I wonder if you all could help me this morning think of ways that our church welcomes people. When people arrive at our church doors on a Sunday morning, what are some of the things we do to help them feel welcome? (Ideas included: provide greeters, say “good morning!,” shake hands, provide an elevator.)
As folks come into the sanctuary and participate in worship, are there things we do to make people comfortable, or to make sure they can participate? (Ideas included: chairs to sit on, space for wheelchairs, large-print bulletins, hearing assist devices, visual worship guides, headphones to block out noise, toys to keep our hands busy if that helps us, activity stations.)
Do we do anything outside our building to help people feel welcome? (Ideas included: Welcome Garden, special parking spaces, rainbow flags, Black Lives Matter & Yes on 3 signs)
This church does a lot to welcome people, and we keep trying to make our welcoming muscles stronger. We want everyone to feel that they have a spiritual home; that they’re not alone.
Our scripture story today is about someone who felt alone, and afraid, and who didn’t have a home. Naomi and her family are refugees, people who are forced to leave their homeland to survive, like so many people in our world today. They are able to travel to a new place, and they find the food they need. But then, Naomi’s husband and sons die. The only people who are left in Naomi’s family are her, and her two daughters-in-law. Naomi knows that she does not have what she needs to keep her daughters-in-law safe and healthy. So, she tells them to go back to the homes they had grown up in. She tells them to let her go, alone, back to the place where she grew up: Bethlehem of Judah.
Naomi is trying to be practical, and she is trying to be generous. She’s worried that she doesn’t have much to offer anyone else. But here is the really amazing part of this story. Ruth decides that being together with this person that she loves is more important than anything else. She decides that whatever is going to happen next, it will be better if she and Naomi face it together. So Ruth tells Naomi: “Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God… Not even death will part me from you.”
Ruth goes with Naomi, and together they help one another make a new life, and a new home.
This season at church we are thinking about how we can be more like Ruth. Ruth gives the gift of help and companionship along the way. She goes with Naomi, even though it means traveling to a place she has never been before. Ruth brings the gifts that God gives her out into an unfamiliar world.
How can we be like Ruth? If we’ve already built strong welcoming muscles, how can we strengthen our muscles to bring forth the love of God beyond our walls and into the world? A few ideas:
- On Friday night, folks from this congregation and other congregations and the greater community gathered at our local Jewish synagogue, Kerem Shalom. Because of things that are happening in our country, we wanted to be sure that folks there knew that we care about them. We lit candles, and sang songs, and then joined them in worship, to help make sure these neighbors felt at home.
- This morning, we are gathering gifts for Open Table. We want to offer food to folks nearby who, like Naomi’s family, are going hungry.
- In the hallway, you can see a poster of our Mission partners, folks who we dedicate our shared resources to help, bringing our wealth and service into our community for the common good.
How else can we be like Ruth? What are some other ways we can bring forth God’s love and justice into the world? (Folks reflected on this and recorded their ideas on hearts to share).
Dear God, open our hearts to follow in the ways of our ancestor Ruth, Going, and staying, and living, and dying, together with all your children. Amen.