Naomi & Her husband Ed moved to Austin, TX, from Norman, OK, in the 1980s because of the oil bust. They bought a house near Austin but they never lost their ties to Oklahoma. Especially Oklahoma Sooners football. Every year they cheered for Oklahoma. They wore red and white when everyone around them wore an ugly color of orange. They were saddened when their two sons, Mark & Charles decided to attend University of Texas instead of University of Oklahoma, but they could do nothing about it. What hurt them more was when their sons married Longhorns. Mark married a University of Texas cheerleader. Ruth did not even own anything red and white. Her car was orange, her shoes were orange, even her apartment was painted orange.
Time passed and Ed had a heart attack and died. Mark & Charles took good care of their mother, along with their wives Orpah and Ruth. One awful day Mark & Charles were driving home from a Red River Shootout game and were hit by a drunk driver. Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth were devastated. Naomi decide she would return to Norman, OK. She managed to sell her home in TX and buy her old family farm outside of Norman. She offered a home to Orpah and Ruth. They are packing the U-Haul when Naomi turns to them both and says, Orpah, dear, Ruth, darling, you don’t have to come with me. Go back to UT get your master’s degrees or maybe meet another man and remarry. Orpah gets in her orange pickup and drives away. Ruth says to Naomi,
"I will go with you to Norman. I will buy a Sooner T shirt. I will learn to listen to Boomer Sooner without choking. I will wave an OU flag. I will paint my car red. I will leave behind my loyalties to Texas and embrace Oklahoma because I love you and want to take care of you."
Ruth. Identity. Who is she now that her husband is dead and she is a foreigner? Will those labels haunt her? Foreign poor widow woman? Yet she loves Naomi. Is love enough to give us identity? Last fall I experienced one of the longest illnesses I have ever had (next to depression anyway). I was diagnosed with mono. Yes, I’ve heard all the jokes, and the only people I kiss were not sick (my husband & 2 daughters) and they never caught it.
Anyway, for a few days I did nothing but sleep. I got up to take my kids to school and pick them up, grab a bite to eat from the fridge, and fell back in bed. I missed so many weekends with my daughters as their daddy took them to the state fair, etc, while I lay at home on the couch with swollen glands, sore throat, and extreme fatigue. Walking from the car to the house wore me out. Walking for 20 minutes put me in bed for 2 hours for months afterward. At one point I look at the ceiling and asked God if I would ever recover. He answered what if you don’t? Then I ask what good am I to my family if all I can do is lay here? A question I’m sure many of the ill ask. God told me all I had to do was love. Loving my husband and daughters was enough. Yes, I did recover. A year later I can finally walk 3 miles at a time without having to sleep for days. I can do aerobics again and stay awake all day (most of the time)…but I find myself much more sensitive to the ill.
Ruth loves Naomi. She lets that define her. The cruel labels of poor foreign widow do not.
We glimpse the Kingdom of God and we find out God’s world is just the opposite of ours. The women have power and baby boys become king.
“What you see around you are people unable to love each other.”Ruth teaches us to love. She left everything to love an old mother-in-law. That is the true loves story here. It is not a young attractive woman finds young attractive man, fall in love, get married & have a baby. It is a cursed foreigner (here I ask you to insert whatever slang term you have heard for foreigners in our land. I won’t say them aloud) the only home she knew and the only god she knew for the love of an old woman and her mother-in-law to boot. God took that and turned it into this story about the ancestor of King David.
An old woman and a cursed foreigner took a huge risk and called a powerful man to use his power to save them. They risked everything. If Boaz would have called upon his servants to kill her, no one in power would have ever missed a foreigner. If Boaz would have refused to listen to her and simply assumed she was there why most women came to the threshing floor, to take advantage of the men’s drunken state in hope of making a few bucks. If he had even called the men’s attention to her by speaking loudly…her reputation would have been ruined forever.
They called up on him to follow the law of God and save them. Reminds me of a group of people that called upon a president to sign a certain bill. JFK signing the civil rights bill. Reminds me of a group of religious leaders who rose up to protest their gov’t’s doubling the gas prices and oppress the people. Reminds me of a group who asked congress to call a mass killing of a certain race what it is: genocide
Many times this asking of people in power to change doesn’t turn out so well. For Ruth it did, but it doesn’t for everyone. Some people--including one of her descendents--end up on the cross when they challenge the powers that be.
The Sounds of Silence, a sixties hit by Simon and Garfunkel, describes people as afraid to love and afraid to hope because of their disconnect with each other. When I preached this sermon on Oct. 14, 2007, I ended with a video of Simon & Garfunkel singing this song...let their words inspire us to love each other in order to change the world: as Ruth did. Click the link to watch.