Second Sunday in Lent – Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 17, 2019  

Luke 13:31-35

One of the most beautiful stories in the bible is the story of Ruth and Naomi, told in the Old Testament book of Ruth.

Naomi was married to a man named Elimelech. Naomi and Elimelech had two sons: Mahlon and Chilion. All of them were Ephrathites who went to live in the land of Moab because of famine. Then Elimelech died. Then Mahlon and Chilion married, one marrying a woman named Orpah, the other marrying a woman named Ruth.
Then Mahlon and Chilion died, leaving Orpah and Ruth to live with Naomi.
According to the law of the land, Naomi was to provide Orpah and Ruth with new husbands; preferably the women would marry surviving brothers of their husbands Mahlon and Chilion. But there were no surviving brothers. And Naomi was too old to find a husband and have sons and then ask Orpah and Ruth to wait until the new sons grew old enough for them to marry.
Knowing all of this, Naomi instructed Orpah and Ruth to return to their mothers’ houses, hoping they would find more security there than they would if they continued to live with Naomi.
Orpah, weeping, agreed to leave and kissed her mother-in-law good-bye.
Ruth “clung to” (1:14) Naomi, saying

“Where you go I will go;
Where you lodge I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
There will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!” (1: 16b – 17)

And just so, Ruth traveled from the country of Moab to Judah with Naomi, returning to Naomi’s birth home.

 

Now, there was a rich man of the family of Elimelech, Naomi’s dead husband, the man’s name was Boaz. Ruth asked Naomi permission to go and work in fields owned by Boaz. She intended to follow the reapers of the fields, gleaning whatever grain they left behind. Naomi gave Ruth permission to go, so she went, working from “early morning… without resting for a moment” (2:7). It was there that Boaz found Ruth. Boaz asked the reapers about Ruth and they told him her story. Impressed by Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, Boaz spoke to Ruth, telling her she could, and would, find safety working in his fields.
And Boaz said to Naomi:

May the Lord reward you for your deeds,
and may you have a full reward from the Lord,
the God of Israel,
under whose wings you have come for refuge!” (2:12)

Jesus said to the city of Jerusalem:
How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings… (Luke 13:34).

Ruth found shelter in Judah, eventually marrying Boaz and having a son, who became Naomi’s grandson. They named him Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who was the father of the man who would become King David (Ruth 4:13, 17).

For the children of Jerusalem, of whom Jesus spoke, the story didn’t and hasn’t ended so well. As Jesus foretold, they would not be gathered under the wings of God. They were not willing. Ultimately, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (Luke 13:34-35). And then rebuilt. And then destroyed. And then rebuilt… again and again they have cycled through destruction and restoration. Up until this moment. They wait. They watch. They hope. There is destruction. There is restoration.

Where do we find ourselves in these stories?
Are we waiting and watching and hoping, cycling through destruction and restoration again and again?
Or have we found shelter under the wings of the God who intimately, tenderly protects us?

How does our story end?

Born into sin, suffering would be our destiny if not for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Left on our own, we would be no better than that rebellious brood of baby chicks, ducking in and out from under our mother God’s wings.

This is what we remember in Lent: what might have been our destiny. Sin, suffering, destruction, judgement– is what could have been, but for the wonderful, gracious love of God.
Our destiny is captured in the words Boaz spoke to Ruth, in the blessing her offered. God speaks just such words of hope to us:

May the Lord reward you…
may you have a full reward from the Lord,
the God of Israel,
under whose wings you have come for refuge!” (Ruth 2:12)

Our God is our refuge. Thanks be to God.
Amen.