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friends so for those of you that are used to a liturgical tradition uh you may have done responsive readings before you may not have read at the end this is part of God’s story and part of the reason we respond in that way is that there’s times where the traditional response of thanks be to God maybe doesn’t seem very appropriate think about what we just read we just read a story of loss and heartbreak to respond thanks be to God just seems strange we’re in this season called lent now if you’re kind of new to church the word lent may mean nothing to you if you have a tradition maybe in the catholic church the word lent maybe maybe has some good connotations maybe it has some bad connotations but lent is a season of spiritual winter it’s a time of waiting it’s a time where we think about things like repentance things like sorrow things

like change but it’s this season where we wait for easter easter is the end of the journey this moment of resurrection this moment of new life and we will celebrate like crazy when that day comes but we recognize the fact that during this season in Jesus life at least this season was a season fraud with with danger with struggle with pain with loss all of those different things all the way up to the cross and then even after the cross on good friday there’s this weird time of easter saturday where there’s nothing for those of you that have experienced grief and loss you may kind of you may resonate with that there’s the moment of the funeral where all of the family gather but then there’s the moment after everybody else is gone and it’s just you and you sit and and it feels like the support system start to ease up they’re not there in the same

way anymore and there’s this sense of struggle and I don’t know what is next lent has all of those different connotations running through it and throughout this season we’re going to embrace some themes like lament and sorrow and we’re going to do it through this book Ruth and so an important way to start that is to just think about well why is this book important why should you care about a book that was written about 3000 years ago why does it have anything to say to us today and I think you’ll find man this book says a lot to us today this book is going to be rich and deep for us as a community so I will turn my clicker on and then it will work so let’s start here with Ruth what is the story and where does the story fit in the big picture have you ever gotten lost somewhere have you ever had that that sense of I have no clue where I am

and I’m not sure what to do next I had this feeling uh when I was skiing with some guys from church the other day uh we went to this place copper mountain it was beautiful and we had a great time and they man these guys could ski and this was my first day out this year and I’m not used to the altitude completely yet at least that’s my excuse because I would get halfway down the mountain I’d be like I am done my legs are shaking everything about me is exhausted and we’re we’re going off through these glades and they are they’re ripping they’re going over the bumps they’re going over the jumps they’re doing the whole thing and I’m just I’m just trying to keep up and so there’s these moments where I see them sort of start to disappear around trees and I have that feeling of I have no clue where I am now I could trust that the gradient will take

me where I need to go eventually there’s only one way down a mountain perhaps but I’ve tried that before and ended up in weird little villages in switzerland and ended up catching buses back not that I expected to ski down copper mountain and end up in a weird little village in switzerland that would have been very wormholy but it’s that feeling of I don’t know the area and the same is true literary if you don’t know what you’re reading then you’re sort of lost from the beginning and and to sort of demonstrate this a little bit further I’d like to try this exercise with you we’re going to try a geographical exercise I’m going to put this on the screen and I would love you someone I would love it if someone knew where this is anybody I’ll give you the the roads there we’re talking about canyon vista drive and canyon vista lane anybody know

where canyon vista driving canyon vista lana darn it I was hoping someone would live there but let’s pull back a little bit and you guys that are locals I think you’re gonna start to sort of catch the picture okay where are we now anybody get a sense of where we are now anyone okay somewhere around there yeah maybe just a little bit further out this I’ll give you a couple of little things I see bear creek on there I see red rocks vista drive I see mountain falcon morrison trailhead how about the next one where are we now so we are in morrison we’re just down the road from red rocks and at this point we’ve zoomed out back far enough that almost anybody who’s lived in colorado and denver for a while you start to get a sense of where you are on the map but if you’re not a local if you’re not not been to colorado you you probably still struggle

and then we get back a little further and suddenly you see denver coming to view and now well now if you’re american you kind of have a sense where denver is it’s never quite as far west as you think it is it’s a lot more central I used to think it was basically california and I’ve learned it’s not but there’s there’s this sort of okay I’m starting to get to grips with it and now finally we zoom back further and we now know that we’re located somewhere in the united states reading a text from ancient literature has a lot of similarities with this map exercise we assume things based on our 21st century position we think people thought like us and often they don’t things that somebody in the in the 100 what about a thousand bc would have just known instinctively we just don’t know so one of the things that we get to do when we start a new

