Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Courage, creativity and collaboration’
The Book of Ruth is a precious short story in the Hebrew Bible. At just four chapters, it’s just about the story of solidarity and friendship, overcoming adversity by way of persistence and ingenuity. It’s also a story, for Jews and for Christians, of the outsider (Moabites were regarded unworthy, untrustworthy) without whom there is no salvation, without whom there is no Saviour. Ruth is the great-
The Hebrew name, Ruth, means “Beloved”. We shouldn’t miss the more harrowing aspects to the story, however. Ruth is the foreign daughter-
The story is about Ruth’s love – in spite of sadness and bitterness. Ruth will accompany Naomi home, and will ensure, by way of work and remarriage, that both women find security – a future together. Israel’s own future also turns on the courage, creativity and collaboration of Ruth and Naomi – which is why, presumably, future generations preserved the book, and why it is a treasured part of holy scripture for us. It inscribes within the story of God’s people (a familiar story, a comforting story for insiders), the story of the outsider beloved of God.
It’s hard to overestimate its importance. The Book of Ruth is a story for anyone who has ever known the pain of disconnection, isolation, desperation. The Book of Ruth is a thorn in the side of cultural arrogance, a thorn in the side of triumphalism, a thorn in the side of institutional self-
Yesterday, I said that the three simple words, courage, creativity and collaboration, were apt terms for the holy, for God. It’s striking that we have this lection today, for all around us are signs of this courage, creativity and collaboration – the presence of God, which, in the experience of hurt, is felt as the persistence of hope. Alana Valentine and the community weavers and readers, like Cathy Kezelman and the ASCA team of carers and councilors, bear witness to holy courage, creativity and collaboration, to God whose Word or Wisdom is ever made flesh, is ever made fish … swimming upstream, and towards recovery.
One of the strong themes of ASCA’s Blue Knot Day commemorations this year has been the theme of optimism about recovery. At Thursday night’s ASCA fundraiser dinner at Darling Harbour, singer-
Alana’s play, Swimming Upstream, read so brilliantly yesterday by Heather, Catherine, Norrie, Maidie, Dorothy, Pam, Margaret, Julie, Vanessa and others, was so moving, so real – I felt a shiver upon standing at the pulpit to read aloud one account of abuse. “It stands to reason that the most devastating types of trauma are those that occur at the hands of caretakers” [Louis Cozolino, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy (New York: Norton, 2002), p. 258]. Truth-
Ruth means “Beloved”. It’s not a coincidence that we refer to Jesus as Beloved, nor that we make a sign of the cross and refer to the Triune God as Lover, Beloved and Spirit of Love. To know oneself beloved is to be gathered up, with Jesus, into the very life of God.
I’ll conclude with a comment about the Gospel for today – something noteworthy about the commandment to love. The grammar is a little unusual. What the Inclusive Bible renders as “You must love …” is more accurately rendered “You shall or you will love …”. Greek scholars call it a future form with an implied command. The command is softened by something with a hint of promise to it. The whole command reads: “Hear O Israel, God, our God, is one. You will love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” The emphasis of command is actually the command to “Hear …”. The “You will love …” is what we are commanded to hear, and it has this blend of promise and implied command. The meaning is held in creative tension between: “You all are commanded to love” and “Listen up folks, there’s good news. The day is coming when we will all love God and we will all love one another”.
The command might be the prompt we need to make an extra effort (beyond complacency, cultural arrogance, institutional self-