Sunday, 8 November 2015

Romance and Truth

Ruth 3.1-5, 4.13-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9.24-28; Mark 12.38-44

The story of Ruth is heart-warming and romantic, but also of huge theological significance. The wedding speech words about not so much losing a daughter as gaining a son are perfectly illustrated by this young woman whose loyalty to her foreign mother-in-law outlasts the brief life of her husband and steels her nerve to enter a country where there is no guarantee that she will be welcome.

Once in Israel, Ruth becomes the foreigner: a gentile in the land of the chosen people, some of whose scriptures suggest that the gentiles are to be avoided, enslaved, or even liquidated. The fact that the story of Ruth is included in the canon of scripture is valuable evidence that faith in a loving, inclusive God is the vital centre-piece of the tradition we have inherited.

Ruth stands for the blurring of the boundaries, a tradition represented by some of the less well-known characters in the Bible (e.g. Rahab, Cyrus), but also including a young woman named Mary, and culminating in Christ himself, the ultimate insider-turned-outsider, or vice-versa. Jesus is the great inside-outer, who blurred the boundaries between holiness and unholiness by getting so thoroughly inside the world’s mess that his way of love earned him the death sentence

Like his ancestor Ruth, but on an infinitely bigger stage, Jesus shows us a way of life that does not divide people into those who belong and those who don’t. The rulers of this world erect walls, and imagine they are safe behind them. Jesus makes himself known on the other side of those walls, and invites outsiders in.

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