Friday, April 10, 2015

Ruth and Boaz,,,,Foreshadows of Finding the Man who Loves Me.


       My Bible in a Year reading this week take me into the book of Ruth. It is interesting that while looking for scriptural stories about Finding the Man who Loves Me my readings should find me in the Old Testament. There is the lovely foreshadowing of the Love of Christ and his respect and care for women in the person of Boaz along with the portrayal of a strong faithful woman in the love of Ruth. Ruth like many of the stories of women in the New Testament is a convert. She does not have the same status as Israelite women and there is some sketchy history around Moabites in general let alone Moabite women so to put it mildly Ruth was in serious need of a Protector.

   There is a type of Love reflected for Naomi by Ruth, that is also mirrored by Boaz for Ruth and in turn her Mother in Law. There is this lovely story of mutual support of two widows for each other and their Redemmer-Protector. Boaz. This story has a wonderful carrying love to it and it has a bit of that kind of love that sizzles. There is both care and sizzle from Boaz towards Ruth. Boaz notices her. There was something about Ruth that caught his attention and something about Ruth that wanted to protect her out there in his fields with other men. He obviously thinks Ruth is at risk or he wouldn't be recorded as saying he had given the men in the field directions not to touch her. Touch I think is a polite euphemism for jump her in the in having no respect for her what so ever and using her with no regard. The opposite of the regard Boaz was showing her. Ruth strikes me as such a brave and strong woman. First of all she has survived the death of her husband, secondly she is willing to go with Naomi her Mother in Law to a new country to be with her and make Naomis God her God. The walk of these two women is in some places possibly anywhere from 35 to 70 miles , over rough country , over the Jordan and not for the week of  heart. Think robbers, bandits , wild animals. Bad guys in general.

      So what  is different about Boaz and why does he get Good guy points:
He notices Ruth and when he receives a good report about her and learns she is with Noami who is a relative of his on her ( dead) husbands side he moves into action. He tells Ruth not to go into any other fields, stay with his servant girls and the men have been told not to touch her. When she is thirsty she can drink from the water the men have filled.Later in the day she is offered bread, shelter from the sun and some extra good share of the pickers harvest. Boaz repays her for he kindness to Naomi not only in word but in deeds. Ruth takes home some extra large helpings of harvest to share with her Mother in Law Naomi. When Naomi learns that Boaz has taken Ruth under his wing and he is a kinsman -redeemer for her family she tells Ruth to stay in his field until the end of harvest with his servant girls so she won't be harmed ..again this concern about the men abusing foreign women. Maybe it was something like well if we use a local girl their father or brothers will come and get us but this foreign widow here has no defenders so she is fair game. However Ruth did have some one . watching out for her.

  Boaz is expected under family obligations to serve as a protector for Naomi and Ruth but there seems to be someone closer in line to do that job that has not picked up on their duties. Naomi gives Ruth a little nudge, gets her to dress up all nice and pay Boaz a little night time visit when he has one to many after the yearly-  end of Harvest Hoedown. Boaz being a nice guy but not big on self confidence figures Ruth could have any other   man and doesn't pick up on subtle. Ruth has to kind of snuggle up and ask Spread the corner of your garment over me since you are a ..kinsmen -Redeemer which in normal language means lets get married and have babies as your the man for the job ( literally it is kind of his job according to local custom.

 Boaz not wanting to have Ruth's reputation ruined says he will work out the details in the morning and makes sure no one reports she was there and stay put. Not being naughty just staying at his feet...all the townspeople know you are a woman of good character.......Come morning he sends Ruth home with enough grain to feed them for a long time. It is the sign Naomi is waiting for a says" For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today. "For Ruth and Naomi it is like winning the relative lottery. They got a good one. Boaz has to go sit in the city gates and meet with the man who in many ways has the first crack at Ruth. Fortunately he is already otherwise engaged and Boaz settles the deal with the famous removal of a sandal and a public announcement of the purchase of property rights of the dead husbands and sons and acquired Ruth in the bargain. So with the locals blessing Boaz and Ruth marry have little Obed and live happily ever after . How do we know this story. Boaz is listed as the father of Obed, the father of Jesse the father of David. ( Ruth 4 -22) The we skip down to the New Testament in Matthew1:16 Boaz and Ruth via the House of David are grafted into the genealogy of Joseph , Mary and Jesus.

Boaz is caring, hospitable, protective, wise, a man of action, follows through on what he says he will do, guards many times the virtue of Ruth, loving and returning love. He redeems Ruth and her Mother in Law from their loss and life of poverty. He makes them her a part of the Family. It is interesting that with this kind of story of redeeming women with " less than " preconceptions of discrimination due to their country of birth or reputations that Jesus treated women who were like the Ruth's Tamar's and Rahab's listed in his genealogy with decency, equality and respect. . 


