Proper 27B (OT 32)
296: November 11, 2018
140: November 8, 2015
Stewardship Fans rejoice….but should they?
Widow’s Mite or unfaithful scribes?
Sacrifice - latin origin meaning “to make sacred”
Contrast between the scribes and the widow
Strive to be the best or highest place in the religious arena (fighting for honor at synagogues and banquets) - similar to the disciples jockeying for position
Like to wear their long robes (like the modern clergy in fancy robes and nice suits?)
Greeted with honor (like the local church bemoaning its loss of power in the public spectrum)?
Hypocrites - claiming to be righteous yet “devouring widows houses” instead of caring for widows
Scribes were given charge over the estates of widows. Widows, as women, were considered unable to manage their finances, so this fell to to the scribes, the legal experts. The scribes would manage the estate for a fee. In a many cases this led to financial abuse and theft (Myers, Binding the Strong Man)
category of the most vulnerable (along with orphans and aliens)
On who should be cared for by the “righteous”
Gives little but sacrifices much
An example of a failed system- not an example of faithful giving
Message of critique against a religious system that results in the poorest giving all they have so the institutions can remain in wealth and comfort
This message strikes home for many- perhaps too close for some
Pastors concerned over losing their housing benefit
Jesus is about to declare the destruction of the temple- all the offerings are somewhat useless in this regard - in some senses a terrible stewardship Sunday text
What matters? Maintaining the institution or caring for the least of least?
Thoughts and Questions
In what ways do we participate in a religious system which punishes the poorest? How can we overcome and transform those systems?
How is the “worth” of a congregation measured?
In young families?
In the number of vulnerable cared for?
What are we unwilling to sacrifice for God? Our buildings? Our institutions? Our paychecks?
Hebrews continued. Keep big picture in mind:
Nov 11, Hebrews 9:24-28 - Jesus is the sanctuary too
Nov 18, Hebrews 10:11-25 - Christ’s role is written onto hearts of believers.
More on High Priest
If you’re into sacrificial blood atonement, you’re going to love this. If not, it is at least important to know how this thought process works.
Continues the base for the theology of sacrificial atonement and if that is your belief run with it because Hebrews lays it out pretty clearly from last week into this week.
“It was, of course, Jesus Christ who provided these ‘better sacrifices,’ and in describing them the Preacher repeats many of the themes he has already developed.” (Thomas Long Interpretation: Hebrews, p. 100)
Jesus doesn’t have to keep going back in
Jesus used his own blood, not some animal
Jesus went into heavenly tabernacle, actual presence of God, not just something that humans built
“We have heard this all before. The Preacher is basically circling back for another view of scenery we have already surveyed” (Long, p. 100)
But what is you don’t lean into sacrificial atonement? Do we just skip Hebrews- NO
Great way to engage with the basic question Hebrews is trying to answer - how is Jesus Savior?
Hebrews Answer: He was the ultimate sacrifice once and for all time- there is no need to offer another atoning sacrifice only hear and believe the good news in what Jesus has done
What is your answer? What is salvation to you? If it isn’t Jesus’ sacrificial atonement than what is it?
Alternatives or nuances to blood atonement:
“We have the occasion to observe that ‘blood’ is in the ancient texts the equivalent of ‘life’ and that the writer of Hebrews at times makes the exchange so that Christ’s sacrifice is the offering of himself, presenting to God his life…. This is to say, Christ’s offering of his life to God was the ultimate act of worship in order that we, with purified consciences, may ‘worship the living God.’ What then, is this worship if it is not the offering of ourselves to God in ways appropriate to the nature of God and the needs that present themselves to us?.” (Fred Craddock, New Interpreter’s Bible, v. xii, p. 118)
Power of sin has been defeated once and for all.
Jesus is not coming back to punish but to rescue.
