Redemption

re·demp·tion
rəˈdem(p)SH(ə)n/
noun
  1. 1.
    the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.
    “God’s plans for the redemption of his world”
    synonyms: saving, freeing from sin, absolution

    “God’s redemption of his people”
  2. 2.
    the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.
    synonyms: retrievalrecoveryreclamationrepossessionreturn

    Redemption is such a churchy word – and one of those words that shut people down. The only other place I remember using the word Redemption is when my mother and I would redeem Green Stamps.

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The problem of Ruth, chapter 3

this kind of loveMy daughter texted me this week as she arrived at her Book Club. “We are sick of love stories where people know they are in love 3 seconds into the relationship”  Yes, of course they are. Because life is not a Harlequin romance or a Hallmark Channel Love story. Why spend another minute of your life on drivel designed not to uplift our thoughts but rather to let us stay in that smushed zone, where our emotions are slip sliding all over the newly waxed floor of life!  Ok, enough of that. Read more The problem of Ruth, chapter 3

The Narrative Arc

“‘What did you expect?’” a friend responds.“Howard ponders this. ‘I suppose—this sounds stupid, but I suppose I thought there’d be more of a narrative arc.’”So what does that mean, a narrative arc?  It’s like the picture here of the “Story Mountain” – every story, every life has rising action, in small and larger jumps, leading to the climax – momentous moment in the story, with falling action afterwards, and a resolution or denoument at the end. It’s like a gigantic Jenga tower, with each small piece of a story (or of a person’s life) adding to the structure. In Jenga, I suppose the climax is when the darn things falls and not much falling action really – it just falls. Life is not usually like this. There is a story – a narrative arc – in our lives, and it seems to me we should take a hand in that arc. God does, surely, but I am not convinced we should be backseat drivers of our lives. Sometimes you have to get in the game.

 

In a previous blog we delved into the first chapter of Ruth, including 5 verses of catastrophe. http://holycrosslutheran-salem.org/?p=1054

Famine, relocation, new members added to the family. Death of family member. And death of more family members. Then, a glimmer of hope (there is food in Bethlehem again)! And so Naomi returns to her homeland with Ruth in tow – the gift of God to a woman who has endured much. Ruth says – where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Powerful stuff. Ruth has gotten in the game – this narrative arc of her life. She has made a choice, and she has chosen kind. Chosen loyal. Chosen Naomi. Good job, Ruth.

But remember Naomi is the main character of this story. Ruth is the hero. Naomi, in chapter 2 is confronted with the dilemma – does she get in the game, the narrative arc of her own life – or is she to be tossed about by circumstance forever and left bitter (Mara)?

Here’s what happens in chapter 2 of Ruth – back in Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth are still destitute. But there is a law in Israel that farmers must leave the edges of the land they plant to be gathered by the poor – this is gleaning – and Ruth has learned about this law. She tells her mother in law she is going out to glean – actually she ASKS permission of her mother in law, who gives it. This is step one in Naomi reclaiming her narrative arc. Last chapter we heard -“call me Mara” because her life was so bitter now. But she’s not swooning now – she is being sought for permission, and she gives it.

ruth gleaning wheatRuth gleans in a field, and is noticed by the landowner, Boaz. Now, just in case you were wondering, I believe Boaz is an honorable, probably older man, and nothing like a Hallmark Movie Swoon Inducer (yes, you must have seen those movies). I believe his motives here are righteous at all times. He is seeking to do good ( a mitzvah) by helping someone who he has ALREADY HEARD is doing good on her own – Ruth came from Moab, with Naomi. Yep, word has gotten out that Ruth is a keeper. So Boaz encourages her, and offers protection.

Next Ruth tells Naomi (and shows her what she has gleaned) all about the day in the field of Boaz and how fruitful her day of gleaning has been. Naomi is pleased. She blesses Boaz – 20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.”  Naomi is participating in her narrative arc. No, she’s not the star of the story any more – the spotlight has moved, but she is far from a speedbump in this account. She is an encourager to Ruth. More than that. Her knowledge is important “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.

Remember, Ruth is a foreigner who does not know Hebrew culture. Naomi is the keeper of important information – the whole family of Elimilech ( who died in Moab) can be redeemed, including their land which they lost in the famine – with the action of a guardian-redeemer. The Hebrew term (go el) for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers or rescues (Genesis 48:16Exodus 6:6) or redeems property or person (Leviticus 27:9–2525:47–55).

So, look who is back in her own narrative arc – Naomi, that’s who. She is a permission giver, a bearer of blessings, and a sounding board for Ruth as well as a source of important information about her culture. Naomi for the win.

Friends, why am I telling you this? Because so often, when life has dealt harshly with us, we retreat, into our shell like hermit crabs. Get in the narrative arc, folks. God is there, surely, involved in your life and mine, but we are not to be sidelined by sorrow or circumstance forever. Join your narrative arc. You will be blessed.

 

 

The ELCA Youth Gathering 2018 – we each had a part

When you start watching videos from the ELCA Youth Gathering, it’s hard to stop. Tonight at 6 pm our FLY (Faithful Lutheran Youth) group who attended the Gathering in Houston will be our featured speakers as they tell all of us about their trip, and what they learned. I hope you will join us at Holy Cross Lutheran church, 1998 Lansing Ave NE,Salem, OR 97301 at 6pm = Dessert will be served (Gluten free and healthy options available) God bless you all! – Pastor Patricia+

A Story of Abundance, Loss and Love

This summer, read the book of Ruth in the Bible. If you want the full experience, read the book of Ruth 4 times in the bible. At an average pace, it takes 25 minutes to read the book through, and there just happens to be four chapters. At Holy Cross this summer, we will read one chapter a week as part of the worship, and the sermon will be focused on that chapter. So, of course, you could read one chapter a week and keep up! No, I’m not trying to add to your prodigious to do list! I am wishing the best for you, and yearning for this summer series to enrich your life. Because nearly all of our lives are stories of abundance, loss and love – Like the story in the book of Ruth. ruth 1 Read more A Story of Abundance, Loss and Love