Monday, April 6, 2015

The Real Face of Jesus From the Shroud of Turin

Finding the Man who Loves Me


Here on my journey to find the Man Who Loves Me it is necessary to put on your women centered glasses. They look a bit like sun glasses but are designed to focus on women present content in the scriptures and church history. This is a search for women who loved Jesus and His Love for them in return. In order to do that we have to be like the woman in the parable who went is search of the lost coin and when she found it rejoiced with her friends. We are going to clean house and look for precious treasure. We will start at the Highest point of the Christian calendar which is also the day I started this Quest. Easter Sunday . The Resurrection

History is marked AD/BC by the importance of this event to mankind or as we have on women centered glasses womankind. It is the appropriate to find my first witness to the resurrection and the Love of Jesus in another woman that loved Him Mary Magdalene . Now Mary has been given a "working girl" reputation by the Church historically but there is no where in the scriptures that tell us that Mary Magdalene worked the streets. It does say that Mary was delivered of seven demons by Jesus. Perhaps Mary had some serious complex mental health care needs  before Jesus healed her  and it would help to explain her deep gratitude to Jesus or maybe considering the worship of idols in that time Mary had seven demons and the Bible calls it as it is. Either way once Mary was free she made a definitive choice to follow Christ. Image result for Resurrection of Christ women at the tombNow we know that Mary was not alone at the tomb and there were other women with her there waiting to anoint the Body of Christ. So we don't have to go on Mary's word alone. Whole groups of women followed Jesus and the disciples and helped care for their needs. The Bible doesn't say that the disciples provided for the women. It says the women provided for the disciples ( reference) Think about that for a minute...These women had the means to gather up expensive ointments for burial and go together to prepare his body. The women are named, they are present and they are affiliated with known others in the early followers. These are witnesses with credibility. Angels appeared to them . Angels tend to appear to people in the Bible as a sign that God means something important is about to happen or is happening. Does God think women are important. Apparently. Were they treated as second class citizens by Jesus or the Angelic beings sent by God. No. Were they told that women could not speak into the life of men. In John 20:15-18 we view the encounter between the Risen Christ and Mary Magdalene . 14 - At this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 Woman, he said "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for Thinking it was the gardener she said Sir if you have carried him away , tell me where you have put him , and I will get him". Jesus said to her "Mary". She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic Rabboni ( which means Teacher) . 17 Jesus said, Do not hold to me for I have not yet returned to the Father . ( adjust your glasses , get ready for it.) Go instead to my brothers and tell them I am ( catch the I Am reference here ) returning to my Father and your Father to my God and Your God. 18  Mary Magdelene went to the disciples with the news I have seen the Lord ! and she told them that he had said these things to her. 

Here is Mary at the time who in this culture due to the fact that she was a woman not be considered a reliable witness being given the job of the most important news in all of History that the Long awaited Messiah, The I AM of Jewish history. This news is given to a woman. There is something else going on here. The Bible is big on symbols. In this story there are two angels appearing to Mary . We have one man and one woman. Angels.. If she thinks there is a Gardener then there must be a Garden to take care of. Well we have earlier Mary the Mother of Jesus and Joseph and angels but earlier then that we have Adam and Eve in the Garden. Women and man supposedly for all time were cursed for their sin and kicked out of the Garden which was protected by cherubim with a fiery sword. Now here we have The Garden Tomb, we have angels in conversation with this woman, we  have Jesus ,( who is called the second Adam)   and she is told to go and share the Good News of his resurrection that the awaited I AM has risen. Relationship is restored. It would seem the curse of humankind and woman kind is lifted.

Did Mary speak into the life of the male disciples. Did she impart Good News. Now if we follow this story along we find another important event women were at in the church.  Pentecost.  Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer ,along with the women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus and his brothers. Women were in prayer with the disciples and present in the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.  

So we have Mary being told to Go, we have women in the early church being empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak of the wonders of God . We have symbols of women's release from the curse of the garden through both Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in her freedom. It seems women have been empowered to share the news of the Gospel. When and why does it change? There might be some answers but are they the right ones . Do the answers have to do with the Man who Loves Me . He seems to have treated women as equals in a time when women weren't treated as equals. In His time this was radical . It seems it still is. What happened in the church that in 2015 we are still arguing about the "place"of women. Why are verses that seem to free women overlooked and verses that subject women focused on intently. Why with at least fifty percent of the church female are we so unrepresented in sharing the very good news Jesus sent Mary out to share. She was told to tell her brothers the disciples. Why. Why if this message was so important was it not given to the male disciples first. Why not wait for Peter and John to show up and tell them first. Why Mary...because she loved Him. This seemed to matter. Mary was there early with the other women because they loved Him. They wanted to do something special for Him. They were not politically motivated. They were not arguing over who would be first in the Kingdom like the disciples had been. They were simply there because of Love and grief. It was no small risk for women to be out while it was still dark close to the area where there were Roman guards. Bad things could happen but they took the risk . But it was the women who saw Him first. ( Matthew 28:8 ) It was the women who were told to Go and tell. Holy women following Jesus. Praying , waiting , serving. caring. Women restored and transformed from their former lives into an intimate relationship with Christ. There is a lesson here for me as I gather information from the witnesses on the Man who they loved and the Man who Loves me. The love relationship is tangible. He showed up because He knew they loved Him and they would be there waiting . 

