Summary: The story of Ruth is a story of a woman whose life has spun out of control. Does she look to society for help? Does she use her sexuality to manipulate others to help? Or does she call on her redeemer?
Have you ever noticed that so many of the Calls to Worship that we hear in church talk about joy?
Ps 66: “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!”
Ps 100 “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
Or here is my favorite one, and I suppose I overuse it sometimes -- Ps 118: “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
As a worship leader, it is sometimes tempting to make worship nothing more than entertainment. Pick out a few snappy songs and have nothing but peppy, upbeat music. Skip that depression prayer called the “Prayer of CONFESSION.” Just throw in a few prayers of THANKSGIVING instead.
It is easy to make worship nothing more than “feel good therapy.” We can come in and have everything uplifting and we can even make our benediction “Y’all have a nice day.”
But have you ever noticed that sometimes life isn’t always ready for that sort of worship?
There are those here this morning who have lost jobs, or who work at jobs that are in jeopardy.
There are marriages that are hurting, and on the brink of being ripped apart.
For many of our high school and college graduates, the joy of accomplishment is mixed with the fear of the unknown as to what happens next.
Alcohol overwhelms one person. Drugs overwhelms another. Cancer has worked its way into yet another.
Today is Memorial Day – it is a day to remember those who have given their lives to preserve our freedom and our liberties and our lives. For many, Memorial Day is a day for people to think, “Hot dog – three day weekend.” My neighborhood has a picnic on Memorial Day. But for some people, this is not a happy day – but a sad one. It is a day to remember a father who died in World War II or a brother who died in Vietnam, or a child who died in Iraq.
Life is not always upbeat and happy and joyful.
In one of Simon and Garfunkle’s songs, there are these haunting words:
I don’t know a soul that’s not been battered,
Don’t have a friend who feels at ease,
Don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees.
Certainly, it is sad to know that there are so many people in our world -- in our church here at Good Shepherd, who are hurting -- who’s souls have been battered and whose dreams have been driven to their knees.
How can a person whose life seems to be hurting as in the Simon and Garfunkle song find peace and joy?
How can a life that is in a downward spiral begin to reverse that trend and begin making positive progress?
Let’s take a look at the life of one such person in the Old Testament. If there is one person who fits that song it is Ruth. Her soul has been battered, her dreams driven to their knees. Things start out bad, and get worse.
Ruth is a small Old Testament book. It only has four chapters and it really takes just a few minutes to read it.
It starts off with chapter 1 verse 1, in which we read, "In the days when the judges ruled."
Now that happens to be a narrative phrase that is another way of saying, "In the days when we had no king."
The text continues...
"In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land," which is to say, "when there was no food..."
"...A man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.
"The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion.."
Now, if you have spent any time at all in the Old Testament, you will know right away that it is always important to find out the meaning of the person’s name, because the name’s meaning had great impact on the story.
Abraham – his name means “father of many nations” and his life is about just that – how he became a father of many nations.
Jacob was a manipulative person, and his name fit him well, because Jacob meant “supplanter”. But his name is changed to Israel when his character begins to change.
Esau means”hairy” and when he was born he had a lot of hair.
So, getting back to Ruth –