book is we get to orientate ourselves within the text and so here we go in the days when the judges ruled to a a person living three thousand years ago in the israelite community instantly that gives you a ton of insight the days when the judge’s rules tells you something very very particular but this is what’s true of the days of the judges in judges 21 25 it says in those days israel had no king and everyone did as they saw fit the days of the judges particularly this period which is towards the end of this period of the judges were crazy days go back and read the text if you get a chance just go read through the book of judges and things happen that just don’t seem like they belong in spiritual literature you’re reading you’re like how is this happening how is this part of God’s story how am I supposed to respond thanks be to God to

this part of the text because it doesn’t fit for those of you that have been game of thrones fans over the years which may be a smaller percentage in a community like south it fits more in something like that than it does in what you would think of a spiritual literature I even got my little red pen out and gave you a little j on there instead because it is like the game of judges it’s this crazy mess of violence and it’s just bonkers to use an english expression the game the day the day of the judges was a mess and so when we read a little further knowing that this is what we’re talking about there was a famine in the land so a man from bethlehem in judah bethlehem means house of bread so there’s two things that we know instantly just by jumping into this text just a little bit this community israel was known as a place of law they had more

laws than anybody else about 618 of them they got law following down to a science they were great at it and they were known as a place where there was food because God had provided for them recently when bethlehem means house of bread it says it for a reason it was a place where there was food and so now we know that the start of this text that we’re jumping into two things have happened there is no law in the nation of law and there is no bread in the house of bread society is breaking down people don’t have enough to eat and nobody’s following the laws people are just doing whatever they think is right and think about what happens in society when that starts to take place we don’t maybe see it in america right now we don’t see it in maybe western nations but there are places all over the world where we get

to see what happens when there’s no food and there’s no law this is a picture of the map of over in this bottom sort of corner over here is a place called somalia you may have heard of it over the years because of pirates so you may have seen movies like captain phillips which talk about the fact that piracy sort of made a return and and suddenly ships with goods that were sailing to places like america were suddenly sailing past the coast of somalia and people were using boats to capture them and take all of the goods now when we see that from the eyes of western media our an automatic assumption is the people on the boats of the good guys the people that are stealing the stuff are the bad guys but think about that for a second in the context of having no food and having no law you are forced to make some very strange choices

what do you do when your family don’t have enough to eat and what do you do when you feel like everybody else is breaking the law you’re left with two choices right you either do the same as everybody else is doing and and you you start stealing stuff you start taking other people’s possessions or you decide that I’m gonna get out of town I can’t stay here anymore your choices are these piracy or becoming a refugee and so hopefully this just automatically uh early on it speaks a little bit into what’s going on in today’s world Ruth is a tale of being a refugee Ruth is a tale of leaving those pictures we see of boats overloaded with people trying to cross the mediterranean that’s what’s going on here they’re trying to get out these people leaving somalia they’re like I can get north into africa and then I can get to europe and that will be the

promised land and of course it never is there’s all of these stories about people fleeing africa trying to get to california and when they get there they find that they’re depressed because they pictured everybody had a house like hannah montana they pictured those beautiful sort of like wooden floors and they pictured everything opening straight out into the ocean and and it’s not but it is better than the life that they’re fleeing the choices a piracy or being a refugee and some of the sort of like some of the thing I’d love you to wrestle with is is just how we perceive some of those people and the choices that they make you didn’t expect probably to learn somalia at all today but these are a couple of phrases in somali that refer to pirates so on one hand you’ve got berkhad badeed which basically means pirate ocean thief and on the other

hand you’ve got badde that means savior of the oceans there’s people that refer to the pirates as the first there’s other people that refer to them as the second when families with young children say the pirates have provided us with bread the pirates become heroes this is the difficult choice that these people wrestle with all over the world in places that aren’t america and this is the choice that elimelech is wrestling with right now this hero of our text what do I do do I stay in bethlehem this place where there is no law anymore where there is no bread anymore do I stay and become a pirate essentially or do I leave and hope that there’s a better life somewhere else knowing that the chances are that I might be rejected I might be pushed away I might be treated as an outsider all of those different things this is what the text is

