Lent

2015: The Story of Ruth and Naomi: Building Multi-Faith Alliances

Fourth Sunday in Lent

2015: The Story of Ruth and Naomi: Building Multi-Faith Alliances

Pray

Eternal God,
Guide our feet as we journey in faith together with sisters and brothers from every culture, creed and condition. Make us better stewards of that which you have entrusted into our care. We ask O God, that you would give us compassionate and troubled hearts to seek the well-being and protection of Your divine creation and all of humankind. May justice seekers from every faith tradition learn to come together around the things that make for peace, righteousness and harmony. Help us to know that in your divine economy, there is room for ALL. Amen.

Today we pray for: Dumas Wesley Community Center, Mobile, Alabama; Bradley Kenn  and Osias Segura-Guzman.

Learn

Multi-Faith Conversations and Racial Justice

Read Ruth 1:6-22, the story of Ruth and Naomi

Many of us are familiar with the beloved biblical story of Ruth and Naomi. It is a story often lifted up for the sincere love, devotion and loyalty shared between these two grieving women. These qualities are not only valued but they are essential — for strengthening personal relationships, but also in the building of alliances for the work of peace and reconciliation across race and faith tradition. These two women were of different generations, ethnicities, cultures and faith traditions — Naomi of Ephrathites from Bethlehem, and a woman who believed in the God of Abraham; and Ruth, a Moabite women who was not reared to believe in the one called Yahweh.

Yet the dedication and love that developed between them because of loss and tragedy sealed their bond of sisterhood and familial alliance forever. In spite of the desperate conditions in Moab, it was culturally familiar, yet Ruth still chooses to leave all that has formed her as a women — her own heritage, faith and community — and accompanies Naomi to the older woman’s homeland in Bethlehem. The words that she utters pierce the heart, “…Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried…” (Ruth 1:16b-17a). Can we say that our love and devotion to the well-being of another person or community that is different from our own is that sincere? Can we trust that God will provide all that is needed for us to fully commit to the work of alliance-building across faith traditions, cultures or ethnicities to end racism and oppression?

Mentor

We live in a world where religion is often in the news, but frequently in divisive ways that take the extreme actions of a few as representative of all believers in a tradition. From those who say God condones exploding airplanes in the name of retributive justice, to believers who claim the land they live on was chosen for them by God and must be protected at any and all costs, to others who claim they are doing God’s will by murdering doctors who counsel pregnant women about reproductive choices — extremism in any faith cannot be used to condemn and shun believers from faiths that are different from one’s own.

All people of faith are called to heal painful wounds and reconcile a broken, divided and unjust world. This was true for Ruth and Naomi just as it is true in our own personal lives. It is also true of our public and prophetic struggles for justice. Our work to nurture alliances across faith traditions must begin from a place of grace, study, love, compassion and justice that: (1) questions how stories about different traditions are framed to cultivate a narrow and contentious view of these faiths and (2) understands the complex histories and contexts of the various ways that people in different traditions express their beliefs.

At the core of United Methodist Women is an ardent commitment to the work of mission, advocacy and education. Through United Methodist Women members' experiences of action, training and consciousness-raising around the world, we encounter faith traditions and cultures that are different than our own. Yet there is a common goal to bring about the full, whole and just restoration of humanity. In what ways can we use the example of commitment and loyalty seen in the story of Ruth and Naomi as a model of intentionality — a purposeful seeking out of relationships and alliances with others across faith traditions or cultures? How can those in your local unit or in your conference engage other ecumenical or interfaith women’s organizations that are also engaged in social justice action? Perhaps your unit or church can host a multi-faith community round table discussion around common issues that impact the entire community. Consider having a multi-faith prayer vigil/service to end racial and cultural violence. Walking with one another through difficult times, like Ruth and Naomi did, forges relationships that are based in honesty, mutuality, respect and can help us see the God in each other and love that God fiercely

Transform

With this week’s focus on building multi-faith alliances, it is a good time to revisit United Methodist Women’s spiritual growth study for 2011, The Journey: Forgiveness, Restorative Justice and Reconciliation, by Stephanie Hixon and Thomas Porter. Below are two sections of the study to highlight in your review and reflection time:

  • With a small group, read and discuss “Chapter 8: Reconciliation of the Jews and the Gentiles—The Story of the Jerusalem Council: A Model for Interfaith Relations?” (pages 155-171). Reflect on the following questions:
    • How does our biblical mandate call us to create meaningful interfaith relationships today?
    • What is a first step you might take toward building interfaith relationships that have working for justice for all people at their core?

  • With a small group read “Appendix A: A Different Kind of Justice: Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa” (pages 173-179).  Journal about the following questions for 20 minutes and discuss your responses:
    • What might a truth and reconciliation commission for the United States, led by an interfaith coalition, look like?
    • What racial wounds could we as a nation heal through a truth and reconciliation commission?

The Rev. Dionne P. Boissière is chaplain at the Church Center for the United Nations. Janis Rosheuvel is executive for racial justice for United Methodist Women.

 

Posted or updated: 3/13/2015 11:00:00 PM

The Journey: Forgiveness, Restorative Justice and Reconciliation

*The Journey

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Resources:

*Seasonal Reflections and Resources

*Racial Justice Advocacy Resources

*The Charter for Racial Justice

*Lent and Easter Devotions

 

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