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Sunday Service 8th October

Being Real


Call to worship

Hymn 530: One more step

Time for all

Hymn 229: We plough the fields and scatter

Reading: Ruth 1: 1-22 Amanda


Hymn 728: God of the living


Prayer of Dedication

Hymn 729: Hear me dear Lord


Welcome to our reflection for 8th of October.

Ruth is a wonderful book of hope.

Everyone loves the book of Ruth because it has such a happy ending, and also because it is so short.

And also it isn’t that difficult to understand.

There is a lot of the books of the Bible where we think we need to have a degree in theology to understand them, or the cultural differences are so great we struggle to get into their mindset.

But Ruth, Ruth is such a gentle, easy to understand book, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some serious message to teach us.

And we will look at one of those after Amanda leads us in our prayer and reading...


I know I have mentioned this many times before, but my dad and I had one major theological difference that we couldn’t reconcile.

My dad would read the end of a book before he read it.

There was not one book that he read that he hadn’t first read the last chapter first, to make sure that it had a happy ending.

Now what is really bugging is that the books he used to read were Mills and Boon Romances.

The argument always went the same way...


He argued that he spent his life in a really stressful job where thousands could lose their jobs if he made a mistake, so he needed to de-stress and the last thing he needed was to get to the end of a book and it had a sad ending.


The fact that 99% of the time it was a happy ending would just make the sudden shock of a sad ending even more distressing, better to be safe than sorry.

My problem with the book of Ruth is that we already know that it has a happy ending.

And sometimes because of that we miss some of the important messages that it has to give us.

Like this first chapter.

In the first five verses it covers the space of a couple of decades. And in that time there are two famines, two marriages, three deaths.

Even over a couple of decades that takes its toll on someone.

And maybe the simple message we need to take is that life can be hard.

A couple of weeks ago I had a bit of a rant at the Cochrane old folk’s service.

We were looking at the Psalms and how they were the hymn book of the Jewish people.

And the most common Psalm in the Bible is lament, or complaint.

Basically someone saying to God, ‘My life is lousy. Where are you God?’

And my rant was about how we don’t have many of that kind of hymn in our hymnbook.

In fact it is even worse than that, when we do use the Psalms we get rid of the nasty bits, we try to sanitise them.

I used the example of the Boney M hit, By the Rivers of Babylon.

All very cheery and happy and upbeat.

But they missed out the last verse.

(Psalm 137)

Babylon, you will be destroyed.

Happy is the man who pays you back for what you have done to us-who takes your babies and smashes them against a rock.

We don’t have hymns that have that kind of thought in it.

I’m not very good at poetry but I thought I would write a modern version of that.

May all politicians find themselves in universal credit, and their car breaks down so they have to go to a loan shark to get it fixed.

May they end up with a broken leg and have to wait 15 hours in accident and emergency to get an x ray.

May they be made to work four jobs on zero hours and still have to use foodbanks.

And only then can they tell us that they are making difficult decisions and that we are all in the same boat.

We don’t have hymns like that.

We have very few hymns that reflect how hard life is for many folk.

It seems to me that we prefer more upbeat hymns.

Be thou my vision O Lord of my life.

All things bright and beautiful

How great thou art

All very positive.

And the more modern hymns are even worse.

A typical Graham Kendrick hymn...

Jesus stand among us, at the meeting of our lives, be the sweet agreement at the meeting of our eyes.

I bet they don’t sing that at a meeting where they are discussing closing a quarter of the churches.

Don’t get me wrong here.

There is a place for praise and thanksgiving.

But there also has to be a place for those who are struggling.

My daughter has just started playing rugby.

And the other week there was a sudden facebook alert because one of her team just went walkabout.

A few days later she was found in the west coast, unsure how she even got there, she just started to move and kept on moving until she could go no further.

She is back home now, but her friends are still worried for her, they are terrified at her possible future.

Life is tough out there, and we seem to want to avoid talking about it.

Scared maybe that bad news is contagious and if we share it then it will spread.

There is the unyielding truth of these first five verses of Ruth that life can be hard,

and it isn’t dealt with by pretending that it isn’t hard,

and it that isn’t dealt with by singing happy tunes,

it is dealt with by finding another path to follow that leads to hope.

The journey to the Promised Land starts with acknowledging that we are not there, and that we have to move towards it.

In these first five verses we have the people thinking that the place where God is isn’t good enough, so they move away to where they think life is better, easier, more comfortable.

Then life gets more and more difficult.

And Naomi then has a choice to make.

She can be stoical about it...we made our bed, we have to lie in it.

She can be in denial about isn’t as bad as it seems, things will get better.

She can get angry about it...what have I done to deserve this, this isn’t fair.

Or she can be realistic...this is not where I want to be, how do I get to where I want to be?

Or rather, be totally realistic about life, ‘I am not where God wants me to be, how do I let God help me get to the path he wants me to follow?’

I am not where God wants me to be, how do I let God help me get to the path he wants me to follow?

It all starts with being real.

That life can be hard, and that maybe our life is hard just now.

Last month we had four folk in hospital.

And they were having a tough time.

They didn’t know if they were going to get better, they were in wards of five when there should only have been four in each ward.

They were struggling with other patients keeping them up all night.

Some were terrified that they might not get home, that they would have to go into a nursing home.

Others that they should be home but the local authorities seemed to be going on a go slow making up a care package for them, and that if they got their care package then it wouldn’t be adequate.

Some where terrified that they would be sent home before they were totally better and that it wouldn’t be too long before they were back in hospital because they had fallen again or caught an infection.

If they pretended that everything was fine then that didn’t help anyone.

They had to be honest with the staff looking after them,

with the staff trying to organise their care packages,

and most of all, they had to be honest with themselves, about how they felt and what was going on.

Only with that honesty could they find a possible path to hope.

I loved my dad dearly.

His habit of reading the end of the book to guarantee that it had a happy ending just got up my nose.

And I know it is tempting to do that with the book of Ruth.

But there is no hope if we just read the book of Ruth,

see that it has a happy ending

and cross our fingers and pray that we will have a happy ending too.

We need to learn the lessons of Ruth.

And the first lesson is to see life as it truly is, not as we want it to be, and then see that it doesn’t need to stay that way.

The journey to the Promised Land starts with acknowledging that we are not there, and that we have to move towards it.

To realise that

I am not where God wants me to be, how do I let God help me get to the path he wants me to follow?

That is the journey Naomi will take, that is the journey that the Bible invites us to follow.

Let us pray

God of pilgrimage,

the journey of life is a strange one.

We travel from place to place,

from desert to lakeside,

from mountain to valley,

from age to age,

from young to adult,

from middle age to old age.

So in silence we reflect on each of those stages and the people who helped us through each stage...

Those we depended on as children...

Those we relied on as teenagers and young adults...

Those that became our dependants and those who were lasting friends in our middle years...

Those that started to leave us, and those we began to be dependent on, in old age...

Each stage of the journey is full of joy and sorrow.

Each stage gives us people to journey with us.

Some to guide and some to be guided.

God, we are thankful for the journey and for all those who travel with us

but most of we are glad to know that in every place and at every stage

you are with us, always and forever.



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