When I walk into a church for worship, the seat that I take is up in the loft. As the child of a choir member, this was where I was raised to sit when in a church. To this day, I am a little uncomfortable sitting in the congregation. When I take a class, my seat is always in the back row on the left hand side of the room. I don’t like to be front and center. We all have our spots. My great grandmother Standish had a pew in church towards the middle of the sanctuary on the left hand side and if any sat in her spot she would say “You can sit here today dear. But this is my spot”. That pew had been used by someone in our family for generations. To this day, when I walk into that sanctuary, I can point out which pew it was. When I sang in the church choir, my spot was in the front row next to a particular woman and it never changed.
In our lives, we all have those things that bring us comfort. We all have our spots where we settle into a routine and find solace. It is not always in seats either. It can be ideologies, attitudes, and routines. With these routines, we fall into automatic mode. We no longer use much thought, we just do or ignore. But God expects more from us. Our scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are full of individuals who have out of necessity or out of courage stepped out of their societal norms, stepped out of all that gave them comfort to find a new perspective in life, or to live in a new way and in return their eyes were opened to the depths of God’s love in their world and in their lives.
Ruth was no different. Ruth is known for her love, loyalty, and obedience. But she was also a woman who, out of necessity and with great pain, was forced to see her world and life differently and in so doing she helped change the world for generations. Ruth and her future second husband, Boaz, would be responsible for the line of David that would lead to the birth of Christ. With great courage, she stepped outside of her comfort zone, putting her in a position to view life and her world differently, which then affected her actions and her understanding of self in relation to the world.
Ruth was a Moabitess, the same as her sister-in-law Orpah. This meant that she was a pagan. She lived in the ancient world and her mother-in-law in response to the loss of both of her sons and her husband released her daughter-in-laws from any responsibility to her and she to them. They were allowed to go back to the familiar comfort of their parent’s homes and would then be allowed to rebuild their lives with new husbands. Yet Ruth, unlike Orpah, refused this.
Her life had been changed when she married Naomi’s son. Naomi was a part of her life and knowledge and faith in God had changed her life. She committed herself to Naomi. She committed herself to the life of a destitute widow. She embraced her life changes and let them shape her understanding of her world and faith. Her life changed so that she placed kindness and love first in her interactions in society, which would come to define her forever.
In our world, we are in desperate need of a change of perspective. We need to start viewing life and the world very differently so we might be able to bring about more kindness and love to the actions of others. Last Saturday there was a shooting at a synagogue in Philadelphia where people had gathered to observe Sabbath worship. The individual who killed 11 people and wounded many others did so out of intense hatred for those he didn’t know or understand those who were different from him in their ways of life. From his perspective, they were a threat because he could not see them or accept them for who they were: peaceful individuals seeking a relationship with God.
He is not the only one to harbor such hatred in his life. Most people have some level of bitterness, resentment, or anger but general they do not act on their emotions of anger or resentment. But where those feelings reside, we are being called to seek to see life and people differently. We are called to seek out ways to get a different perspective, to hear things fresh with new ears. We are to use that inspiration to bring love into the world. We need to start with our own personal lives and relationships: we need to assess what resides in each of our hearts. Mother Theresa said, “Spread love everywhere you go: First in your own house …. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes; kindness in your smile; kindness”.
We are called to step outside of our normal routines seeking new perspective in life, new perspective with God in an attempt to feel the Spirit at work in new and exciting ways in our lives, with our families, in our communities, and in our larger world. Let us find new ways to live into God’s message of love setting aside our anger, our sorrow, and our desire for retribution. Let us remember the words of our Psalmist, “Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God”. Let us seek hope for tomorrow in the work of the Lord, a hope that became the inspiration for Ruth to sojourn on with Naomi. Let us allow for that hope to open us to a new life in the light of God, a life that can slowly use love and kindness to bring about healing to a world broken by human hatred. So go forth and search for ways to change your perspective. Sit in a new spot, change up your morning routine, and consciously act with discernment in your lives instead of reacting to hate and negativity in like manner.
 Mother Theresa, 20th century.
 Psalm 146: 5, RSV.
(Based on Psalm 146 and Ruth 1:1-18)