Devotions for the week of: February 12, 2020
Ruth 1:6-18 (NRSV)
Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
I have always loved the story of Ruth and Naomi. In the spring of 1994, this story of the love shared between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law took on even greater meaning for me and my mother-in-law.
During a four-week period, we experienced a series of happenings that still, all these years later, feel like a dream. In Week One, we learned that the engine on the only car we owned was damaged beyond repair and needed to be replaced. In Week Two, we learned that the first home that we had ever purchased had basement walls that had been “cosmetically” fixed and were actually in bad repair, resulting in severe water seepage from the spring thaw that was happening. In Week Three, our ten-month-old son suffered an abscessed lymph node in his groin that burst requiring emergency surgery an hour away from home; and, while in surgery an unexpected spring blizzard occurred. Finally, Week Four, my husband went to play racquetball with some new friends and suffered a 90 percent tear of his Achilles tendon. It required surgical repair at the same hospital we had just brought our son home two days earlier.
After getting my husband home from the clinic, and all settled in for the night with his damaged leg temporarily supported on the end of the couch, I sat down on our kitchen floor and sobbed. I was unsure what to do next when from the living room I heard the gentle encouragement, “Shell, call my mom.”
I called. Then, my amazing and wonderful mother-in-law, Margeret, took an emergency leave from her job and drove six hours (through the night) so that I could get my husband to his surgical appointment the next morning. Margaret stayed with us for two weeks and was a strong, steady, calm and loving presence for all of us as we weathered the aftermath of those four weeks.
I can only imagine that Naomi found a similar strong, steady, calm and loving presence in Ruth after losing both of her sons, and then her husband, one right after another – events which culminated in her having to leave her home.
I am grateful for all of the women who have answered the call to ordained ministry during the past fifty years; who have been a Ruth or a Margeret to a Naomi or a Shelly, refusing to leave them alone during unexpected and dramatic events in their lives. Women whose strength and care have been a beacon of hope. Women who have freely opened their hearts and their arms, reflecting God’s love and grace to those in need.
Pastor Shelly Gehring
St. John Lutheran Church, Madison, SD
God, thank you for all the women who have and who will accept your call to ordained ministry. Continue to empower them to reflect your love as they accompany those in need. Amen.
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