After her husband died, Ruth, a Moabite, was free to go and return to her family. Yet even though she was free to go, return back to her family, and find a new husband to ensure protection and a male descendant for herself, she has decided to stay at her mother-in-law’s side instead. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, an Israelite, she, too, lost her husband. Unfortunately, back then a concept of women’s rights as we know them was not only unheard of but pretty much nonexistent. Back then marriage was viewed as an arrangement of a man’s right to a woman, and a woman’s right to male support and protection, and these women had neither. But here is Ruth, a woman in a patriarchal world, a widow without a male protector, an immigrant in a foreign land. Yet she is not a statistic – she is a resident alien with a face, not just a fingerprint but a human being created in God’s image, not just a number but a young girl with a name, and with courage and just enough faith to believe that Naomi’s God will take care of them both.
Still, Naomi, in all of her grief, brooding in her pain, she asks rather bitterly: “Ruth, and just why in the world would you suffer such a fate?” And Ruth replies those well-known words, “Don’t force me to abandon you, don’t force me to turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die and be buried. Till death do us part.”
And when you think about it, and I mean really think about it, God is like that Moabite widow, clinging to us like Ruth clings to Naomi, vowing to never desert us, to never depart from us, to never leave us abandoned and broken and defeated. God is like that immigrant woman, offering such unbreakable love as Ruth offered to her distressed mother-in-law. God in Jesus cares even when the world is indifferent. God in Jesus cares even when the earth is shaking, and the fires are raging, and the rivers are spilling. God in Jesus cares even when everything seems hopeless.
But so often we expect God to work these huge, flashy miracles that we cannot miss. We want these clear, visible signs that Jesus is with us, that he cares about us, that we are not alone, especially as we go through difficult situations in life. Oftentimes, however, God shows God’s very self to us through people like Ruth, through people who lift us up, who hear us out and respect us. Or maybe activists, and justice seekers, those who work to make the world around us into a better place. Or maybe our friends and family, those who are honest with us, love us no matter what, even when we mess up. Or those who forgive us. Those who see beyond themselves. God is with us, going wherever we go, speaking to us and caring for us through the most ordinary of people, and calling us to do the same for people around us.
Invitation’s out there, beloveds!