Ruth 1:1-17

Have you ever felt worthless?  So empty and wasted that you truly believed you had nothing to offer anyone?

That’s how Naomi felt.   Naomi grew up hearing that her only purpose in life was to give birth to and raise sons in order to continue her husband’s legacy.  Now her sons are gone and she’s too old to conceive, and she feels worthless.

Have you ever had one of those days or one of those weeks or months or years where you just felt so drained and empty?  Maybe you had a tough time with your partner or your children.  Those days when everything seems to go wrong at work or at school.  Those times when you feel absolutely alone in the world.

Ruth and Orpah grew up hearing that their purpose in life was their husbands.  Nce they married, heir lives changed drastically.  They left the families of their birth and to be with their husbands’, leaving their hometowns and their customs and traditions, changing who they are and how they live.  And now their husbands have died and they feel empty and alone and they are no longer sure of their purpose in life.

And so these two women – drained, empty, and lonely – turn to Naomi for help.  In their pain they turn to their mother-in-law, their friend and look for love and guidance.

 

Three women looking for support, each at the lowest point in their lives.

Naomi doesn’t think she has anything to give Ruth and Orpah.  She tells them to go back home, to their families of origin.  “What possible reason would you have for going with me?” she asks.

The two women make different choices.  Orpah, although visibly upset, chooses to take Naomi’s advice and leave her to go back home.  “Yet Ruth refused to leave Naomi.”  She shouts at her  “Stop pushing me away…! Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.”

Naomi thought she was worthless, that she had nothing to offer. But for Ruth, Naomi’s love and her faith were everything.  With all the trouble that Ruth had already faced and would still encounter, with all of the problems that had yet to be solved, all that she asked for was Naomi’s love – not solutions to her problems or a roof over her head or money in her pocket.  She just needed Naomi’s love.

Naomi had a lot of excuses for trying to send away her daughters-in-law:  she said that she was too old, she said that she couldn’t give them husbands anymore, she said that they needed a man.  She said that God had acted against her.

What are some of our excuses when we feel we have nothing to offer?  Are there times when we feel too old or too young?  Days when someone reaches out to us for help but we’re worried that we’re too busy to help?  What about those moments when we worry that our doubts are too many and our faith is not strong enough?

When someone comes to us for help, we often worry that we won’t be able to solve all of their problems so we come up with a list of excuses to push them away.

And the truth is we can’t solve anyone else’s problems for them – but we can always offer our love.

For time, Ruth’s life seemed to be over.  She had no husband or son.  She had no place to live.  Naomi, left in a similar situation felt she had nothing to give.

Ruth needed a place. Naomi needed a purpose.  Naomi gave Ruth a place and found a purpose for herself.

How can we as the church provide place and purpose for each other and our community?  When others are feeling drained and empty, can we offer place to come and to express grief, admit sadness, struggle with emotions?  Even when we’re worried or not sure, can we be here reminding everyone who comes to us that God loves them?

I’ve seen it happen.  Over and over again I’ve witnessed strangers come into MCC and be greeted with warm smiles and open arms.  Individuals and families who come to our church because they are wandering or because they’ve lost something; because they aren’t sure what’s next in their lives.

And you have offered your love.  Maybe there were even days when you felt grumpy or lonely or worthless; there were probably times when you heard about another person’s problems and thought “there is nothing I can do to help,” but still you offered your love.

At some point, many of us in this room were the ones looking for help.

I’ve seen MCC be a home for others who need our love and I’ve experienced the love of MCC when I needed it.

Here, in this place, we can be real.  We can admit our struggles and our sadness.  We can confess that we sometimes doubt God, that we sometimes doubt ourselves.  And then, through our relationships and our conversations together, we can grow our faith and offer that faith to others inside the walls of our church and outside in our community.

Ruth wants to follow Naomi.  In their culture, that even means converting to Naomi’s religion.  Ruth said “your God will be my God.”  She didn’t come to this decision because Naomi told her the religion of her upbringing was wrong or threatened that she’d go to Hell if she didn’t pick the “right” God.  Naomi didn’t force her faith onto Ruth.  But after years of knowing Naomi and seeing her live out her faith, Ruth saw a light in the darkness.  Naomi never said to Ruth: you have to follow me and my God.  Instead, Naomi lived a life that said “Here I am Lord” and Ruth chose to follow.

We live out our faith with a welcoming smile to a stranger, with a warm hug of support.  When we walk with someone in their pain, God is there with us.  When we lift someone up by telling them what we like about them or pointing out where we have seen God in their eyes, we are being church.

Have you ever so felt worthless, so empty and wasted that you truly believed you had nothing to offer anyone so you tried to push them away?

When have you needed the church and found it at MCC in something as simple as smile?

When have you been called to offer God’s love to someone in need? {pause}

God is with you even in – especially in – your lowest moments.  Whether fly high, taking the wings of the morning or feel low, dwelling in the uttermost parts of the sea, God is there leading you and holding you.  Just when you think you have nothing else to offer, remember that God loves you and that God calls you to love others.

We’ll always have times when we struggle.  Now, knowing that you are surrounded by God love, take a moment to prepare for that next time.  Next time you sense that someone is having a hard time– even if you are sure you have anything to offer – in what ways will you reflect God’s love for them?

Pray with me.  God of our ancestors, walk with us in our struggles.  Guide us throughout our lives, at our highest and lowest point.  Holy One, when we feel unloved help us to see your love reflected in our neighbors.  When we feel worthless, remind us that our love is always enough to offer.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Not Worthless

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