wrestling with and we as westerners we tend to skip over these couple of early verses and yet they ground the whole text everything we will read every part of the narrative is grounded in this idea that these people are fleeing their homeland there is no law in the nation of law and there is no bread in the house of bread and so as they leave the question that remains is well what is the story what are we going to read about what what things can we pick up what can we learn we know that they’re fleeing yes but what’s going to take place and so we read a little further so a man from bethlehem in judea together with his wife and two sons went to live for a while in the country of moab you might say so far that the story looks something like this hero husband saves helpless wife from starvation they get out they just they go and and now she’ll

be provided for the man’s name was elimelech his wife’s name was Naomi and the name of his two sons were malone and kilian the story is about fleeing the story is about becoming refugees but one of the interesting things about Ruth is when you read early on and ask who is going to be the hero of the story you probably come up with the wrong answer so most stories that we come across most narratives that we read they have a protagonist they have a hero a person that will do the things and and what I would say is when you read the bible when you read scripture across the whole thing the hero is the person behind the narrative generally the hero is the God that that is orchestrating the story but within each every individual story as well there’s usually a hero that rises up somebody that God uses and so when we look at this book

Ruth we know that these people are fleeing we know that they’re getting out of town we know that they’re refugees but they’ll probably be a hero that appears and right now the most obvious answer is one of these three people the hero is going to be elimelech or the hero is going to be malone his son or the hero is going to be killing on his son because we know that in a literature of the ancient near east the hero almost a hundred percent of the time is a man men of the heroes and women are the bystanders women are helpless that’s why nobody wanted daughters a daughter makes another man rich a son will make you rich that’s why everybody wanted sons that’s why this story seems to start with like it’s going to go in a really positive direction okay they’re fleeing but at least they have sons life has promised life has the

potential for for good things to happen and it seems like when we start off early the heroes of the story well it has to be one of these people they were ephrathites from bethlehem judah and they went to moab and lived there we’re still just few verses in but we’re already still learning so much about what’s going on twice in three verses this author tells us he reminds us oh by the way can I just point out they’re going to moab they’re leaving israel and they’re going to moab and he does it probably because moab is the enemy you don’t go across to the enemy it’s just a short journey it’s just across the jordan river but they’re going to a town where they’re not going to be welcomed and the best way for us to understand this is to understand sports analogies because they help us understand almost everything I’m a huge new york yankees fan I

don’t know why it just happened early on I was at college and and it’s never popular anywhere it’s the one thing universally you can say will get booed regardless whether you’re pastoring in michigan or colorado or wherever but I grew up watching baseball at college I would stay up late the world series was on it was the yankees versus the diamondbacks and I just had to pick a team and I didn’t know where arizona was I didn’t know who the diamondbacks were I knew something about the new york yankees even if it was just the logo so I remember this one season where the yankees were doing great but they lost to boston in the alcs I was devastated and then the next year one of the key boston players makes a movement from the yankees from boston to the yankees some of you are old enough to remember you you may remember

this is johnny damon he he makes the journey the the long journey from boston to new york and it changes everything about who he is right it changes the culture because boston they’re known as the like they have this mentality of the cowboys he’s got his big beard and he’s got his great long hair and everything and and then he goes to the yankees that are known for their clean cutness and the short hair and he has to shave everything off but there’s this question that remains this guy’s the enemy this is the guy that beat us this is the guy that hit the grand slamming game seven this is the guy that cost us a chance to go to the world series we hate this guy how will he be accepted when he crosses over to the dark side to the evil empire and all those different things and yet somehow he manages to do this thing where he becomes

