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Share the Grief - Ruth 1:1-17


Our narrative lectionary reading for this week is from Ruth, chapter 1, verses 1-17.  This is the background for the story of Ruth, a moabite woman who would later be one of only 5 women listed in the genealogy of Jesus.  She was the great grandmother of King David.

In the time of the Judges, there was a man, who's name meant "My God is My King".  There was a famine in the land, so he moved with his wife and 2 sons to Moab.  His wife's name was Naomi, which meant sweet.  His sons' names meant sickness and consumption.  After living in Moab for some time the father died.  The sons took on moabite wives and then after a time died themselves.  Their wives were Orpah and Ruth.

Naomi heard that Israel was doing well again and decided to move back home.  At first she took her daughters in law with her, but on the road she considered their situation.  In Naomi's homeland they would all have to live off the generosity of those around them.  They would beg and gather grain from the corners of the fields to survive.  As moabite women, her daughters in law would be treated as second class citizens.  She was old and widowed, so she could not provide another son for them to marry.  Naomi knew they would be better off in their own homeland.  She blessed them and encouraged them to go home.

Orpah and Ruth both refused and cried, but Naomi insisted.  She claimed that God had turned against her, and though her name was "sweet" she was indeed "bitter" due to the hand of God against her.  Orpah took the cue, kissed her and left, but Ruth, meaning "companion", clung to her in an intimate embrace.  This is the same clinging that Adam claimed would lead to a son leaving his mother and father for his wife.  Ruth loved Naomi and would not leave.  Naomi insisted again, but then Ruth added words to her actions.  She made a vow to stay with Naomi, to go where she went, live where she lived, and die where she died.  She vowed that even death would not separate them, and vowed it all in the name of God, YHVH.

At this Naomi fell silent and stopped objecting.  Her self sabotaging desire to be alone was thwarted by love.  Two widows continued on the road together, into the land of Israel, the city of Bethlehem, the "house of bread".

This will all end with Naomi being blessed by this strange woman she tried to leave behind in her grief.  In fact, the world will be blessed by this woman when it is all said and done.  When we are in grief we often shove people away, we try to isolate ourselves.  We think, maybe the world would be better without my pain.  The world needs the story of these two women though, and the world needs your story of grief too.  In grief you may not have enough in you to care about what the world needs, but know this: you will feel most connected and the least alone when you share your memories, even your memories of grief.  Lois Lowry said this in The Giver: "The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain.  It's the loneliness of it.  Memories need to be shared."

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