As you may or may not know, in addition to being the Circuit Rider for The Beatitudes Society I am a pastor serving a congregation that meets solely online – Koinonia Church in Second Life. We have been gathering as this online community of faith for more than two and a half years. Last night I led a lectio divina service and shared as our text thefirst 18 verses of the book of Ruth. The 16 or so souls gathered from around the country listened deeply, shared courageously and prayed boldly. During the third step of the lectio divina, where we are called to listen for then share how Christ is calling us into being or doing one of the parishioners helped me hear God’s Word fresh and new. Whenever this happens, that I can hear an old and beloved story with new ears I feel immensely blessed.
Some folks this evening heard the story much as we hear it each time, a word of devotion, a word of new faith, a word of persistence, a word of love. Some worried for the hand of the Lord that would turn against Naomi, some were concerned for Orpah who turned back to her old gods, her old ways. Some found the call to love those from different traditions more deeply. The one voice that helped me hear something new said “I feel called to bless BOTH those who return to their old ways or cling to their old gods AND those who cling to the new hope of the God we know loves us all unconditionally.” And wow, to feel Naomi’s kiss extended blessing in both directions – to the one who would leave her and stay with ways foreign, even counter to Naomi’s faith and understanding AND to bless Ruth who chose the new life, the life of a unknown future for the sake of a love too large to understand, too huge to contain, to consuming to set aside. Blessed be those who choose a life with us AND those who choose a life outside of us. Blessed be the ears who hear the Word in new ways AND those who cannot let go of previous understandings to traverse into the unknown. I hear in my own life a call to love those who chose to stay behind in a theology of literalism and punitiive justice AS WELL AS those who are determined to journey with me into a life with the God of love, radical hospitality and social justice.