Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The book of Ruth is full of all kinds of trauma and intrigue, famine and death, romance and marriage.
Naomi and her daughters-in-law are left alone when all the men of the family die. Remembering that women had no status in those times, this means that if they could find no male relative to take them in, they were in desperate straits.
Naomi heard that the famine in Bethlehem was over, and decided to return home. She tried to discourage her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, from following her, telling them to return to their family homes. Then maybe their family will find them new husbands.
But Ruth refused to leave Naomi. “Where you go, I will go. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” She is committed to stay with her mother-in-law.
When they arrive back in Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth have a hard time surviving. Naomi was bitter about her life, and because they had no close male relatives to take them in, Ruth had to go and glean in farmer’s fields in order to provide for them both.
Gleaning meant following the harvesters and picking up the grain they missed. It was very hard exhausting work, but it was the only way for them to survive.
Ruth was taking a chance going out to the fields. She was a Moabite woman, and the Moabites and the Israelites were enemies. But Ruth had committed herself to stay with Naomi and care for her. She went out and gleaned the field of a man named Boaz, who took pity on this Moabite woman.
Boaz even instructed his servants to give Ruth extra grain.
Ruth returned to Naomi and told her about the kindness of Boaz. Naomi remembered that Boaz was, in fact, a relative of her late husband. Her despair is turned to joy. There is hope that they will be cared for after all.
Ruth and Boaz were soon married, and Ruth had a son named Obed. We find out at the end of the story that Ruth is the grandmother of King David.
The story of Naomi and Ruth is full of God's grace. Even when Naomi is bitter about losing her husband and sons, God is there with her. Through Ruth, Naomi not only survives, she becomes the ancestor of the greatest King in Israel, and the ancestor of Jesus the Messiah.
God's grace is not always easy to see. Both Naomi and Ruth struggled to survive, losing their husbands, traveling alone in the desert to return to an uncertain welcome in Bethlehem. Naomi gave up hope and became bitter towards God. Ruth did not give up. She found a way for them to not only survive, but thrive!
For the last year, all over the world, people have struggled with loss and grief, lost jobs, and insecurity. Many have lost hope.
But there is grace all around us! God never gives up caring for people, even when they give up on God. Even in the midst of calamity, we see God's grace in the people who care for the sick, the scientists who worked tirelessly to find a vaccine, in families who find the strength to continue.
Grace is all around us. Grace is God's gift to us. Even when we become bitter or give up hope, or even turn away from God, God's grace still comes to us.
The greatest gift we have been given is in the person of Jesus. Jesus humbled himself, became one of us, and taught us how to love. When we rejected him, God still loved us, and raised Jesus from the dead.
We are called to share that grace with the world through prayer, through reconciling with those we disagree with, and caring for people in need. Through God’s grace we love all people.
There is nothing we can do to earn it. There is no way to lose it. God just showers us with grace. We are called to go out and share it with the world. Amen.