Scripture Readings: Ruth 1:1-8, 16-17
No one liked a Moabite. Moabite? Yuck! Terrible people. Unfortunately, you couldn’t banish Moabites from your land but that didn’t mean that you had to let them worship with you – they were an unholy people born of an unholy union. Way back in Genesis, Lot had two daughters who had a problem. They were on the run and so they couldn’t settle down and have a family The daughters hatched a plan to get their father drunk, lay with him and have children of their own. One of those children was Moab and thus, a whole branch of humanity’s tree was born. The Moabites.
Later on, as the Hebrew people were in the desert, fleeing slavery, the Moabites committed one of the worst sins imaginable – they refused to offer hospitality. They refused to offer the Hebrews water, food or shelter. Terrible awful people who should never be aloud to have anything to do with God or worship. It’s right there in the book of Deuteronomy – “No Moabite will be admitted to the assembly of the lord.” Get out and stay out- God wants nothing to do with you. The Bible is very clear about this.
Until. Long after that unfortunate incident with Lot, his daughters and a cave, long after the authors of Deuteronomy banned Moabites from God, a good Hebrew family found themselves living in Moab. The two sons married Moabite women but then, shortly after, the father died. Then the two sons died leaving the mother and the two daughter in laws alone in a world that was not kind to widows. Ruth, one of the daughter in laws, did the exact opposite of what would have been sensible. Rather than going to what was left of her family and beg for a renewed place, she stuck with Naomi, her mother in law to accompany her and take care of her. She made a pledge to Naomi that is so beautiful, it’s been repeated countless times since:
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
This Moabite Woman’s devotion was so strong, her story gets a book of the Bible all it’s own. This Moabite woman’s faith was so great that she was blessed with some pretty remarkable descendants. Her great grandson was David the King of the Hebrew people. And then, many generations later came Jesus – descendant of those terrible Moabites, Jesus who according to Deuteronomy could never know God led the world to know God in a new way. But the Bible is clear isn’t it? Aren’t Moabites unholy?
Scripture Readings: John 4 7-15, 27-30
Wouldn’t it be great if women knew their place? Did you know that in some churches women are allowed to speak? I’ve heard on good authority that some women even attend church wearing pants and without a hat! Scandalous!
You know, the Bible’s pretty clear. It’s there in the 10 Commandments when it says not to covet your neighbours possessions – and included with his cart and donkey is his wife. Leviticus tells us that if a woman gives birth to a son, she’s unclean for 7 days but if it’s a girl, the mother is unclean for a full 2 weeks. Then of course there’s tradition. When the Bible was written, unmarried men and women weren’t allowed to speak to each other in public. You know what that could lead to – women using their wiles to lead good but fragile men astray!
Then comes along this Moabite man Jesus into the land of the Samaritans (who by the way are also hated). While he’s there he meets a woman who is drawing water from a well. He immediately knows something’s wrong because it’s mid-day. Women went to the well in the early morning to avoid men and the heat of the day. If she’s here at noon, it means that the other women have turned her away. We soon find out why – she’s one of those kinds of women! Jesus, being a sensible, upstanding sort of person avoids her and her tempting ways. After all, three strikes and you’re out – a woman, a Samaritan, and quite likely, a prostitute. Best to just avoid her and go to the well after she leaves.
But no, maybe it’s that Moabite blood affecting his judgement but Jesus goes and talks to her. He explains who he is and what it means to the world and she understands. Jesus’ own disciples who come and chase her away rarely understand Jesus’ words but this woman, who we have every reason to believe is unworthy, understands what Jesus says. Then she goes and tells her people. This Samaritan woman of questionable morality becomes a messenger of God’s gospel.
What’s happening here? A Moabite and a Samaritan spreading God’s grace? What have we missed? The Bible is clear isn’t it? This shouldn’t be happening, right?
Scripture Reading: Acts 10:9-16
“What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” But the Bible is clear! Peter is a good Jew and he knows the dietary laws. He’d never eat food the Bible, God’s book, forbids. But here in this vision, he’s told to eat. And you know what else, this has nothing to do with food but people. Later on in this same chapter Peter refers to the vision and says to a number of other good Jews, “you know it’s unlawful for a jew to associate with a gentile but God has shown me that I should never call anyone unclean or profane.” But isn’t the Bible clear? Is God’s mind changing? Is God making up the rules as we go?
Or, could it be that humanity throughout its history has tried to justify its own hatreds and biases by claiming that God’s love is just as limited as ours?
The Bible is very clear – God’s grace is always more than we can imagine. God takes the outsider and makes them not only welcome but often the hero. God reminds us time and time again that those who we would define as expendable, broken, unclean, or cursed, are God’s chosen. God shows us again and again that when we draw a line between us and them, God is most often found on the other side of that line we’ve drawn.
But why has this been so hard for us to learn. Our history as a Christian Church is marred with times when rather than extending God’s love, we’ve instead offered judgement. The church has justified racism and slavery. The church, even here in Canada, judged some cultures as heathen or savage and participated in the theft of that culture. And while we now look back and collectively sigh in relief that we are no longer like that, we still have a long way to go. While the times are obviously changing, many of God’s children who’s sexual orientation or gender expression fail to fit into a tragically narrow definition of normal, are turned away, are told they’re broken, or told they’ll have to make a choice between living out the way God made them and living with God’s love.
But the Bible is very clear – call nothing profane that God has made holy. The Bible is also clear that this is a new day and God is redeeming it. Let this be the day that humanity in its diversity of race and culture be celebrated. Let this be the day that when a man loves a man or a woman loves a woman, we celebrate because there’s more love in a world that so desperately needs more love. Let this be the day when we see someone who looks or dresses in a way different from what we’re used to and we celebrate because of that person’s freedom and our chance to learn something new. Let this be the day that we accept that God created, loves and calls everyone of us, without end, without condition. The Bible is very clear, praise be to God.