November 1, 2021

November 1, 2021

November 1, 2021

Susan Collins
Scenic South District
Laity

Ruth 2: 15-23

15 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:
16 And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.
17 So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.
18 And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed.
19 And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz.
20 And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.
21 And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.
22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.
23 So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.

Devotion

 If you have attended Vacation Bible School a few times, you know something about the life and times of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. Why has this tale not been made into a wildly successful feature length film? Naomi and Ruth are survivors, strong protagonists who endure ultimate life changing loss, make momentous decisions, become sojourners, and ultimately, are redeemed. Boaz, ultimately Ruth’s husband, is the vehicle for grace, the kinsman redeemer. The justice of Mosaic law as the overarching theme sounds noble, but it is a challenge to everyone in the market economy.
 
We learn about gleaning in Leviticus 23: 22  “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner:  I am the Lord your God.” This is not a suggestion, it is an expectation that the land, which belongs to the Lord God, and provides for the Israelites, is going to be managed appropriately to provide overarching justice and sustenance to the marginalized of society. It is not a tax, it is an expectation that there is enough for everyone, and that is taken into account. It is a model for business management that can be incorporated today, while profits are still gained, but there is an economy of grace for the poor, the migrant, the sojourner. Bruce Baker of Seattle Pacific University’s article, “Gleaning as a Transformational Business Model for Solidarity with the Poor and Marginalized” Seattle Pacific University, 1 Oct 2016, has much more to share about this biblical option. Naomi has, with her son’s widow, Ruth, returned to her homeland after losing her husband and sons. She sends Ruth out to glean grain, so that they can grind it into flour that will allow them to make bread through the fallow season. It would take one individual a long while to hand pick enough grain from a harvested field to get enough to grind. When Ruth returns at the end of the day with an ephah, about a bushel, of grain, Naomi wisely realizes that someone has helped her out. In fact, Boaz, a kinsman, has included her with his own work crew, even providing her lunch. With his protection, she will not be in danger in the field from predation, both human or from the natural world. Naomi can breath more easily now. They will have flour this winter, and Ruth will likely be safe while gleaning. Maybe, just perhaps, Boaz will take a further liking to the young Moabite. He, in fact, is closely related enough to fulfill the role of kinsman redeemer to Ruth.
 
What is our role as believers in this economy of grace? Once, before the Pandemic, the local church that I attended had a thriving garden ministry that provided fresh produce in season and fresh bread and small hand snacks of vegetables during winter to every person who came in for food vouchers, free for the taking. About 15 people made this possible, not a huge number, just a few who cared about growing things and people. This ministry in not active at this time, and is a loss to this community. There is now at least a blessing box, where anyone can take nonperishable foods as needed. Most churches are built on tracts of land, many of them could manage a small garden. There is a food distribution source in driving distance of most communities. Many churches send money to these food banks. When Pandemic safety concerns are mitigated, should you volunteer to help package and load food boxes? Are we more concerned about what occurs inside our buildings than we are about who is struggling outside them? Boaz chose to be a beacon to the other in his community. A careworn widow who was from his town, but had been gone a long time, now unfamiliar, and her non native daughter of marriage were at risk of homelessness and food deprivation. Certainly this narrative has a stellar ending with the union of Boaz and Ruth, and their contribution to the lineage of the birth of the Messiah. That happy ending is far from the usual circumstance. Right now, 9.9% of the world population faces daily food insecurity, but in the United States, that number is 11.8% of our population. That number may sound like a small percent, but when you are the person whose belly growls with hunger, who gives the daily food ration to your child, it is personal. One of every seven households containing children in America faces some form of food insecurity regularly. How many houses along your street have children in them? Count them, and divide by 7. There are stories on your own street that you don’t know. Struggles in houses, under bridges, in tent camps, in apartments, and living in the cars that no one wants parking in their lot.  Arguably the most financially advantaged country has a higher rate of hunger and food insecurity than the world average. Being the church is about so much more than ourselves. It is about sharing whatever resources are ours to create or command with someone else. We are all walking the journey. With whom will we share our bread?

Prayer

Creator God, you have provided all things that the human and animal world need for life, for sustenance. You have provided vegetation that shelters, renews the air we breathe, feeds the world. We are poor caretakers at best, making what creates a comfortably full belly of healthy food a commodity to be brokered. God, forgive us for assuming that this night, no one nearby is going to bed cold, damp, and hungry. God, forgive us for failing to value and support family farms and local food options. God, help us to understand eating fresh food as a luxury and not an entitlement, and allow us the means to share that, respect that provision, and find a way to make a difference in our own neighborhood. In need of redemption, we are not alone. Your Word is a story of redemption. Over and over you come to your people and show us how to care for one another. Lord God, please help us find the courage to do so.  Amen