Monday, August 8, 2011

“Choosing a Community”

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 14, 2011

Purpose: To affirm the importance of authentic community in the Christian life

Scripture Text: Ruth 1:8-18

Ruth 1:8-18 (NRSV)
(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, “Do not press me 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.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

The Book of Ruth is an interesting book to read, it contains a lot of the drama and romance we love in our books. The events take place within the time of the Judges in Israel, probably within a hundred years after the fall of Jericho. I say that because Ruth’s eventual husband was the son of the harlot that helped hide the spies as recorded in Joshua 2:1. The genealogy is also recorded in Matthew 1:5. Boaz's father was Salmon a descendant of Judah. The Book of Ruth was probably written during the time of David, this helps explain why the author felt compelled to explain customs that no longer existed in Israel.

Elimelech and Naomi were originally from the land of Judah, and more specifically Bethlehem. Because of a famine they migrated around the Dead Sea into Moab, where the descendants of Lot, nephew of Abraham had settled. This is important because it was not against Jewish law for Israelites to marry Moabites.

Once in Moab this family faced tragedy after tragedy, the two sons’ of Elimelech and Naomi, married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. After about 10 years, Elimelech, and his two sons all died. This left Naomi a widow with two daughter-in-laws to provide for.

Our lesson it titled, Choosing a Community, Naomi had a decision to make, stay in this foreign country of Moab or return to the home of her husband and his family. Family and friends usually offer the best opportunity for community. Today many of us build our own community via social networking; we want as many Facebook friends and Twitter followers as possible. We want to be involved with as many people as possible, we want the approval of our actions expressed by clicking a “Like” button, or we like judging others with comments or “Like.”

Naomi, by her own admission in verses 20-21, was bitter about her circumstances. She tried her best to get Orpah and Ruth to go back to their mothers’ house. If you wonder about that term of “their mother's house” and not “their fathers’ house,” it could be that it was in the mother's tent or bedroom that marriages were arranged in that society. Naomi reasons that the best chance for them to get new husbands was back in their own community.

Eventually Orpah yields to Naomi's pleadings and kisses Naomi goodbye. Ruth, whether out of her compassion or love for Naomi, declares her allegiance to Naomi and to the God that her new family worshiped. Ruth is willing to try a new community, where she can flourish, and her determination is rewarded with acceptance by her new community.

Aside from social networking, our local church can offer us an opportunity to share in community. We make friends and receive support from our local church, as well as spiritual guidance. I think the Sunday School Class offers an opportunity for community, and it offers many of those attributes we look for in establishing relationships. Our vows and pledges to each other give us a sense that we belong to something greater than ourselves.

No comments: