Ruth Series: Roundabout Ways

Ruth Series: Roundabout Ways

Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: Offering ourselves to God

O God,

who has so greatly loved us,

long sought us,

and mercifully redeemed us;

give us grace that in everything

we may yield ourselves,

our wills and our works,

a continual thankoffering unto you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Westminster Divines, 1647

Read:

Ruth 3:1-13. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

1One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.

2Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.

3Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.

4When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”

5“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered.

6So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.

7When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.

8In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!

9“Who are you?” he asked.

of our family.”

10“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.

11And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.

12Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I.

13Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”

(Ruth 3:1-13 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

Isn’t it amazing how different cultures are around the world. And yet somehow we can still recognise what is going on here. Naomi is trying to matchmake with Ruth. She loves Ruth so much that she wants her to have a life of her own. Boaz is probably 20 years her senior but it is his character that Naomi has noticed (see chapter 2 “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for Boaz, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”).

In all these roundabout plans God is working. Are these co-incidences or good human choices based on belief in good character before all else? Or both at the same time. The writer of Ruth doesn’t say but seems to hold both together.

Good character is a theme in Ruth in both male and female. In our society success is valued highly. If you had to choose, which would you rather have in life; success or good character?

Photo by [Debby Hudson](https://unsplash.com/@hudsoncrafted?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/s/photos/flowers?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText)

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Ruth Series: Character Matters

Ruth Series: Character Matters

Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: For the graces of the Holy Spirit

O merciful God,

fill our hearts with the graces of the Holy Spirit,

with love, joy, peace,

patience, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Teach us to love those who hate us,

to bless those who curse us,

and to pray for those who abuse us,

that we may be the children of our Father:

who makes the sun shine on the evil and the good,

and sends rain on the just and unjust.

In adversity grant us grace to be patient;

in prosperity keep us humble;

may we guard the door of our lips;

may we lightly regard the pleasures of this world,

and thirst only after heavenly things;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St Anselm, 1033-1109

Read:

Ruth 2:1-11. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

1Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.

2And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour.”

Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”

3So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

4Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”

bless you!” they answered.

5Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”

6The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi.

7She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”

8So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me.

9Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”

10At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”

11Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.

12May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

(Ruth 2:1-11NIV)

Thought for the Day:

“I’ve been told …” It is not only bad news that gets talked about in the community. Surprising actions that reveal a wonderful character gets much airspace as well. Ruth’s selfless acts were both extravagant and noticed. As a result Boaz (who she had never met) wanted to support her.

Grace works the same way now as it did then. Extravagant love towards others changes minds and changes lives. And it all begins in the heart.

What sort of person do I want to be?

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Ruth Series: Life in a Hard Life

Ruth Series: Life in a Hard Life

Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: For those from whom we are separated

O Lord our God,

you are in every place,

and no space or distance can ever part us from you;

take into your holy keeping

those from whom we are now separated;

and grant that both they and we,

by drawing nearer to you,

maybe drawn nearer to one another,

in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Order, 1940, Church of Scotland

Read:

Ruth 1:3-18. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

3Now

Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

6When 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. 7With 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.

8Then 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. 9May 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 10and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

11But 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? 12Return 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— 13would 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!”

14At 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.”

16But 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. 17Where 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.” 18When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

(Ruth 1:3-18 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

I can’t read this without my heart going out to Naomi. She has received so many hard blows in life. No wonder she thinks “the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”. Wouldn’t you be tempted to think that in her position? She had a vibrant grown up family that had overcome the odds by migrating out of a devastating drought. Now she has lost not only those who were precious to her but the unborn grandchildren she will now never know. Her grief is doubled by the fact that being single in a family obsessed society meant her future was always going to have this shadow over it. Everything seems bleak except for one thing; Ruth.

Her daughter-in-law is determined to stay with her even to the point of leaving her community, wider family and religion out of love for Naomi. What is happening here? It is love. This reveals what sort of person Naomi is. In a world where people love their blood relatives more than those who marry in to the family, Naomi has proven exceptional. She has loved and included her daughter-in-laws so much that Ruth is willing to sacrifice all else to stay with this beautiful person.

Bitter experiences make some people hard but Naomi shows us that it doesn’t have to be so. She retains her inner kindness regardless of what life throws at her. Perhaps you and I could sit at Naomi’s feet and learn.

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Ruth Series: Where’s God?

Ruth Series: Where’s Wally/God?

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: Glory to God

The poor and the needy will praise you, O Lord.

Glory to the Father,

glory to the Son,

glory to the Holy Spirit, who spoke through the prophets.

God is my hope,

Christ is my refuge,

the Holy Spirit is my shelter. Amen.

Excerpt from a prayer,

St Auxentios, 3rd century

Read:

Ruth 1:1-5. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

1In the days when the judges ruled, 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.

2The 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.

3Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.

4They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years,

5both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

(Ruth 1:1-5NIV)

Thought for the Day:

The little book of Ruth plays an important part in God’s plans for the whole world. It is through these lives that you are reading about that God develops the lineage that leads to Jesus. These are his ancestors and King David’s.

Yet when you read this story of drought, migration, tragedy, love and death and hope you may be asking “Where is God?” It is the seeming absence of God combined with the significant choices of ordinary people that makes the story intriguing, mesmerising and provocative. How does God work?

May this story of courageous and caring women fill you with questions and hope.

