Readings for 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, 11/4/12:
Ruth 1:1-18, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:11-14, Mark 12:28-34
- Ruth tends to be a favorite book of the Bible for people. Why do you think that is? I suppose it has a bit of romance, a love story, of which there are actually few in the scriptures. But the real love story here is not between Ruth and Boaz, but Ruth and Naomi. Ruth goes beyond what law and duty demands for her mother-in-law. She isn't just following rules, but following a heart that tells her that though her legal ties to Naomi are over, she has a greater obligation to stay with Naomi.
- Verses 16 and 17 have become a favorite text of mine that some couples choose for their wedding, which is interesting given that the text is a conversation between a mother and daughter in law. But this is about Ruth committing to have her path in life be the path that Naomi takes. It is an intentional decision. It doesn't just happen to them, Ruth makes it happen by her choices.
- "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help." What/who do you put your trust in? How does how you live show who you trust? Does the way you live communicate your trust in God?
- "When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish." This reminds me of the slogan I've seen - "He who dies with the most toys still dies."
- :6-:9 - These verses mirror Isaiah 61 in the tasks of justice that God has a reputation for: care for the oppressed, food for the hungry, freedom for captives, sight for the blind, presence for the stranger, assistance to widows and orphans. Repeatedly we hear that this is what God is about. What is your reputation of care? How are you helping bring God's tasks of justice to reality?
- We continue with the author's high priest Jesus imagery. This is the answer usually given for why Christians no longer follow the laws of the Old Testament, those in particular that have to do with sacrifice. Jesus, in place of all these animal sacrifices, gives his own blood as "eternal redemption." The author reasons, if animal sacrifice gave enough temporary purity, how much more redemption can Jesus' sacrifice get us? The ultimate amount more...
- "purify our conscience" - Is your conscience pure? I'd say despite Christ's actions, mine is still not always pure. But more specifically, what does it mean to "purify our conscience from dead works?" Everything we are still holding guilt over, I guess.
- "seeing that he answered him well" - A rare glimpse of a scribe asking a question not to trap Jesus, but out of genuine curiosity.
- Faithful Jews would know that love of God was the greatest commandment. Jesus clearly links loving God to love of neighbor, trying them together, making them support, relate to each other.
- The scribe agrees with Jesus and says this is more important than temple law and ritual. I wonder how other hearers responded to this.
- "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Imagine Jesus telling you such a thing! I believe this may be the only place in the gospels where he says something like this to someone, other than perhaps more general beatitudes about seeing the kingdom.