Message Title: The Hallmark Original
Main Text: Ruth 1:1-18
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:11-14
RCL Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 or Ruth 1:1-18 Psalm 119:1-8 or Psalm 146 Hebrews 9:11-14 Mark 12:28-34
Focus: The story of Ruth is first and foremost the story of love between Naomi & Ruth.
Function: To develop friendships and relationships that will encourage your growth as a person and with God.
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 9:11-14 11 But Christ has appeared as the high priest of the good things that have happened. He passed through the greater and more perfect meeting tent, which isn’t made by human hands (that is, it’s not a part of this world). 12 He entered the holy of holies once for all by his own blood, not by the blood of goats or calves, securing our deliverance for all time. 13 If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of cows made spiritually contaminated people holy and clean, 14 how much more will the blood of Jesus wash our consciences clean from dead works in order to serve the living God? He offered himself to God through the eternal Spirit as a sacrifice without any flaw.
- Audience engagement: Controversial question time!
- Christmas movies & music before thanksgiving- Yes or No?
- I’m a firm believer in holding out until after Thanksgiving for any Christmas stuff. I prefer to also hold off on Thanksgiving until after Halloween.
- I have to tease both my mother and my mother-in-law- they both love their holiday movies. My mother-in-law starts counting down to Christmas basically in July and will watch Christmas movies as soon as summer is over. Well… that might be a slight exaggeration… but I have fun teasing her none the less.
- My favorite thing to tease is the predictability of a hallmark movie. In fact, someone made a flow chart to create your own hallmark Christmas movie.
- Create your own hallmark movie
TRANSITION: over the next two weeks, we will be engaging in a story that many Christians have retold as its own hallmark style movie. But perhaps there is more than romance to be shared in this tale?
MAIN TEXT: Ruth 1: 1-18 During the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. A man with his wife and two sons went from Bethlehem of Judah to dwell in the territory of Moab. 2The name of that man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the territory of Moab and settled there. 3 But Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died. Then only she was left, along with her two sons. 4They took wives for themselves, Moabite women; the name of the first was Orpah and the name of the second was Ruth. And they lived there for about ten years. 5But both of the sons, Mahlon and Chilion, also died. Only the woman was left, without her two children and without her husband. 6Then she arose along with her daughters-in-law to return from the field of Moab, because while in the territory of Moab she had heard that the Lord had paid attention to his people by providing food for them. 7She left the place where she had been, and her two daughters-in-law went with her. They went along the road to return to the land of Judah. 8Naomi said to her daughters-in-law, “Go, turn back, each of you to the household of your mother. May the Lord deal faithfully with you, just as you have done with the dead and with me. 9May the Lord provide for you so that you may find security, each woman in the household of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10But they replied to her, “No, instead we will return with you, to your people.” 11Naomi replied, “Turn back, my daughters. Why would you go with me? Will there again be sons in my womb, that they would be husbands for you? 12Turn back, my daughters. Go. I am too old for a husband. If I were to say that I have hope, even if I had a husband tonight, and even more, if I were to bear sons—13would you wait until they grew up? Would you refrain from having a husband? No, my daughters. This is more bitter for me than for you, since the Lord’s will has come out against me.” 14Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth stayed with her. 15Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law is returning to her people and to her gods. Turn back after your sister-in-law.” 16But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do this to me and more so if even death separates me from you.” 18When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her about it.
EXPLAINATION: The story of Ruth is first and foremost the story of love between Naomi & Ruth.
- Timing: During the Judges when Israel had no king (and they all did what was right in their own eyes)
- Israel was not faithful to God through the time of the Judges. They struggled.
- The story opens with a depiction of Naomi’s family: her husband and two sons. This is a family from the people of Israel.
- Because of famine, the people are forced to go elsewhere to find food—they got to Moab.
- To Jewish readers this would be scandalous—Moab was the location of “their enemies.”
- The Moabites were offspring of Lot and one of his daughters… but that’s a story for another time.
- Main point: Jews were told not to mingle or intermarry with Moabites because they were corrupt and followed other gods.
- This Jewish family went into “enemy territory” AND THEN! The sons MARRIED two of the women.
- We won’t get into it today but the Hebrew here isn’t a pretty fairy tale marriage. These two women were war brides—they were prizes, not people.
- The men all die. We don’t get any explanation about the death of Naomi’s husband or eventually her sons. We now have 3 widows as the focus. Rather than remain in this foreign land vulnerable, Naomi decides to return home where she can find refuge within her family.
- She encourages her daughters in law to do the same.
INTERPRETATION: The story of Ruth is first and foremost the story of love between Naomi & Ruth.
- Orpah returns to her family. She was a war bride- stolen from her family, she is finally free to return. Orpah is the logical one.
- Ruth remains with Naomi. Remains with the woman whose son kidnaped her. Ruth does the illogical thing BUT that is the spark to this story.
- Why would Ruth choose to stay with Naomi?
- Why would Ruth choose to leave her homeland to enter a new land as a widow, a foreigner, and impoverished?
- Ruth not only commits to go with Naomi but that she will be transformed and her identity rewritten by this story.
- Your people my people
- Your God my God
- The story of Ruth is one of encouragement for me—no matter how dark things seem; God can always redeem a story. Ruth, like Job, is faithful to the God of the Israelites. She, as a foreigner, sets an example for faithfulness to God even when suffering is raging like a storm.
APPLICATION: To develop friendships and relationships that will encourage your growth as a person and with God.
- The relationship between Ruth and Naomi is the focus of the first half of the book of Ruth. Though the romance is coming next week, the big love story of Chapter 1 is Ruth’s love for Naomi. Ruth provides for her vulnerable mother-in-law though she has no legal obligation to.
- Ruth’s character is defined by the actions she takes to go with Naomi and care for her.
- Ruth, though a vulnerable widow, protects an elderly vulnerable widow.
- Where Ruth and Orpah’s husbands broke many Jewish laws to accomplish their desires and acquire wives, Ruth—a Moabite enemy of the Israelites—is faithful to the law to protect the vulnerable.
- Ruth builds a relationship and fosters that relationship.
- Audience Engagement: Can you think of movies or shows without romance OR where the main story is about friendship or family connection?
- Movie Conversation: earlier we talked about hallmark movies. I recently discovered something called “The Bechdel Test” to assess one quality of characters in a movie:
- The Bechdel Test:
- The movie has to have at least two women in it,
- who talk to each other,
- about something other than a man.
- The Bechdel Test:
- This test isn’t the ultimate deciding factor about the quality of a movie but it does cause a person to pause and consider the way writers portray the characters and tell the story
- The world & the church’s mistake of hyping up romance and marriage but not emphasizing enough the value of friendship or those you can mutually grow with.
- Do you have non-romantic relationships in your life? Are they people you can be vulnerable with? Are they people who will help you flourish your faith? Are they people who will walk with you through darkness and celebrate with you through triumphs?
- Find your Ruth. Find your Naomi.
- Mentors & Accountability partners
CONCLUSION: I invite you to read the book of Ruth for discussion next week. It’s only 4 chapters—I have faith in you! While our Hallmark film has only been framed around the awesome best friend, next week… the romance ignites.Could a love story teach us anything about God or ourselves?