Ruth 1:1-18 New International Version (NIV)

Naomi Loses Her Husband and Sons

1 In the days when the judges ruled,[a] there was a famine in the land. So 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 Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem

When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”

14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

                                                            Ruth 1:1-18 New International Version (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction…

Naomi had lived a hard life.  She lived in hard times.  There had been a famine in the land.  She and her husband Elimelek left their own people in Judah and went to live in Moab where they hoped to find a better life.  Naomi and Elimelek had two sons.  It couldn’t have been an easy life for them.

Naomi’s husband Elimelek died.  In the ancient world when a woman’s husband died she became totally dependent on her family, in this case her two sons.  They each married too, to Moabite women.

But then each of her sons died and she was left with no one to care for her, to help her, to stand by her…except her two daughters-in-law.

When Naomi heard that things had improved back in her homeland, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return back home.   They set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

But Naomi was a kind and gentle woman and she didn’t want her daughters-in-law to have to leave their homeland to go to hers so she told them to go back to their own homes.  While they had shown her kindness she didn’t want to hold them back from their own lives.  Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

Orpah, the first daughter-in-law went back to her people, the other one Ruth, a beautiful woman stayed with her and together they cast their fate in the Lord’s goodness.  Somehow they had faith that God would be good to them in spite of their losses, their pain and their hurt.  They trusted their futures…together to God.  In one of the most beautiful phrases of the Bible Ruth said, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”

And as the future would unfold Naomi and Ruth returned to their homeland, poor, without support, alone except for each other.  There was a custom of leaving a certain amount of crops unharvested in the field so the poor could come and have even a little bit for themselves.  As Ruth was gleaning leftover crops in a field that belonged to a man named Boaz she was seen by Boaz who was a kind and wonderful man.  He wasn’t married and he saw Ruth and went to talk with her.  They fell in love and together built a new future, a beautiful future for themselves and for Naomi.  If you know your Bible, you know that it was out of this family that King David would be born and eventually through the live of David, Jesus of Nazareth.

Perhaps this story says something to us today.

 

  1. While it is a beautiful thing and while we honor the lives of those we have loved and lost this past year it can’t be easy, it is hard to remember them and to know that we shall never hear them or see them again…in this world.

Loss is hard.

Death is hard.

Losing those we love and cherish is painful.

 

I remember my first brush with death.  I was in the 7th grade.  My parents lived in Mt. Rainier and ever since I could remember we spent significant time with my mother’s parents, my grandparents in Arbutus, just outside of Baltimore, Maryland.  I loved my grandmother, my grandfather, my mother’s sisters, my aunts and uncles and we were close.  My mother would take my brother and me in tow every Friday, board a streetcar in Mt. Rainier to go downtown to the Greyhound Bus Station and then take a Greyhound up Route 1 to Halethorpe, where we would get off the bus and then walk to my Aunt Margaret’s house, spend some time there, and then wait for my Aunt Bell to pick us up in her car and take us over to Grandmother and Grand Pop’s house.  Same routine every Friday for all my young years there in Mt. Rainier.  Those memories were so special.  My grandfather had a heart attack and we visited quietly and on extra good behavior so as not to disturb him.  I visited the last time with him in his upstairs bedroom. I can still see him propped up in his bed.  I said “Goodbye Grandpop”.  He smiled and said, “Always say “So Long”, it’s not as final.”  Then he said “Goodbye”.  I remember my mother getting the call before the next Friday came that even though he had been doing well and was expected to recover he died. My relatives were so surprised to see how hard I cried at the funeral.  I still go to the little funeral home in Arbutus, Ambrose Funeral Home, and I can still see me, 10 or 12 years old, sitting on a little bench choking back the tears and crying in hurt.

I’ve taken part in hundreds of funerals since that day but I will never forget the pain and the loss of my grandfather.  It was my first encounter with death but not my last by any means.

Death is hard.  Period.