beloved by both cities but that sort of sports rivalry taps us in to what’s going on here because we don’t have the same connotation of moving nation today to move from israel to moab it’s to go over to the enemy they don’t want you there they don’t like you these nations that fall back and forth and so suddenly this guy is taking his family and say we’re going into enemy territory and it’s so important that the author mentions it twice for a while in the country of moab they were ephrathites from bethlehem judah and they went to moab and lived there it’s like the author just can’t get it into your brain enough they’re in moab people this is going to get weird this is going to get crazy now elimelech Naomi’s husband died and she was left with her two sons so we know that our primary hero our potential for our sort of like protagonist is the

number one guy he’s gone elimelech is not the hero of this story we’re three four verses in and elimelech is already dead but the good news is Naomi’s going to be okay because she has sons she has the potential for a good future because she has sons life will be okay so maybe the the new story line becomes this brave sons support grieving mother maybe this is the central piece of the narrative maybe these two guys are going to step up and they’re going to do heroic things and this lady Naomi is going to be fine because she has sons so maybe the likely hero of our narrative becomes either malan or kiliana maybe like at a push maybe Naomi will become the hero maybe she’ll become the central character they married moabite women one named author and the other named Ruth so now the text takes a a darker turn because it’s one thing

to live in moab that’s kind of okay at a push in time of famine you can go live in moab but you don’t marry into moab you don’t join yourself tomorrow because these people these israelites had all of these stories about just what terrible things happened when you did that this is from numbers chapter 25 a book slightly older than the book we’re reading while israel was staying in shittum the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with the moabite women who invited them to the sac to sacrifice to their gods the people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods so israel yoked themselves to the ball of pure and the lord’s anger burned against them back in their narrative all these stories about this is what happens when you marry the wrong person when you marry into the moabite community bad things happen so

much was this narrative in case the the case that there’s this this specific prohibition just don’t do it no ammonite or moabite of any or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the lord not even in the 10th generation for they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when they came when you came out of egypt and they hired balaam to pronounce a curse on you the message over and over again is these are bad people don’t connect with them just stay distant stay separate the story takes a dark turn when we see that our two potential heroes that are remaining malon and kilian now they’re married to moabitesses it’s one thing to live in moab but you don’t take those people to become part of your family the story is now headed in the wrong direction and and and to talk about likely heroes people that

will become the centerpiece of the story malone and kilian are still number one Naomi is a good israelite woman in an israelite text maybe at a push it’s her but it’s certainly not oper and it’s certainly not Ruth these two women that her sons married in actual fact because of how central patriarchy was to this culture you might say that the order actually looks more like this it’s malan and kilian almost anybody else that’s male at least and then finally Naomi and oppa and Ruth and of the two daughters in law Ruth doesn’t even get the first mention she’s last on the list there’s no way she should take center piece of this story she’s a nobody she’s nothing after they had lived about 10 years both malone and kylian also died and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband the story moves from a story about potentially a hero husband

saving his wife a story that’s potentially about two sons that are going to support their mother through grief and loss moves through the the narrative of people making bad choices to now just flat out disaster to be single women alone in that time period was there was no hope there was nothing that could happen that would be good in her future maybe for her two daughters-in-law they can go off and get remarried but for for Naomi as a post-menopausal woman does nothing the story has gone from being a story of being refugees a fleeing of maybe of potential future hope to now we’re in the realms of tragedy now we’re in the realms of this story is going to fall apart this story can only get worse so the question is what are we even reading in this length season what is the heart of this story and this has been one of the keys to unlocking this

text over the last few years for those of you that are familiar with the bible you’ve read it a fair amount you may have come across a book called job and Naomi’s story is a female retelling of what happens to job job is a guy who is successful things are going well for him and he loses everything he loses his children he loses his property he loses everything that has been sort of grounding to his life except God except for God Naomi is job’s story in female form but here’s the big difference job being a man has the potential to recreate his own narrative he can go and make new things happen he has this potential still in front of him based on his maleness and for Naomi does nothing she has no hope of recreating a good narrative for herself in 1000 bc terms ancient near east terms her life is over she has nothing to wait for but death that taps into the

