Bread – Work

May 22, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, May 22, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ruth 2:14-23; 1 Tim. 3:1-16; Luke 13:18-30; Psalms 12,13,14,119:1-24

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Our Old Testament reading today is from Ruth, an honored woman who is in the lineage of King David and Jesus. The passage finds Ruth in the presence of Boaz, who has her eat with the workers and then, when she goes out to glean, he tells the workers to make sure that she has plenty to glean.

Now this in itself is a simple story, but with profound implications for our work in the world while in Christ. To understand this, it is important to see the roles of the parties in this episode of history.

First, there is Ruth. She lives in poverty with her mother-in-law in a foreign land. Every day she goes out to “glean” in the fields, meaning simply that she goes onto the farm after the reapers have collected the crops and picks up the leftovers, if there are any. Gleaners got whatever the reapers by accident left behind.

Second, there is Boaz. He actually owns the land where Ruth is gleaning and employs the reapers. The reapers are then people in Boaz’ employ. Boaz is also a kinsman to Naomi, the mother-in-law who Ruth lives with, and will prove himself to be a “redeemer” as well. Boaz therefore becomes an image of Christ, a “type” of Christ.

So in the hierarchy of life, Ruth is at the bottom and Boaz is at the top. Boaz pays attention to her and lets her eat at his table with his reapers.

But, after showing favor to Ruth, he says this to his reapers – “Let her glean …” In other words, even though Boaz showed her favor and could have instantly lifted her out of her circumstances and at least made her a reaper (although perhaps that was limited to men at the time), but instead sent her back out to work in her current position – to glean. He made her life easier as a gleaner (he instructed the reapers to leave extra on the ground), but she was still a gleaner.

As Christians, have we ever been in position of work, of a job or a customer or a client or a decision, where we just ask the Lord to take the burden of the job off of us? Sure we have. And what often is the answer we get? Go back to gleaning! Go back to work! Go back to scrubbing toilets, dealing with belligerent people, stacking boxes, or whatever work it is that is assigned to you!

Just because God has identified you as someone invited to eat at His table does not mean that you have the option of quitting your nasty job. Your nasty job may be just the place where God wants you to do His work. He may make your work easier to bear (as Boaz did for Ruth), but He may not elevate you to the position you wish.

So, we have been saved by Christ, eaten at the table of his blessings, and sent from the table to pick up our shovel and work at our nasty job.

This is not a prosperity gospel but a gospel that works. A gospel which goes into the lives of ordinary people, us, into ordinary circumstances, into ordinary work and which transforms nasty labor into opportunities for life.

Jesus reminds us today in our reading from Luke of the following: “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures, until it was all leavened.” Lk. 13:20-21.

When we are invited to eat the Lord’s meal and then told by Him to return to our nasty work, we carry with us the kingdom of God. We carry with us the leaven of life. And with that leaven, in our nasty work, we are able to bring the kingdom to others who are in the same circumstances we are in, who are working at the same work in the same place. And our work as ambassadors of Christ, ambassadors of the kingdom of God, in the midst of that worldly work, may plant the seed of that kingdom in the hearts of those who so desperately need to hear about it.

When we go off to work today we may go with the song of lament or the happy song of the seven dwarfs in “Snow White” (Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go….). The writer of Ruth reports that Ruth ate at Boaz’ table “until she was satisfied” and then went off to glean the fields. Which song do you think she was singing?

We as Christians eat at the Lord’s table when we commune with Him at dinner, on the road, in prayer, in meditation, in reading His Word, in worship, and in just talking to Him. When we finish and are satisfied, we are then told to pack up our bags and go glean in the fields. What song will we sing on the way? The song of the redeemed or the song of the dead?

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© 2013 GBF

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