Naomi and Ruth faced death.  They lost their husbands, their sons, their security.  They were lost souls in a strange land.  Like you, like me, like all of us they stood by the empty grave and wept as the reality of their loss drove into their hearts.

 

2. But that’s not the end of the story is it? Not for them, and certainly not for us either.  New life, new hope, new love eventually eclipsed the cold hard deaths that crushed in upon them and out of the rubble of loss came new life.

It’s not hard to understand how Naomi and Ruth felt; we’ve each had our own deep losses of those we love but it’s important to see that the story doesn’t end there.

As Paul Harvey used to say…”But wait…there’s more”.

The more is simple.  For Naomi and Ruth there was new life, new hope, new days that were good and blessed ahead for them.

Out of loss and death came new hope and new faith.

Out of pain and hurt came healing and new life.

Out of darkness and anguish came light and restoration.

 

In her desperation and her loneliness and her loss Naomi found how deep and genuine her daughters-in-law were, especially Ruth.  I’m sure she must have known them for who they were before her husbands and sons died but there was no way she could have experienced the depth of their love and their faithfulness before she was all alone without them.

She found in Ruth a loving and faithful companion who stood with her, who stood beside her, who would say “Wherever you go I will go, your people will be my people, your God will be my God”.  That’s love.  That’s devotion.

And Ruth?  Remember, Ruth lost her husband.  But in being faithful to her mother-in-law Naomi, in standing tall and doing the right thing and being the right person Ruth would eventually find a new love, a new person to love and to be with for the rest of her life.  And out of that union would someday come the greatest King God’s people would have, King David and beyond him the Savior of mankind, Jesus.

Do you see the point?

Do you get it?

Out of loss comes gain…for those who believe in God and do the faithful work of acknowledging but growing through their pain.

Out of death comes life for those who love God and trust him for all things at the end of the day.

Out of hopelessness and despair comes hope and joy; maybe not immediately but in due time, in God’s own time.

 

3.  What were the keys to this great story of redemption and new life and new hope for Ruth and Naomi and for you and me?  Good question and one that is important for us to know and to share among ourselves here today.

First, Naomi and Ruth faced their grief.

Secondly, Naomi and Ruth never lost their faith in God and in life itself.

Third, Naomi and Ruth stood tall, faced each new with resolve and did what it took to embrace each new day as it came to them.

 

Closing…

Can we do the same?

Can we follow the example?

Can we face our grief without surrendering to it?

Can we keep faith in God and in life?

Can we honor the lives of those we have lost and keep their memories alive in our heart while embracing the loves we still have and sharing life with those who are still here among us?

 

Those are good questions.

But they are questions only you can answer.

Life is always there for those who want to embrace it and who will embrace it.

Your life…your choice.

 

My grandparents are all long gone now.  Grandmother Augsburger, Grandmother Chance, all my aunts and uncles, with the exception of one or two are gone.  My mom and dad are gone.  Lots of memories, special memories.  I can’t ride up Route 1 to this very day without remembering all those special Fridays riding the Greyhound bus with my mom and brother Steve to go see family.

From time to time I find myself near Arbutus and I’ll often take a side tour back to where my Aunt Margaret lived and Arbutus where Grandmother and Aunt Bell lived.  In getting to Maple Avenue where my grandmother lived I go past Ambrose Funeral Home where I first experienced the pain of death with my Grandfather’s funeral and where I have been too many times over the years with the funerals of beloved family members.  I can still remember sitting on that little settee crying my heart out as the minister led the Funeral Service for Grand Pop.

In my life on a personal basis and in my life through my calling as a minister death is no stranger to my house.

But I find great comfort and great joy and the always renewing hope of life going on through my faith.  Stories like the one from Naomi and Ruth are good stories for me to remember and the promise of life eternal through Jesus are my hope and my anchor in the stormy seas of loss.  May they be so for you too.

God bless you on this sacred and special day of remembrance.

We come today not to deepen our grief and sense of loss but to acknowledge it and honor those we loved and have lost but even more importantly to embrace and honor the life and the loves God still blesses with us.

 

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.