Learning from the Book of Ruth

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For the next 4 weeks we are studying the book of Ruth together in worship.  I’m going to preach on this fascinating book for 4 weeks…I can’t wait.  In the book of Ruth there is a strange Biblical custom in which farmers, in order to help care for the widows and orphans would leave 10 percent of their fields unharvested. (Read about this in Ruth 2:2-3) These unharvested portions of the field then were opened to widows and orphans so they could glean enough food to survive.  It is this 10% that later become the Christian understanding of a tithe…that we would each give up 10% of what we earn to give to others in need. 

In my first church as a pastor, this “gleaning” of the fields became a true reality for me, when one of the members of our church drove up to our church with a grain truck full of grain.  He invited me to come along to the grain elevator and then I watched as he wrote on the ticket these words: “Geddes United Methodist Church.”  He then looked at me and said, “Go change some lives Pastor Brook!”  At first, I thought this was some sort of joke, but three truckloads later and I was convinced that this guy was serious about being a Christian!  (By the way…these weren’t the leftover grains, these were the first trucks of the harvest!)

Turn your Bible to the book of Acts for a minute.  The book of Acts is a book where Luke tells us about the life of the early church.   As you read through it you will come across strange passages like Acts 2:44-45.  “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”    The early church, too, cared for those in need by sharing all they had with each other. 

This past week the state of Washington signed a new bill into law that helps ensure long term-care for the elderly.   Some folks wonder where we get these ideas that somehow “the whole” should try to take care of the elderly, and those in need.  Well, I can tell you where that idea came from.  It came from the Bible.  It came from our book of faith.  It came from the earlier followers of Christ who took Jesus seriously when he said: “Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40   

The idea of some sort of compassionate care program is not some “new-fangled” idea taunted by a bunch of liberals, it is a rock-bottom part of the Judeo-Christian faith.  It is one of the rocks of who we are!  The idea that we have a responsibility to take care of those who can’t care for themselves is at the basement of our understanding of what it means to be “God’s people.”  

I hope and pray our country, our church, and each of us find our way back to that rock of who we are.  This world needs more people and organizations hewn from that rock I call Christ!

Your friend and pastor, learning what it means to be chiseled in the faith, Brook

Tim Schaaf