Risk and RestorationPosted: November 8, 2015
Risk and Restoration
SLIDE 5: COURAGE OF WOMEN
The courage of women has often been over looked, because it doesn’t usually come with big muscles, or bravery in combat, or many other testosterone laden displays of aggression. Although to be fair in our modern world women have taken their place in combat, and they have trained themselves to function quite capably in what have been considered to be traditionally male roles and professions. We have women physicians, dentists, engineers, pastors, women pipe fitters, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, managers and executives. I want to express my own prejudice for female physicians, because as a group I think they listen.
SLIDE 6: INSISTED ALL OF HIS CHILDREN COMPLETE 2 YEARS OF COLLEGE
I should probably credit my Great-grand-father Dr. Samuel Grey Bruce with leading the way for women’s opportunities at least in my family. At the turn of the last century he insisted that all of his children complete at least two years of college including the girls, and then helped to send my Grandmother to Dental School in Atlanta and then took her into his practice, as the first woman licensed to practice Dentistry in South Carolina.
SLIDE 7: VALOR AND DETERMINATION TO BE ADMIRED
And in hindsight promoting my Grandmother’s desire to become a dentist was fortuitous. For my grandmother’s husband turned out to be an alcoholic and a womanizer who drank himself to death at an early age. And when my great-grand-father died he left a widow and three children at home who about the same age as my grandmother’s children. My grandmother then took over the responsibility of earning a living and caring for her own two children, her mother, and three of her own younger siblings. My grandmother wasn’t perfect, but she demonstrated a valor and determination to be admired.
SLIDE 8: SURVIVORS
This morning I want to talk about a special kind of courage among women exemplified by the story of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi and Ruth were survivors. Their men had died and they were left to fend for themselves. Surviving is often the fate of women requiring its own special kind of courage. Often women have to learn to balance check books, steward investments, start the lawn mower, fix the toilet and the garbage disposal, when they find themselves on their own whether through death, divorce or abandonment. When young women agree to marry it seldom occurs to them, “what am I going to do if this partner up and dies on me, or abandons me for someone else?” Surviving a relationship requires its own kind of bravery, and often women have to survive as single mothers. Young women when they become pregnant seldom consider that given the vagaries of life, they might end up as solo parents.
SLIDE 9: EMPOWERED ONE ANOTHER
Ruth and Naomi survived because they empowered one another. They were examples of the sisterhood of women who stay together and protect one another’s backs. Together they took an incredible risk to arrange for Ruth to marry Boaz and restore Naomi’s property rights. In ancient Israel women could not inherit property. When Naomi’s husband died, his share of the land back in Bethlehem should have gone to his two sons. But since both of the sons also died, there was no male heir to claim the land. The only way Naomi’s husband’s land could be claimed was if a near relative married Naomi or one of her son’s widows in this case Ruth. Since Boaz was a near kinsman to Naomi’s husband, he was the best prospect for claiming Naomi’s husband’s land.
SLIDE 10: WORTHY OF ONE OF MARILYN PUETT’S NOVELS
So the wise Naomi went to work to arrange for Boaz and Ruth to meet. To understand the story of Ruth we have to know that in Hebrew feet were used as a euphemism for “genitals.” So when Naomi splashes perfume on Ruth and tells her to snuggle up to Boaz’s “feet” in the middle of the night, that is actually a pretty racy passage, maybe worthy of one of Marilyn Puett’s romance novels. I think women have generally understood the subtleties of sexual attraction and the delicate dance of courtship far better than men.
SLIDE 11: RUTH AND NAOMI BECOME PART OF THE STORY OF THE MESSIAH
Ruth and Naomi took a risk and found restoration. Boaz got a loyal and faithful wife as well as Naomi’s share of the land. Ruth became a full member of the people of Israel, and Naomi had a grandson. And all of this is part of the story of the Messiah, because Ruth’s baby, Naomi’s grandson was the grandfather of the great King David, and an ancestor of Jesus.
SLIDE 12: I WANTED TO RAISE A CHILD NOT MARRY ONE
My heart truly goes out to young women today, because so many young men are clueless. They have no idea what it takes to be a good husband and father. And let’s just say up front it takes more than an erection to be a good father. Some women tired of waiting for Mr. Right to come along have made the decision to go ahead and have children as single mothers. I admire their courage. The biological time clock waits for no one. And as one single mother said, “I wanted to raise a child, not marry one.”
SLIDE 13: LEAVE IT TO BEAVER NO LONGER PRIMARY MODEL
We are living in a time, when the definition of family is changing. The old nuclear family of “Leave It to Beaver” is no longer the primary model. In the United States today only 24% of children are living in a household that includes both of their biological parents, and by some estimates almost two thirds of children will spend some time living in a single parent household. The Census Bureau estimates that almost half of all children are living in households where one of their biological parents is living with someone who is not their biological parent.
SLIDE 14: EMBRACE ALL KINDS OF FAMILIES
If it is true that it takes a village to raise a child, then our congregations are the closest approximation to a village in our modern culture, so our churches need to learn to minister to a wide variety of families. We need to be able to embrace traditional nuclear families, single parent families, blended families, inter-racial families, adoptive families, gay families, straight families and extended families, where often grandparents or other relatives or even family friends are assuming major responsibilities in the raising of children.
SLIDE 15: WE ARE JUST FAMILY
As some of you know Beth’s and my family is a blended family. When Beth and I married now almost thirty-eight years ago, Leah was Beth’s daughter, aged nine, from a previous marriage, and Geoff, age 4, and Jennifer, age 2, were children of mine from a previous marriage. We were so done in by the difficulties of putting together two families that we waited 25 years before adding Elizabeth to the mix. But now we are just family. There are no steps, no halves, just family. And the congregations need to be incredibly sensitive and loving to all family types.
SLIDE 16: NO STEPS OR HALVES WE ARE FAMILY
Just to help you understand, allow me to share a story about when the church was not helpful. A member of the church one time approached our daughter Elizabeth with the question, “Tell me is Jennifer your half-sister?”
“Well you know what I mean, she’s your half-sister, right?”
“No,” insisted Elizabeth, “she is my sister.
“Well, you know what I mean, Jennifer and Leah are step-sisters, right?”
“No,” insisted Elizabeth, “in our family we have no steps or halves, we are family.”
“But officially,” the church member who didn’t get it went on “they are your half-sisters.”
SLIDE 17: NO MATTER HOW YOU DEFINE YOUR FAMILY YOU ARE WELCOME HERE
If the church is to minister in our modern culture we have to learn to accept people and families however they come to us. Other people do not need to define their families to fit our expectations of what family should be. No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, or how you define your family, you are welcome here.
SLIDE 18: COURAGE STRUGGLING TO RAISE CHILDREN
If our churches are going to become the villages that help to raise our children, then we must be accepting of many different kinds of families. Quite frankly making family work in our modern culture is difficult enough as it is without church people judging whose families or O.K. and whose are not. Again let me say, my heart goes out to the courage of all people who are struggling to raise children – especially single parent families.
My prayer for all the families of the church is that we will find the courage of Naomi and Ruth and bind ourselves to one another in a love that does not let us go. May God bless all of our families.