lentenness of this story early on right it is this season it’s dark and it’s cold she is an outsider in a country that she doesn’t belong and there’s no hope on a human level there is no hope the heroes of our story in those terms it’s still if there’s going to be a hero it’s almost anybody else before Naomi because she has no power she’s a nobody she is a zero in terms of influence in terms of power to rate those sort of power sort of abilities or whatever she has zero she has nothing and then we get this text Naomi heard in moab that the lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them Naomi heard that the lord had come to at the aid of his people there’s this whispering from home there’s this story that there is now bread again in the house of bread things are starting to turn around and for Naomi there’s this poor well she’ll

start to have this trajectory that moves her back to her homeland it starts to move out of moab back to the place that she came from and it’s here that we get this first glimpse that there is hope within the story that the narrative isn’t completely hopeless and to understand how this is going to work over the next few weeks it’s really important that we understand my good friend mr bill shakespeare over here shakespeare’s plays work in this magical way he has these characters that he uses as a literary device his tragedy and his comedy are almost exactly the same except for one thing so in his tragedy bad things happen and nothing stops them happening in his comedy bad things happen and then something comes along that tells you it’s going to be okay in shakespeare’s plays the device he uses is clowns now I know that apparently

fear of clowns has become a big thing so if this is a thing for you I apologize because we’re going to talk about these guys for a little while so much so is it a big thing that that recently I was told that 42 of americans are fearful of clowns the only thing that ranks above that is corrupt government terrorist attack lower gun rights infringement lower family members dying lower almost everything else and ghosts is way down there at nine percent I was expecting that to be a little higher because ghosts clowns seem like sort of you know same sort of fears but apparently clowns are now terrifying to people fortunately we’re not talking about exactly the ronald mcdonald type of clown because he’s just joyful look at him there’s nothing wrong with him it’s just bringing children joy um but we’re talking about clowns like this guy this is dog bree

from much ado about nothing clowns are these characters that they come in and they provide this comic relief they do goofy things that the other characters wouldn’t do a lot of the time they speak in prose instead of poetry because they’re uneducated people but clowns have this special function especially much ado about nothing where they have a piece of knowledge that tells you everything is going to be fine everything’s going to work out so in much ado about nothing when when the the heroine has been sort of her character has been maligned and everything is going badly for her dogbury knows the truth dogbury knows the truth and he’s going to bring the truth to leonardo the guy with the power and he’s going to fix everything everything may look really dark right now everything may look like it’s falling apart the heroes

might be fighting each other they might be falling out but but dogberry has this piece of information and he may not have brought it yet but he is on his way he is coming he is going to ride around the hill not on his white stallion because he’s a clown he doesn’t do that kind of thing but he is going to try interview on some kind of donkey or something like that and he he is he’s going to bring the story to resolution it’s going to be okay throughout Ruth this book there are these constant signs that things are going to be good things are going to work out God is at work behind the scenes characters are doing the right things and somehow even in this text that at the start seems like everything’s a disaster it is going to work out it is going to be good let’s go back to that text really briefly Naomi heard in moab that the lord had come to the aid of

his people by providing food for them we’re going to skip this week to the end of Ruth because we can do that because you can read the whole text and most of you know the end of the story and so that’s fine as well but it will help give us this sense of why that will be so important this is how it ends so boaz took Ruth and she became his wife when he made love to her the lord enabled her to conceive and she gave birth to a son the woman of women said to Naomi praise be to the lord who this day has not left you without a guardian redeemer may he become famous throughout israel he will renew your life and sustain you in your old age for your daughter-in-law who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons has given him birth that Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him and the woman living there said Naomi

has a son and they named him obed and he was the father of jesse the father of david this is the resolution this is it all coming to a great conclusion and the text will get messy at times the text will look broken at times but throughout this these hints Naomi heard that there was bread again in bethlehem when they arrive back we’re told it was the barley harvest they accounted boaz in the field there’s these little hints that God is at work still behind the text even when it seems like everything is broken there’s going to be a good resolution the story will get where it needs to go and think about what that does for us as we read this story together we looked at the start of at a map we looked at what it was to be right down close at the ground level and and we looked at these roads that we can’t possibly identify it doesn’t mean a lot and then we