“The sacrifice of Christ divides the whole age or duration of the world into two parts, and extends its virtue backward and forward, from this middle point wherein they meet to abolish both the guilt and power of sin.” (John Wesley’s Notes)
“In chapter 9 the writer presents a prolonged comparison between Jesus’ death and the ritual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) … what is unique to Hebrews is the parallel drawn between the blood of goats and bulls and Jesus going once for all into the heavenly sanctuary with his own blood, thus ratifying the new covenant. There he now appears in the presence of God ‘on our behalf’ and having been offered once to bear the sins of many, he will appear a second time to save those who are eagerly awaiting for him.” (Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 688)
“Quite possibly these verses (27, 28) contain lines drawn from the catechesis the readers had received at baptism…. But whether a catechism or original, the central point is not our death and judgment; these serve as analogies to underscore the emphasis on the once-for-all nature of Christ’s high priestly ministry. The cross and Christs’ entry into God’s presence happened once, are effective ‘for many,’ and will not be repeated.” (Craddock, p. 113)
“The writer may here also be returning to the image of the Day of Atonement ritual. While all worshipers waited outside, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, in the very presence of God. Will the high priest reappear, or is it too audacious for any person to approach God? The people eagerly await his ‘second coming’.” (Craddock, p. 113)
The other bookend of Ruth. A lot of storytelling to do.
A children’s telling of the story. Obviously, some holes, but gets the gist.
What have we missed since last time?
Naomi and Ruth have been gleaning the fields of Boaz.
Boaz is a relative of Naomi’s husband, and thus has some duty toward her, but not Ruth. Also, his treatment of Ruth in particular is extremely kind. He goes out of his way to make sure that Ruth and Naomi are provided for.
Ruth no longer referred to as “the Moabite,” but instead as “Naomi’s daughter-in-law.”
Cultural things to note
These two widows, one of whom was foreign, would have no chance for security outside of the protection of a man. Gaining a husband was the only chance for long-term security. However, Ruth getting married would not have inevitably led to Naomi’s care
Allowing the poor to glean from the leftover of the grains was a Levitical law.
Term “Redeemer” is used to designate Boaz as a relative of Naomi, who would be at least partially responsible for her care. He has legal right to redeem land that would have been her husband’s for the sake of caring for her.
Redeemer of the land and Redeemer as one who marries Ruth are not necessarily tied together.
Katharine Doob Sakenfeld makes the argument that Ruth’s use of word go-el, which can be described as next-of-kin, or redeemer is not a legal term, and cannot be traced directly back to Levitical interpretation. Instead, it appeals to the “central motif of the story as a whole, namely, human protection and support as a manifestation of God’s redemptive care.” (Interpretation: Ruth, p. 61) In other words, caring for one another is the way that we love God. God’s salvation happens through the kindness, generosity, and love of humans toward one another.
“Feet” may not have been feet. A sexual relationship between Ruth and Boaz, while not explicitly mentioned until after they are married, is at least implied.
Women would not have been allowed on threshing floor. Ruth’s actions are quite bold.
What did we miss by lectionary editing?
Ruth’s own initiative.
In lectionary reading Ruth is reduced to little more than a body following orders. She follows Naomi’s orders, then marries Boaz, gets pregnant, and lives happily ever after.
Ruth does not do exactly what Naomi says. She does not simply sit by his feet and wait for his response. Instead, she takes initiative and calls upon Boaz to act.
He refers to Ruth as eset chayil, same term as found in Proverbs 31. Rachel Held Evans has translated this famously as “Woman of Valor.” He remarks on her courage, and her place even though she is a poor, foreign, widow.
After this exchange, Boaz goes to make the transaction, the whole process is witnessed and blessed by the community.
Doob-Sakenfeld refers to this is the “Peaceable Community.”
“A foretaste of God's promised future, of the peaceable kingdom in the microcosmic form of a single village as a peaceable community, includes features and comes about by processes that many readers in today’s communities of faith find objectionable.” (p. 67)
Thoughts and Questions
The story of Ruth is confined in ancient culture. In one way, Naomi and Ruth are victims of a patriarchal system that reduces them to their beauty and wombs. They are victim of circumstances, and not allowed to take control of their own lives. Even their reward is only in who Ruth births. This is all true, but within the confines of the culture at the time, they are remarkable women who take initiative, risk, and care for one another. They become an intertwined inseparable pair, and they are given new life and security. They are richly blessed, and Ruth becomes the grandmother to the greatest King of Israel.
Depending on context, much can be done with the sexuality of Ruth. Did she use sex for her gain? Did she have sex with Boaz before they were married? Is there room in the church to explore the sexuality of women in a positive light? She is not the evil seductress, she is the Proverbs 31 Woman - but she used sex to achieve her goal of security. Interesting dynamic, to say the least.
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.