered who had made the best decision. I’ve not heard from you since, but I so hope that life has treated you as well as it has treated me.

Although I trusted Naomi and her God, it was a big risk to take, going with her back to her home. It was a long journey and we were just two women in a man’s world. But we looked after each other. When we arrived in Bethlehem, Naomi became quite depressed. She even told people to stop calling her by her given name and call her Mara instead. I didn’t know what she meant, but then someone told me that Mara means ‘bitter’ in the Hebrew language. And I suppose she did have a lot to be bitter about. No mother should have to bury her two sons.

Life was hard at first. Naomi was too depressed to do very much at all, so it was me who had to go and scrabble in the fields for the leftovers. It was hot, back-breaking work. And worse than that, as a Moabite, I was treated with suspicion and scorn by most of the people. They hate us! At that point, Orpah, I really thought I’d made the wrong decision.

But then I met Boaz. He saved me Orpah! He really did. He was kind and he made me his own! He redeemed me. Me! A foreigner and a woman! And I had done nothing to deserve such treatment. You know Orpah, they talk a lot about God here – and their God (my God, too) is very different from other gods. But the actions of my Boaz tell me something of the God of the Hebrews. That he saves us, not through any merit of our own, but simply because of his grace. And at the end of the day, they can talk about God all they like – but it’s their actions that demonstrate what they believe in.

Take care of yourself, dear Sister, and may you too be blessed. Ruth

To Ponder: Naomi, Ruth and Orpah

Think of the three women in this story. Their emotions, At the end of the story of Ruth, as they looked back on their lives, perhaps each could see God’s hand at work, even though at the time, this must have been very difficult for them. Look back for a few moments on your life and ponder how you can see God’s hand at work, even if you couldn’t at the time.

Reflection part 2 – a letter from Naomi to Orpah

My dear daughter Orpah

I hope I can still call you daughter, even after all these years. For you were a daughter to me, and it broke my heart when I had to convince you to go back to Moab. I knew how hard life would be for you, a Moab, living in Judah – and I rather felt it better that you stay among your own people.

For so long Orpah, I blamed God for all that had happened to me. I felt so empty, and I became bitter. It felt as if God was punishing me. But gradually, through the actions of Ruth and Boaz, I’ve come to accept both their loving kindness, and also, I think, God’s loving kindness. Ruth persisted in loving and supporting me, despite my being difficult and demanding – and through her actions I’ve seen God at work. Perhaps I didn’t deserve her love and support, but it was given, nonetheless. I believe that God used her – perhaps she was a strange choice, a woman and a Moabite, but I’m beginning to wonder if God doesn’t choose the most unlikely of people to show us his love.

And now, dear Orpah, I have a child – Ruth’s child, to bring me joy and delight in my old age. I am truly blessed with little Obed. And I will teach him about showing loving kindness to others because our God shows loving kindness to us. I will teach him to welcome the ‘other’, the stranger, because God welcomes the ‘other’. And if I teach him all this, then I wonder…. I wonder how this, in generations to come, though the children of his children, might change the world. Only God knows…

May the Lord bless you, daughter. Naomi

Prayer and Lord’s Prayer

Spend some time in silence, in the light of God’s presence, thinking about what you see on the news, and what you know about in your own community of friends – where there is loving kindness in action and where it is missing.

•   Bring to God your concerns for the world today

•   Bring to God people you know of today

•   Bring to God your needs for today

Then, joining in with these ancient words, said by Christians throughout time and around the world, pray ‘Our Father…’

Reflection part 3 – a letter from Orpah

Dear Ruth and Naomi

Thank you so much for your letters. I’ve learned much about your God from what you have said. I love how you see God’s loving kindness expressed through the loving kindness of one another – it seems so ordinary and yet so profound. And Ruth, I wonder if your God has chosen you because of who you are or in spite of who you are? After all, we are all a mixture of good and bad, faithfulness and unfaithfulness. But nevertheless, maybe one of your Obed’s descendants will be great, and people in generations to come will tell your story, of how God used an ordinary woman, a Moabite, in his plan to save the world.

God bless, Orpah

Blessing

May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord look on you with kindness and give you peace. Amen