Pastor Mark's Weekly Email

Ruth 1

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Diving in! This week we begin a 4 week series on the Book of Ruth. Ruth is a masterpiece of Hebrew writing. Every word counts. We begin this week with Chapter 1 as are introduced to the family of Elimelek, whose wife is Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, whose wives are Orpah and Ruth, both Moabite women. Only a few verses into the story, Elimelek dies, and soon after that, Mahlon and Kilion as well. This leaves all three women widowed and in need. To be widowed is to be left in a vulnerable place.

This story takes place during the time of the ‘judges’ where everyone ‘did as they saw fit’. It was also a time of famine in the land. Famine would be a good way to describe the state of these women’s hearts as well. Naomi decides to go back to her homeland of Judah where she may find some hope for her life being closer to her own people. While on her way to her homeland, Naomi encourages Orpah and Ruth to go back to their homeland/people. What will they do? What will become of these women who find themselves in an ’empty’ place? What will others who encounter them do? What will God do?

Read chapter 1 of the Book of Ruth and ask yourself these questions: What name does Naomi call herself in verse 20 and why? How deep is Ruth’s love and commitment to Naomi? (1:16-17) Did you notice the contrast in 1:1 (first verse) and 1:22 (last verse)? Interesting…

I can’t wait to see where this story goes… This series will speak a powerful message for every follower of Jesus. See you Sunday!

Pastor Markouzel-falls

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email

Ruth 2

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Last week we began our journey into the Book of Ruth with Naomi in deep loss with the death of her husband and both her sons. She sees her life through the lens of deep grief, to the point of renaming herself ‘Mara’, meaning ‘bitter’. When Ruth and Orpah, her daughter-in-laws are given the option to return to their own people, Orpah returns to her people but Ruth stays with Naomi. Chapter 1 began with ‘famine’ in the land of Moab and ends with Naomi and Ruth arriving in Bethlehem, which means ‘house of bread’ at the beginning of the barley harvest. Yes – this is foreshadowing.

As we continue into chapter 2 this week, we will see Ruth make a gutsy, risk taking step of love to provide for Naomi. Behind the scenes, God is at work through the circumstances of everyday life in Bethlehem. We are going to meet a new character this week – Boaz. As the story of Ruth unfolds, we will see God’s blessings flow through the extraordinary obedience of followers of God (Ruth and Boaz) to fulfill God’s law of love.

As you read chapter 2 of Ruth in preparation for Sunday, ask yourself these questions: Is Ruth taking a risk by going out into the field alone as a foreigner? How is it risky? What are the ways that Boaz shows ‘hesed’ (loving kindness) to Ruth (and Naomi)? I count at least 6 ways! Where does God show up in chapter 2? (Think about ways that God shows up in subversive and behind the scene kind of ways!)

I love this book of the Bible. Join us Sunday as we reflect on the ancient text and wonder about how it speaks to us today – Shalom!

Pastor Markouzel-falls

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email

Ruth 3

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Hesed is the Hebrew word that describes mercy, kindness, love in one word. Hesed is the character and nature of God – it is also what he does. And we, as his children, are invited to participate with him in living a life of hesed – the active, selfless, sacrificial love of God.

What we are witnessing in the story of Ruth is hesed in action. In chapter 3, we see everyone getting into the action (Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz!) Read chapter three and see if you can find the actions of hesed by each of the characters as they go above and beyond your average acts of kindness to care for one another. I’ll give you some hints of what to look for:
Naomi: 7 months have gone by since Ruth came home from Boaz field with 29 pounds of grain. She wants to find a husband for Ruth so that she has security and a future. So she encourages Ruth to risk making a ‘marriage proposal’ to Boaz. In doing so, what is Naomi potentially giving up? (The answer may surprise you!
Ruth: She goes to the threshing floor of Boaz and asks for much more than marriage. What does she ask for? This is a difficult answer to find, unless you know Hebrew well… however, the English translation will help you out. (look at 2:20, 3:1, and 3:9 – the clue to the answer is in what they call Boaz)
Boaz: Boaz is confronted with a mighty challenge of character. He could have rebuked or denied Ruth’s request or even disgraced her. Instead what does he do? How does he respond?
This story is communicating the wonderful message of God’s love. And through the story, challenging us to live a life of HESED! See you Sunday,

Pastor Markouzel-falls

Pastor Mark's Weekly Email

Ruth 4

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Ruth has become one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It paints a picture of how human beings can respond in the midst of challenges. Each character proclaims the Gospel of God as they go about their lives. Eugene Peterson writes in his bookThe Message, Romans 12, “So here is what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always draggin you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

We were created for God’s glory and by our living to bring glory to God. Jesus came to earth and took on himself the wrath of God for our sin so that we could live God honoring and God glorifying lives. We do this by being filled with the love of God being poured into our lives through Jesus Christ and the life of the Holy Spirit. Out of God’s love at work in us, we love God and others.

The story of Ruth communicates powerfully the good news of God as Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz in direct and subversive ways, “…bring good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, free the captives, pardon prisoners, announce God’s grace, comfort the mourning, bring joy to languishing spirits…” (Isaiah 61).

We have a final scene in this wonderful story. (Read Chapter 4 of Ruth for this coming Sunday) Ruth challenged Boaz with a life changing request, “Spread the corner of your garment over me – be our kinsman redeemer.” She is asking Boaz to redeem Naomi’s land, marry her, provide an heir for the family of Elimelek – AT GREAT COST TO BOAZ!” And Boaz doesn’t hesitate. He ‘readily recognizes what God wants from him and he quickly responds to it.’

I wonder if Boaz even sleeps. First thing next morning, he is off to the city gates. Why are the city gates important? What happens at the city gates? Does Boaz come with a plan to see that Naomi and Ruth’s future is secure?

As the story comes to dramatic conclusion, what is the end result of all this Hesed (loving kindness)? A baby boy! Can you see Naomi, whose arms were empty, now holding a child? What was empty, has now been filled.

See you Sunday,ouzel-falls

Pastor Mark