As our consumerist culture barrels headlong into its pre-Christmas spending frenzy, I’d like to invite you to walk with me through the season we observe in the church as a way of preparing ourselves for Christmas.
Simple and captivating. Would those be the words you use to describe church? They could be, even if they aren’t for you right now. A church, after all, is no more or less than its members, members who organize a community around their faith and their spiritual practice. It is yours, and you are making it. A church’s purpose is to be a constant act of creation.
I have a friend whose spiritual practice is to write postcards to his friends. I’m lucky to be counted among them. Every month, I get at least one, sometimes two. What he writes is simple and captivating, a bit newsy and also reflective; his postcards are his gift of himself to me. I have every card he has ever sent me over the course of almost ten years. When he writes a postcard to me, and when I receive it and read it, we are having church together. I have been working on my spiritual practice of sending him a postcard in return. We are making a creative connection together. We are listening to one another and encouraging one another. His spiritual practice of making connection through postcard writing creates a state of happiness in me. His simple gesture of friendship captivates me. (more…)
This is What Redemption Looks Like
Fourth in the series,
Ruth: A Handbook for Christians
If you’ve been here from the beginning of the story, you’ve seen Naomi and her family set out from Bethlehem and go to Moab because of famine.
You’ve seen her through the catastrophic loss of both husband and sons, and you’ve walked with her back to Bethlehem in the company of Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, who clung to her and would not leave her.
You’ve also seen the hunger both of these women went through back in Bethlehem, which reduced them to living off the leftovers of others, leftovers Ruth freely to gleaned from the fields.
And then there was that night at the threshing floor when Ruth dared to uncover the truth so Boaz could see what he had to do to make things right for both herself and for Naomi.
If you’ve been here from the beginning, you might wonder what’s going to happen next. We are at the last chapter, after all.
I read this recently in Peter Marty’s column in The Christian Century:
When South African church leader Peter Storey’s father was dying of heart disease in his fifties, Story was angry. “Why should this remarkable man be taken so soon?” he asked. But one day when the two were together, the father explained to his son: “Peter, God has trusted me with this illness.” Peter notes that his father did not say, “God has sent me this illness.” Instead, what he was saying was, “Now that I have this disease, God is trusting me with the bearing of it.”
When There Has to Be Some Truth-Telling
Third in the series
Ruth: A Handbook for Christians
So far in our story from the book of Ruth, this is the way things are:
Naomi is in need. Without a husband and without sons, she is cut-off from the land and from the future children bring, both of which in her ancient agrarian society are central to the flourishing of a person’s life. Life happened to Naomi and she is, as she says, left empty and bitter, without a future she’d want anyone to share in.
Ruth, however, acts on Naomi’s need. She clings to Naomi so Naomi will not be alone. She gleans for Naomi so Naomi will have food to eat. Ruth embodies the power of human agency to act on the way things are and bring about positive change. In the face of the chaos Naomi is thrust into by events beyond her control, Ruth remains steadfast to her and works to find what is needed to sustain her life.
Yet, although she can stand with Naomi and sustain Naomi in the midst of the way things are, she cannot change the basic reality of Naomi’s life. Sure, they are scraping by, but is scraping by God’s vision for them?
Glean What You Can to Nourish Life
2nd in the series Ruth: A Handbook for Christians
As the first chapter of the story of Naomi’s restoration came to a close last week, she and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, from the land of Moab, arrive in Bethlehem. Bethlehem, as you may remember, means House of Bread, and the famine which had caused Naomi to flee with her family, husband and sons, to Moab has come to end; the House of Bread, again, has bread. So Naomi returns home, embittered. Ruth is with her, steadfastly at Naomi’s side.
But to what is she returning? How will she sustain her life? Sure, she’s back where she came from, but without a man to husband her and without sons to work for the bread she will need to eat so she can stay alive. Remember, she’s not living in our time, but hers, as hard as that is for us to hear, and without a husband and sons, she’s vulnerable, without the resources she needs to thrive. How will she make it, she who, in the first chapter, had all that woman of her time counts on to flourish in life taken from her?