zoom back and slowly the thing comes into perspective and the same is true when we look at this book Ruth overall on the ground level it’s a story about two people that fall in love Ruth and bo as well go through this romance and everything will turn out great from the point of true love true love will be shown to be victorious but but zoom back a little bit and something else is going on this is what the story is at its core the thousand foot view is this Ruth is a story of israel’s great king and his family we’re told about this lineage that this child will have that this child will be called obed and he’ll have a son who will be called jesse and he’ll have a son that will be called david and and everybody who knew who david was david was was the hero david was the the new great king who would make israel a great nation you zoom back and you see

this bigger story where God is at work but even that doesn’t get to the heart of it there’s something else going on that’s even higher up a 30 000 foot view you might call it Ruth is a story about God and his hes said love for all people this word hesed will come up over and over again it’s got this connotation of love yes but this faithful love even when it’s not deserved it’s a love that keeps coming back and keeps restoring and always hopes and is always drawing good things from bad things this is the heartbeat of Ruth the heartbeat of Ruth is that God loves this world yes we move from obed to jesse to david but it’s not enough to stop there as you will look at david’s lineages and who comes from him you see the story keeps moving and moving and moving and that ultimately is pointing towards Jesus and Ruth isn’t complete as a story

without realizing that this is God working on his big narrative his big meta narrative that covers all of history that this story is a microcosm of it God is working in history through his hessed love to restore this world to bring life where there is no life he is bringing spring out of spiritual winter he is restoring this earth this earth that he made and said was good he is taking it and saying it will be good again the story isn’t complete when you start with our brokenness and our sin the story is only complete when you start with the fact that God made us and said you are good yes we are broken yes we fall but the story isn’t about taking bad people and making them good it’s about taking this creation that was made good and restoring it through love through work through our own individual stories and at len isn’t that an encouraging thought

think about what we’ll need to read about Naomi and Ruth we’ll read about the brokenness of their story at different points will embrace their hopelessness will embrace what it is for Naomi to lose a husband and sons and feel like her story is over we’ll embrace what it is for Ruth to move into a new community of people a new nation about which she knows nothing and try to find a place and try to find security will wrestle with all of these different situations that each character is put in and ask how are they handling them and yet overall what we know is that God is working in their narratives to bring about good things what does that mean for you and I in this lent season there are seasons of our life where all we see is brokenness all we see is loss what we see is pain we feel like Naomi we feel like job we feel like God is missing from our story

and yet the real the reminder is this I am always working I am always bringing the story to completion you may not see every part of it but good things will happen I am involved in your story there’s this wrestling with Ruth because God doesn’t ever really appear but it’s clear that he’s working there is no supernatural in Ruth there are no miracles there are no startling turn of events that that has seemed to come from a spatial entity like a God that is interacting with the world all there is is God working in the hearts of individual people Ruth is a story about ordinary people doing extra ordinary things and doesn’t that speak to our world today in the midst of brokenness what is your role to play him what is my role to play yes there’ll be moments of supernatural yes there’s moments throughout scripture where God seems to step in in a very

particular way but one of the ways he seems to thrive on working one of the great joys to him appears to be when he takes ordinary people like you and I and enables us to do extraordinary things we’re told that the story will come to completion the story is going in a good direction but incredibly we’re invited to play a part in the story so at len as we begin this journey there will be times where we we reflect on lament and all of these different things but hopefully you noticed that our song choice today was remarkably upbeat for a lenten service and that’s because at its heart at our heart while we embrace this season of len as followers of Jesus we are people of joy we are people of the resurrection we are people of the new life God is involved in the story and good things are going to happen I’m going to invite the worship team

to come back on stage as we begin to close our service God thank you for this text thank you that we get to wrestle with it we get to open it and say what might you be saying to us what is this story on the surface it seems like it could be many things and and it’s ground level it’s a story about two people that fall in love but thank you for the 30 000 foot view where we get to see you working in this world through your hes said love thank you that you are faithful to your creation you made us good we appear to be broken and yet you don’t give up on us you continue to work wherever we are in our story right now for a second may we look up and see your goodness may we see you as the hero behind the scenes the one who is really controlling the story where we experience joy as we do that thank you Jesus

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