Photo by [The New York Public Library](https://unsplash.com/@nypl?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/s/photos/migrant?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText)

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Eternal Life?

Eternal Life?

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: An instrument of God’s peace

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is discord, union;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

for your mercy and truth’s sake.

O divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

A 19th century prayer in the spirit

of St Francis of Assisi

Read:

John 3:16. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(John 3:16 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

Eternal Life can be looked at as a quality of life or as a quantity of life (i.e. never ending). Which way did you read it?

When you read it as a quality of life then the word “eternal” refers to the quality of life experienced in heaven that you can now begin to experience on earth. It is John’s equivalent to the Lord’s prayer “…on earth as it is in heaven.” This is what God is gifting us through “his one and only Son”.

But if “perish” and “eternal life” are a matched pair then perish must also be referring to a quality of life. John does not explain it but possibly he does not need to if he is referring to a commonly felt human experience. We can experience dying on the inside when no matter how much we grasp after happiness for ourselves we end up hurt, disappointed with failure, and wounded by others. God does not want this to be our experience of the precious gift of life. So in his great love for us he sent Jesus. Eternal life begins here with him.

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The Micah Challenge

The Micah Challenge

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER: For the peace which the world cannot give

Eternal God,

from whom all holy desires,

all good purposes, and all just works proceed:

give to your servants that peace

which the world cannot give,

that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments,

and that free from the fear of our enemies

we may pass our time in trust and quietness;

through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

An Australian Prayer Book, 1978

Read:

Micah 6:6-8. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

6With what shall I come before the Lord

and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

with your God.

(Micah 6:6-8NIV)

Thought for the Day:

This passage is a contender for a summary of the Scriptures. (except that it leaves out the vital motivation that we love because God loves us first.) Why? Because it includes:

1. our attitude to relationships which is justice

2. our attitude to hurt and brokenness which is mercy

3. our attitude to God which is open to learning from God and is also a journey.

Often we read this and heart leaps at one of these three which is our favourite. I wonder which is was for you? But this is not a multichoice question but rather a statement that a balanced life in God’s sight includes all three. Are all three part of your life? Is there one that needs more attention than the others at the moment. Listen to the Spirit right now (humbly).

If you are interested in looking at an Australian Justice organisation based on this Micah challenge go to https://www.micahaustralia.org

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Jesus, the Vine

Jesus, the Vine

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

Prayer: Sacred secateurs

O sacred secateurs, be quick

cut down the muddle of my ways

then burn the rubble where it lays

the remnants dead, of seasons gone

and growth that branched

too far from home

and when the winter’s worst is past

may buds of hope swell full and keen

upon my limbs of tender green

where once the deadwood

held its sway

may new fruit greet the awakening day

(Jennie Gordon in Dad and Daughter)

Read:

John 15:5-8 (NIV)

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Thought for the day:

Slow your reading and your breathing. If you can, spread your arms out wide. Imagine that your arms are vine branches, winter-dormant. Feel the sap of spring begin to flow, seeping to the very tips of the smallest twigs. Feel the awakening of life and energy. Become aware of the strong and vital trunk to which you are connected. As you breathe in, focus on the strength that comes from your connection to the vine. Breathe out the silent words “Thank you, Jesus”.

Then, as you slowly breathe in and out, dwell on the words of Jesus “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit”.

(Photo by [Sophie Backes](https://unsplash.com/@sophili?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/s/photos/vineyard?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText))

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Jesus, the Way

Jesus, the Way

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

Prayer: Loved into being

Loved into being,

hell, fen and field:

loved into being,

ocean flood and fish;

loved into being,

each plant and each tree;

loved into being,

you and me.

(Kate McIlhagga in The Green Heart of the Snowdrop)

Read:

John 14:1-7(NIV)

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Thought for the day:

John is writing to early Christians to share his conviction that Jesus is the way to God as Father. When we know Jesus, we know what God is like. Like Thomas we sometimes get confused and think that Jesus is talking about a physical path, a set way, with rules to follow. One of the many delights (and challenges) of Christianity is that there is no set way. Instead, by following Jesus, we grow into a relationship of love with God our Father. Be aware of allowing your day to be shaped and guided by the knowledge that we are “loved into being”. Praise God!

Image: Bibbulmun Track, WA, Wayne McDonald

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Jesus, the resurrection and the life

Jesus, the resurrection & the life

(Devotion by Ros McDonald)

Prayer: Signs of Life

Risen Christ,

as ice melts and rivers flow

when spring comes,

breathe your life-giving Spirit

into our frozen hearts.

Set our minds on fire

and our feet running,

to seek and to serve your truth.

Free us from all that captivates us.

Give us a deeper understanding of your truth.

Increase our wisdom.

Remind us that you have written our names

on the palms of your crucified hands

and help us to know that you call us by name.

(Kate McIlhagga in The Green Heart of the Snowdrop)

Read:

John 11:25-27 (NIV)

Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Thought for the day:

With Jesus as “the resurrection”, death has no power over us. With Jesus as “the life”, there is nothing in life that we need to face alone in our own power.

Jesus’ resurrection affirms that, in the words of Desmond Tutu,

"Goodness is stronger than evil,

love is stronger than hate,

light is stronger than darkness

life is stronger than death.

Victory is ours, victory is ours,

through him who loved us."

Finish by rereading the prayer.

Image: After the fire, Kinglake, Ros McDonald

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