Today's Lectionary Text
Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
The book of Ruth may not be one of the more commonly considered or read books of the Bible. It’s buried between much longer books and can be tough to find when quickly flipping pages. It’s a book of history which hints that it includes long lists of relatively unpronounceable names. It’s named after a woman and is primarily the story of that woman’s faith (and literal) journey.
The reading for today brings us close to the end of Ruth’s story. The only verses that follow are a list of the generations that precede and follow Boaz. Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed – who has a son named Jesse – who has a son named David. Yes, King David, one of the “greats” of our faith tradition, is the great-grandson of someone who converted to the Hebrew faith and is a descendant of an immigrant woman. I’d also argue that in a way he is a product of chain-migration since Ruth immigrated to her mother-in-law Naomi’s homeland.
I recognize that not all who attempt the often dangerous and challenge journey of immigration meet the definition of a “good” person (whatever that means). I recognize that not all who immigrate are doing so for a “good” reason (whatever that means). I recognize that there are valid issues of national and personal safety when it comes to welcoming the stranger in our midst.
However, I also think about all the times in our faith history when we have been the immigrants. Jacob’s family followed his original unwilling immigration to Egypt. Jacob’s descendants left Egypt, journey forty years in the dessert and ultimately made it to the Promised Land (that already had plenty of residents/natives). According to Matthew, Jesus, Mary and Joseph immigrated (fled) to Egypt to escape Herod’s attempt to kill the young children in and around Bethlehem.
I have also thought about what I would experience, how I would feel, how I would try to care for my family if a disaster brought devastation to my life and I felt that immigrating was my only option. Because of where I live and the privilege that I receive because of my nationality, education, financial situation and more, I’m not anticipating a need or desire to immigrate. Yet, I recognize that I have already “immigrated” in a way by moving from Texas to Kansas (to attend seminary and ending up staying). I have “immigrated” from Kansas to Nebraska for me and my spouse to serve in our current appointments. I am thankful for the welcome I have received as I have transitioned from a native-born Texan to a resident of Kansas and now a resident of Nebraska. I recognize that this is not the experience all have had when moving to a new place.
As we continue to hear about refuges from around the world, I invite you to imagine your thoughts and feelings if you were in the shoes of those attempting to immigrate and think about what your faith teaches about the immigrant among us.
-Rev. Karen Jeffcoat
Registrar Board of Ordained Ministry
Prayer for Reflection
Immigrants are different and different can be frightening. Lord, bring me peace so that I may open my hands to welcome the refugee. Amen.
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