Uniting Church Sketty and Wesley Church Clydach ‘Worship from Home’ 2 August 2020
This ‘Worship from Home’ has been prepared by Heather Coleman
During the first four weeks of August we are doing Bible Month. You may remember previous years when we have looked at James, Jonah and Colossians. Bible Month is an opportunity for us to engage more deeply with a single biblical book. Bible Month 2020 focuses on the book of Ruth, which is a short and sometimes overlooked story that shows God’s faithfulness to a Moabite woman who travels to Israel.
Call to worship
In these unusual times, we come together to worship God.
Hymn: StF 94 To God be the Glory
Sing or read or pray these words, or listen here:
Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Lord, you have created such a magnificent world, and everything is important to You. You care about each one of us and we are truly grateful. We ask you to forgive us when we do anything that displeases you and help us not make the same mistakes again. Help us to listen to you, hear what you are saying and act as you want us to. We ask this in Jesus name. Amen
Reading Matthew 2: 13-15
When we read these verses from Matthew, written so long ago, I wonder if we are struck by the question ‘is anything similar happening anywhere in the world today ?’
Reading Ruth Chapter I
Why study the Old Testament? The OT was the only scripture Jesus had. He taught using it, interpreted it and helped people to understand what God was saying to them. Ruth has four chapters, and we will read a chapter each week.
So here we have the beginning of the story. Looking deeper one can get a greater insight into the significance of this account to the Israelites.
Elimelech is living Bethlehem with his family. They face famine and decide to go to the land of Moab, where there is food. Bethlehem for the Israelites was in the Promised land. During Moses’ time, on their journey to the Promised land (the Exodus) the Israelites had passed through the Moabite land. The failure of the Moabite leaders to help the Israelites had led to ill feelings towards the Moabite people.
We must assume that Elimelech felt safe enough to take his family to Moab. Soon after they arrived Elimelech dies, leaving Naomi with her two son Mahlon and Chilion. The sons find wives among the Moabite women. One needs to remember the Israelite had rules about who one could marry. Marrying outside the Israelite people in the past had led to people turning to other gods and worship them. So marrying Moabite women was not really acceptable.
Tragedy strikes again. Both Naomi’s sons die.
Elimelech had owned land in Bethlehem, which needed to be passed to a male heir if the land was to be kept in the family. There was little chance Naomi could have another son which one of her daughter’s in law could marry (which was the custom of the time).
Naomi learns that her home area has been blessed with a good harvest and decides to return.
Many people today having fled their homes because of famine, war persecution dream of one day returning. People are grateful for the help and protection they have received but long to go home. Does this give us any understanding, sympathy for the refugees we see today. Their very mixed emotions they have for the situations they now find themselves?
It was an up-hill journey back to Bethlehem. Although Naomi had walked away from the promised land and could understandably have blamed God for what had happened to her family and herself, she believed God cared about her and things would work out. Does that give us hope and remind us that no matter what is happening God is there, caring for each one of us individually and we can always turn to Him?
Many people criticise Orpah as she only travelled a short distance with Naomi, before returning to her own people. Some say Ruth did the best thing. Remember Naomi was trying to persuade both girls to return to their own families, knowing the difficulties they could face by returning with her. We know nothing of either girls’ families, or their families reaction and how much this influenced the girls decisions, Is this a reminder to us, about criticising decisions others make, when we know little of the facts and circumstances which are influencing their decisions?
We will discover later in the Book what happened to Ruth – but Orpah disappears from the story and we only imagine what happened to her.
Naomi would have known taking Ruth back to Bethlehem was not without problems. Ruth was foreign. The cultural and religious beliefs were that Moabites were considered an unclean people, yet God chose Ruth to be important in the genealogy of Jesus. Does this indicate to us that everyone is important to God and God can use all us if we choose to respond?
In our prayer time let us think about how much we are inter-connected with the rest of the world and pray for:
- our world, how we can all work together for peace and the good of all.
- for refugees and all the difficulties they face
- people who feel disconnected from their families, community and church
- those who are ill, those unsure what the future holds,
The peace of God which passeth all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge of the love of God, and of His son Jesus Christ out Lord Amen