This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
ANTI-IMMIGRATION PARTY AHEAD IN UK ELECTION POLLS
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
Elimelech’s Family Goes to Moab
1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband.
Naomi and Her Moabite Daughters-in-Law
6 Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had had consideration for his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.’ Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. 10 They said to her, ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’ 11 But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.’ 14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 So she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ 16 But Ruth said,
‘ Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 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!’
18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
In all probability this tale was written in the years after the exiled Jews had returned from Babylon, when Ezra and Nehemiah insisted that the so-called “foreign” wives, meaning Canaanite women, should be divorced by their husbands and sent off. They were viewed as threats to religious purity and bringers of national misfortune. It has always been popular to blame resident “foreigners” for the ills of a nation.
This beautiful story shows how Jewish people found a livelihood in a foreign land, where their sons were glad to marry “foreign” women. After the tragic deaths of the her husband and sons, the widowed mother decides to return to Israel, and advises her daughters -in-law to remain with their own people. One does so, but the other declares her love and loyalty in words that abolish the distance between the modern reader and the ancient text. The true voice of human affection is unmistakable. This articulation of what matters between people blows away all nonsense about race, culture and religion, and sets before the face of bigotry the appalling truth that in bad times only love counts.
As the UK European elections continue to be dominated by the blethering racist who leads UKIP, in the absence of principled opposition from the cowards who lead the other parties, this book of the Bible offers its own profound critique of all exclusive ideologies. But it’s not a negative critique. Rather, it shows how the declaration of human affection across racial barriers creates a future in which its value is evident.
As we shall see, as we follow the story.