Text: Ruth 1:16b, "Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God." NRSV.
The Book of Ruth evokes many memories for me. We named our first child "Ruth" before she was born. In studying Hebrew at College the first book we tackled was Ruth, but now all I remember is the first word "Wa" meaning "And". In 1978 I attended a workshop tasked with the translation of the Book of Ruth into Inuktitut. It was an inspiring event which leads me now to talk about the importance of family and fellowship in the Christian faith.
- Family connections!
Translation of Scripture is a formidable task and the Innuit translators were quite nervous until they came to the verse which mentions Naomi, the mother-in-law. Then you could feel the tension ease and the excitement rise because family connections are very prominent in Inuktitut and other indigenous languages. They can distinguish between younger and older brothers or sisters and the one in between because their words are more precise than in English.
The two daughters-in-law then became more tangible and more understandable to the translators. It is a point we should bear in mind in the church, in our own lives and at this time in our world. Family connections should be treasured and improved upon. They are important!
There is a lot going on in this rather simple story about Ruth and her mother-in-law. We note Ruth's loyalty to her mother-in-law, inspired I suspect by love. But Ruth was a foreigner- a Moabite, not a Jew! Yet she wanted to keep her connection to Naomi in the words of this well known text, quoted above. Perhaps people of our world could learn something from this story. It is indeed important to maintain good family connections, but these can be superseded by affection and loyalty. Ruth wanted to be with her mother-in-law not only as a member of her family, but as a fellow believer in her God.
Implications of this desire and the reasons for Naomi's distress lie in the hope of family property and fields in Bethlehem which would sustain the mother-in-law in her old age. Then there is the connection to Bethlehem itself and the future family of King David, things we as Christians can appreciate when at Christmas we sing, "O little town of Bethlehem"
- The Family of God!
"Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." Although we cherish family connections and the desire to be like one another, Ruth's words teach us a very basic Christian truth, i.e., Jew or Gentile, stranger or neighbour, we are called to be the family of God. Yes, we have our differences of say colour, creed or culture, but Jesus called us to enter the Kingdom or the family of God. He says in Matt. ll:28, "Come unto me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest." Paul in Ephesians 3:15, speaking of bowing before God, writes ..."from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name."
We should take a lesson from Ruth and promise to belong not only to the family of believers, as in our own church, but to the whole family of God - to those who may worship differently to us but who worship the same God. Let us indeed be loyal to our traditions yet show love and affection to the whole family of God and promote lasting fellowship one with another.