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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ruth and the Modern Refugee

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The reading for Sunday Nov. 22:

Ruth 1:  1-18, Ruth 4:  13-22

I cannot remember any time I have ever heard the book of Ruth preached from the pulpit.  I've studied this book in many a Bible study class--it's perfect, after all, for a Women of the Bible series.  But preached from the pulpit?  Ruth as a model for how to live our lives?  Ruth as a metaphor for God?  No, I've never been part of a church that went down this road, before I was a member of this church.

Here we have another story that gives us glimpses into how difficult it was to be a woman in the ancient world.  Naomi tries to send her daughters-in-law back to their people because she hopes they have a better chance at a decent future by parting from her.  She will not be able to give them what a woman in an ancient, patriarchal culture most needed:  a husband.

It's certainly not clear that their families of origin could do that either.  The outlook for women in general was quite bleak in ancient times.  The outlook for women isn't that much better now for most countries across the planet.

In the book of Ruth, we see a story about the outsider.  Ruth and Naomi are outsiders, strangers in a strange land.  It's hard not to see this story in our current discussion of how to treat refugees.

I have been quite distressed at how quickly the discourse has moved to angry, spewing vitriol in the wake of the Paris bombings.  I am saddened at how little we have already done for people fleeing from horrors we can't even imagine in our safety.  And now, we want to close the borders.

We are close to Advent and Christmas, a time when we will be hearing the words of the ancient prophets who call upon us to bind up the broken.  The season of Christmas will be bring a story about another set of refugees, about an ancient family forced to travel and then forced to flee.  We will hear about ancient governments who bear more than a passing resemblance to our own.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to be in countries that offer us stability--we have a duty to speak up for those who do not.  A variety of religions are very clear on that point of similarity.

Let us pray for the courage of those convictions.

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