When my life is spiritually dry is it because I have forgotten to wait in the dark for the light of morning. Am I waiting to do something special for Him . Even if it seems He is gone . Do I still prepare to spend a little loving time with Him. Could it be He will surprise me? What little act of anointing and waiting for the beloved can I do today?

  " Our God Loves Us, this is our comfort." Elizabeth Seton.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Man Who Loves Me

Image result for St.John of the Cross images of Jesus
 Easter Sunday. 2015

 Today in my readings was a lovely story of a man's Love for his wife. They had been driving through the mountains on a vacation when their car went off the road and their car went in the river. They both escaped the car , and a passing trucker tossed a rope to the couple. The man pushed his wife toward the rope and she was saved. He however was caught in the current and did not survive. He gave his life for his wife.

       This is a similar sacrificial love to what we reflect on over the Easter Season. This Holy Weekend I am coming face to face with a man who loves me. He has been trying to show me in his relationships with women recorded in scripture that he deeply loves women and that he has a unique and sacred friendship with them. I have like many women been wrestling with women's roles in the church and it is way to easy to get focused on the number of males visible and the number of women in positions invisible and find yourself wondering when the church will "get with it". In saying Church I mean in general universal rather heavily tilted towards patriarchal controls way of thinking. I applaud my sisters who are out there in the heat of the day marking trails for other women, but a long time of inner reflection has drawn me to the conclusion that I am not one of those women. History has shown us that there are women who are trail markers but they do it in a different way. This is not about one way being better than another or valued any more or less. Is there a new yet ancient trail being opened in the church in the areas of Lay ministries that have a contemplative bent by people who have active lives of service/and active lives of prayer and spiritual practice?A part of me says Yes.! Yet is is not a well marked Path.
         This seems to be the path that is drawing me. Thomas Merton has a well known prayer about spiritual paths.

 "My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

 I may be a Martha in my work doing, but at the core of my being I am Mary sitting and being taught at the feet of Jesus. You notice I say sitting and being taught. That's where people sat when they wanted to be taught. Remember Paul saying he was taught at the feet of Gamaliel . Mary was there for two reasons...she was there because she loved Jesus and he loved her and she did not want to miss a moment of what he was saying. Mary was being taught.I am beginning to think that there are two current streams presently available for women in the church. There is the stream of the academic Martha who is equal in ability and call to males in the church and feels a strong need to enter that arena and I use the word in the Roman Gladiator sense  as she needs to be suited up or prepare for Martyrdom. There are also the Martha's who are the doers in the church without which the church would probably fall apart for lack of helping hands. Not that all women in the church don't pitch in from time to time but there are core Martha's. You know who they are . Thank God for Martha's.

        Then there are the Mary's. Now like the early story of Mary and Martha, Mary although respected by monastics for generations has come off in the current Protestant work ethic as being a bit of a slacker. Mary is presented to us as the woman who sat at the feet of Jesus adoring him. True.
Yes, Mary was adoring Jesus. Yes, but Mary was also learning. Mary as the Trappists would call it was in the School of Love. There is this place for work and fighting the good fight and there is this place for being in the School of Love. At this moment in time I am sensing a call to the School of |Love. For sometime now I have been walking in a Lay spirituality that is Benedictine/Cistercian in nature and learning about spiritual practice.

      Most of my life has been spent in working with persons with disabilities and recently along with this I have been able to follow a desire to facilitate with groups of women who have been in abusive relationships past or present. Some women have been abused in childhood and from their deep pain fallen into addictions and marginalized lifestyles. All are women for whom Love has meant something very different than the Love we find on the Cross, or the man who threw a rope to his wife and lost his own life. For these women whether they are the women sitting next to you in the pew silent in their suffering or the women pushing their carts towards the homeless tent city Love seems a long ways away. It is to these women , the women in the groups I am learning to facilitate with who have found love has let them down and for my friends in groups of women who are modern Mary's seeking a deeper relationship with Christ. I am on this Quest to find the Man Who Loves Me in Scriptures. Every time He reaches out to a woman in scripture He is reaching out to me, He is reaching out to women who have been in abusive relationships, and He is reaching out to women who want to follow Him in a his school of Love.   

           I want to learn from them about the the man who loved me enough to give his life for me. This is the place I start on my Easter Journey to find The Man Who Loves Me .