My extended family loves asking each other hypothetical questions just to see where the conversation will take us. Some are silly, some are serious, some are curious. An oft-repeated hypothetical around our dinner table is some variation of the following: “if you could have lunch with anyone on earth who is not part of your family and not named Jesus, who would you choose?” The answers have varied over the years, and some responses are so bad that they live in infamy!
I’m terrible at this game- when the question comes around the table to me, it’s as though I have instantly forgotten the name of every interesting or famous person alive today. I can’t explain it! But the joke is on them: I finally came up with my once-and-for-all answer (at least for now): Malcolm Gladwell.
Mr. Gladwell is probably a familiar name to some of you. He is the author of several very well-known books: Outliers, The Tipping Point, David and Goliath among others. More recently, he produced his own podcast entitled “Revisionist History.” He begins almost every podcast with the same line: “This is Revisionist History, my podcast about things misunderstood and overlooked.” I should take the opportunity here to say that my affinity for Mr. Gladwell’s work is not based on unanimous agreement with his ideology or thinking; rather, I love the way he approaches complicated and important topics. He deploys a balance of compelling data alongside beautiful storytelling. While I don’t always agree with his conclusions, I’m always drawn into the conversation because I love exploring familiar subjects through a slightly different lens. This may be the reason I love the book of Ruth so much.
Ruth is one of those short books that is easily lost between the major works that surround it in scripture: it lies between Judges and 1 Samuel. It’s also a book that is unassumingly short. How could something so short say anything truly important? It’s also located historically in an era that is so far removed from our own that some of the concepts present as nearly absurd to our modern ears. It is misunderstood and overlooked. And I LOVE it.
Pastor Sean did a wonderful job bringing us into Ruth and Naomi’s story last Sunday, and I hope you will take the time to listen to his message if you weren’t able to join us. (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO LAST WEEK’S MESSAGE) This is a story that takes dead aim at tragedy, grief, and abandonment even as it draws us almost imperceptibly at first into God’s provision and goodness. Naomi’s story lands most heavily for those for whom life took an unexpected and truly difficult turn. In other words- it’s a story for all of us. We all know the challenge of unexpected circumstances that speed us along a journey we neither asked for nor wanted. What do we do in those moments? Where is God in those times? How will we see a way forward amid the fog? Ruth and Naomi show us the way. And I LOVE it.