The Master Weaver

Yesterday I recommended the book of Ruth as a reminder that God works in ordinary lives in difficult times. The story of Ruth is about ‘two widows and a farmer whose lives are woven into the fabric of God’s salvation through the ordinary actions of common life.’ (Eugene Peterson, ‘Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work)
Many people feel daunted when reading the Bible. Miracles abound and prophets like Moses, Elijah and Elisha seem far beyond our experience. There is nothing daunting about the book of Ruth. It has just four chapters and its ordinary story about coping in times of economic difficulty and emotional trouble should resonate with us all. Ordinary people, dealing with ordinary, everyday situations. But ordinary does not mean insignificant or unimportant. Eugene Peterson goes on to describe Ruth’s story as ‘a modest but nevertheless essential part of the vast epic whose plot is designed by God’s salvation.’ (ibid., P 78)
The book reminds us that ‘every detail of a person’s life is part of a larger story, and the larger story is salvation.’ (Ibid., P 79) We are woven into God’s story, and suddenly insignificance is forgotten. We matter to God. God is working in the everyday details and shaping our lives. Ruth – a foreign ‘outsider’ – becomes part of the lineage of David and of Jesus. She’s integrated into God’s story through His sovereignty, which is worked out in intimate detail in ordinary people’s lives.
It can be hard for us to see the bigger picture of our lives (we’re too close; all we see are the knots and mess of the underside of the tapestry!) But Ruth assures us that there is a master weaver at work in our lives, whether we see that yet or not.

Finding The Sacred In The Ordinary

I woke up to heavy rain this morning – grey skies and heavy rain in July seem particularly depressing! It’s easy at such times to feel despondent, but faith is as relevant on days like today as when the sun shines!
What do we do when the disconnect between the glories in the Bible and our everyday realities seems so great? How do we maintain faith in the dull and the humdrum, in our everyday lives?
Ruth is the book that shows us ordinary people in difficult circumstances still exhibiting grace and still finding love and God’s salvation. The time is famine. The circumstances involve multiple bereavement. In the midst of Naomi’s bitterness (‘Call me Mara’), we find Ruth: loyal, faithful, prepared to change, and we find Boaz: kind, just, faithful. And in the middle of this story of ordinary lives, we find a baby who becomes the ancestor of King David and of the Lord Himself, God working out His plans in unspectacular ways (what could be more ‘ordinary’ than a love story and a baby?!)
Ruth is the reminder that the ordinary matters, that God is found in the most mundane of places. It is the reminder that those obscure Levitical laws (Leviticus 19:9) about leaving the edges of fields for foreigners actually make a difference to someone’s daily life. Ruth is a book which connects the everyday and the sacred, and as such, is a vivid reminder to us that even when it rains on a July day and maybe spoils our plans for outdoor activities, God is still working for good in ordinary lives.

To fit like a glove…

Last Christmas my friend knitted me some gloves. I had to give her my hand measurements, including the length of my fingers and thumbs; these gloves truly were made to measure and gave a whole new meaning to the expression ‘to fit like a glove‘ to me.
C. S. Lewis wrote that ‘every fold and crease of your individuality was devised from all eternity to fit God as a glove fits a hand.’ That is a thought so mind-boggling I can barely comprehend it. My individuality is unique. There is no one quite like me (for which people are probably very grateful!) To think that ‘every fold and crease’ is not only known to God but ‘devised’ by Him for His purpose is something I can barely grasp.
To find people who know us, accept us and love us is a wonderful (and rare) thing. When we do, when we feel connected to another person (linked, perhaps, by a shared love of something or a common goal), there is a sense of satisfaction and completeness. To know that we can have that kind of connection to God Himself is very precious.
My handmade gloves fill me with a warmth that is not simply connected to the cosy, sparkly yarn from which they are made. They remind me visibly that my friend cared enough about me to make them for me (and cared so much as to make me two pairs and a pair of fingerless gloves out of the same yarn, actually!) They remind me that in her eyes I was worth making something beautiful tailored for me.
God is our Maker and Creator. Every fold and crease of our individuality was made by Him to fit Him – our worth is deterrmined by the value He places on us, and that value was so great He sent His Son to die for us. That’s something which should warm our hearts, and not just our hands!

Teamwork

Tonight we looked at the subject of teamwork. God loves us all and wants us to love one another. Often, this will mean helping each other as we realise we can’t do everything on our own. God has put us in the church so that we can work together to let others know about His love and so we can help each other.
The children had to break cotton thread (easy enough with one thread, much harder with multiple threads) and carry a very heavy rucksack (only possible when they worked together.) The church should be a place where we pray for each other and help in practical ways where possible. That way, we share God’s love and invite others to experience His love too.

According To God’s Unfailing Love and Great Compassion

This morning, we looked at Psalm 51, David’s psalm of repentance after he was confronted (through the prophet Nathan) about his conduct (adultery with Bathsheba and his plotting to kill her husband, Uriah the Hittite, in a futile attempt to conceal his sinful behaviour.) There, we find David appealing to God’s unfailing love and great compassion as his only hope for restoration (Ps 51:1), and we see how these qualities of God are essential to us if we are to live according to God’s ways.

Psalm 51 acts as our template for how to approach God in humility and penitence when we have sinned (as we all do, Rom 3:23). David makes no attempt to justify his behaviour but admits his sin (Ps 51:3-5). He understands that God needs more than outward conformity to rules (Ps 51:16-17) and demonstrates that repentance is the only way back (see 2 Cor 7:10).

John tells us that we must confess our sins to God and can rely on God’s faithfulness to forgive. (1 John 1:9-10) David appeals to God’s unfailing love (Hebrew hesed, often translated as ‘loving kindness’) and compassion (Hebrew racham, see also Lam 3:22-23). Our hope for forgiveness is based on God’s unfailing love and compassion; it is grounded in His love and faithfulness, demonstrated by Christ on the cross. (Eph 1:7-8) Ultimately, our willingness to change and learn when challenged by God is needed, but we rely on the character of God (Neh 9:17) in every interaction. There is hope even when we sin because of who God is.

More on Holy Communion

The Eucharist reminds us forcibly of God’s great love for people (John 3:16, 1 John 3:1) It helps us to see people (including ourselves) ‘not through the dirty lens of our own muddled feelings and not through the smudgy window of another’s carping criticism, but in terms of God’s word.’ (Eugene Peterson, ‘Five Smooth Stones For Pastoral Work’, P 64-65) Our sense of inadequacy and lack of self-worth are corrected as we reflect again on the fact that God loved the world enough to send His Son to die for us. Our sense of arrogance and self-sufficiency are challenged by the reminder that we are unable to save ourselves and need God’s active particiipation to be saved.

Participating in Holy Communion reminds us of the historical reality of our faith and points us to the power of God, for the cross is now empty. The resurrection means God’s daily presence is with us to help and to guide. We have hope, no matter how grim our daily reality may be. Moreover, Holy Communion instils in us a strong sense of expectation, for we do this only ‘until He comes.’ (1 Cor 11:26) We have hope that looks beyond this present darkness and beyond our mortality. This weekly act of remembrance becomes a pointer to the future and a reminder that God’s story is not over yet. Jesus is coming back; God is sovereign over all history.