Covenant Relationship

On July 30, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Covenant Relationship Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. In the book of Genesis there is a story about a town called Sodom. Sodom was a […]

Covenant Relationship
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

In the book of Genesis there is a story about a town called Sodom. Sodom was a rough place. It was notoriously wicked.

Sodom was known for cruelty, for indifference toward those in need, and for being unkind to travelers and newcomers to their town. The prophet Ezekiel wrote: “Now this was Sodom’s sin – they were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lived in Sodom. He was considered the most righteous person in Sodom. And if he was the most righteous, then it really was a cess pool.

Lot one night came across a couple of strangers who needed lodging and he graciously offered them his guest room. So far, he seems like a great guy. But things got ugly quickly.

A nefarious gang shows up at Lot’s house and demands that he turn his guests over to them. Sexual assault is their plan and they say as much. Lot rushes to the defense of his guests, saying, “I will not let you hurt my guests…BUT, you can have my daughters and do whatever you want to them.”

Righteous Lot? Not so much.

Well, his guests have a few tricks up their sleeves, they get Lot and his family out of the house safely. Next thing you know Sodom is somehow blown to smithereens and Mrs. Lot is killed in the process. Lot and his daughters take refuge in a cave. Apparently this cave had a well stocked bar because Lot proceeds to get drunk and commits incest with his daughters.

Righteous Lot?? I don’t think so.

Both daughters conceive and the child that one of the daughters conceived is said to be the ancestor of the Moabite nation.

In other words, the writer is saying the Moabites are inbred. It’s an ethnic slur. The writer is saying he or she doesn’t think very highly of the Moabites.

You may have heard that the story of Sodom condemns same gender love or attraction. I defy you to find romance in the entire story. There is violence and there are threats and there is incest committed by the most righteous person in town…but romance or attraction or caring relationships are never seen in the story.

But the story we heard read today (Ruth 1) is a story about a caring relationship.

There was a famine in Judah, and a guy named Elimelech migrated with his wife Naomi and their two sons from Bethlehem to the country of MOAB.
Moab…we don’t like them (remember?). We make up stories about how their whole nation is the result of inbreeding. But when we don’t have food and they do, Moab doesn’t seem so bad. And what’s more…they let us come in?! We were hungry and scared and desperate and we sought refuge in Moab and those gross Moabites took us in and let us build a new life among them.
Elimelech and Naomi discovered that Moabites can in fact be generous and kind; and so their sons grew up in Moab and married Moabite women.
In time, Elimelech died, and later, the Widow Naomi’s sons died also. The sons never had children.

Eventually, Moab experiences a famine, and Naomi decides to return to her home country. At first her daughters in law want to go with her, but Naomi insists that they go back to their families and start their lives over. She finally persuades Orpah to do just that. But Ruth will not abandon Naomi.

Ruth says to Naomi: “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! 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…[Not] even death [will part] me from you!”

Those words are often read at weddings between a man and a woman, but the words originally are said by a woman to a woman. A sacred oath. A loving commitment. A life-long vow from one woman to another. A covenant relationship. Please don’t miss how powerful that fact is.

Ruth and Naomi go back to Naomi’s homeland. People who remembered Naomi were surprised to see her. But when they exclaimed, “Is this Naomi?” She answered them, “Don’t call me Naomi” (which means pleasant). She said, “My new name is Mara” (which means bitter). She’s lost her husband, her sons, will never see one of her daughters in law ever again, and now she has left her adopted home. She’s lost so much. Of course she feels more bitter than pleasant.

She does something we are all tempted to do when we are feeling sad or overwhelmed. She imagines that she never had troubles before these, and now there is nothing good in her world. Neither are really true. Her life wasn’t without challenges before. Hunger drove her family to Moab after all. She’s faced difficulties before and got through them. She’s stronger than she realizes. We all are.
And, she hasn’t lost everything. She still has Ruth. Even when she tried to ditch Ruth she couldn’t. You see, the disappointment at hand can be mitigated by blessings we might have overlooked so far.

The story shows us that God’s love will never let us go. Ruth’s affirmation of love and devotion is not only her commitment to Naomi, it is God’s commitment to us. God, the All-in-all, the omnipresence, the Love that is the fabric of the universe, the Life that expresses in, through, and as our lives will not abandon us because God cannot abandon us. “Whither thou goest, I will go.” Wherever I am, God is.

And the story shows us that love makes a family. Ruth chooses to be with Naomi. She chooses to live with her, care for her, provide for her, make a home with her, make a life with her. Ruth formed a covenant relationship with Naomi, a ‘til death do us part sort of relationship, and she honored it. Ruth knew what we know: Love makes a family.

The story shows us that God is love, and wherever love is genuinely expressed, is holy ground. This is holy ground. And this is the good news. Amen.

God is love.
Love works miracles in my life.
Thanks be to God.

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