One of my friends is a pastor in Tellico Village in Tennessee. Marty recently won an award for a sermon he preached on the book of Ruth. It was later published in the International Council of Community Churches newsletter. You can read the sermon by following this link to the hompage of the Community Church of Tellico Village:
I think this is an important sermon for me to remember as I approach the advent season. It is important because it reminds me that my story is so much bigger than the myopic lense that I use to look at my world. According to the time period where Ruth was written, Moabites were the illegitimate offspring of incest – not to be associated with by those interested in ritualistic purity. Deut. 23 makes clear that these Moabite folks were forbidden to enter the assembly of the Lord. It seems that the sign “No Mobites Allowed” was the sign posted over the lunch counter of the temple.
And yet, Ruth, a Moabite woman, finds a way. I have read this four chapter book on several different occasions and find it filled with tenderness and redemption. One of the key themes of the book is how the stranger and poor should be treated. Using the same book that prevents Moabites from entering the assembly of God, the writer of Ruth was able to present a story that shows how gleaning and kinsmen redeemer laws and just plain common sense call into question the plain meaning of Deut. 23.
I think that I need Ruth to blow apart my definitions of who is acceptible and unacceptable to God. Then I need this book to reorder my priorities of what it means to live a righteous life. Along with Boaz I need to set aside the margins of my fields to allow giving and generosity to flourish. Along with Naomi who is made bitter from her circumstances in life, I need to allow grace and generosity to move me back into my right mind. Further, as I sit and wait through Advent, I need to be reminded that the Jesus in the manger had a very human family, filled with skeletons and scandals, but that God had a way of using these aparent failures for grace-filled ends.
Thanks Marty for writing such a provocative sermon.
Peace and Towels…