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Monday, February 20, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Ruth 2:1–13

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you.” They answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “To whom does this young woman belong?” The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.” Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!” Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.” (NRSV)

The story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, is the story of two women in poverty, trying to eke out an existence alone. Their husbands both had died, leaving them especially vulnerable in that society. Naomi decided to return to her homeland after her husband’s death, and Ruth insisted on accompanying her, even though Ruth had no moral or legal obligation to do so. By staying with Naomi, Ruth put herself at even greater risk, because she would be a foreigner in a foreign land.

To find enough food for both of them, Ruth offered to glean the fields. Gleaning was the practice of walking along behind the farm workers and picking up what was left behind—what was dropped and discarded. She found herself gleaning in Boaz’s field, and he came along, asked who she was, and gave her a protected and preferential place in the group of others who were gleaning.

Grace upon grace. Mercy upon mercy. Naomi experienced the grace and mercy of her daughter-in-law, who insisted on traveling back to Judah with her. Ruth experienced the grace and mercy of Boaz, who insisted on offering her protection and the promise of continued gleaning—a greater ease of securing food. These were two people who extended grace and mercy to another even though it wasn’t required. I’m far from as loyal as Ruth and far from as generous as Boaz, but they remind me again of grace and mercy, and the power of both. Especially in the lives of the poor. Ruth and Boaz remind me what God does for us—as impoverished as we are in so many ways. Goes the extra mile.

Dear gracious and generous God, thank you for all the grace and mercy you have extended to me. Make me ever mindful of these gifts, so that my heart might be enlarged. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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