Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Prayer for the funeral

If you want to see God you have only to look at Jesus. Standing at the graveside of his friend, Jesus wept. He understands what it is to experience the pain of loss. But in the words of Bruce Springsteen, love is a power greater than death. I'd like to pray using some of the words and ideas from the 23rd psalm that we've just heard.

To the Good Shepherd, you who promise to be close to the broken-hearted, I pray for the family here today for whom an irreplaceable person has gone.

God of love, who knows what it is to grieve, grant peace in the midst of pain and comfort in a time of need.

For Pop, when the emptiness becomes too hard to bear, I pray that you surround him with those who will support and encourage him, who will love him and hold him tight.

For Mike, Lynne and Angie, who've borne a heavy burden over the last months, I pray that the Good Shepherd will lead you to still waters, to green pastures, where you can find space to mourn and to heal, to remember your mother as she used to be before she became so ill.

For Becca, Dan, Ellie, Jo, Simon, Anna, Rob and Neil, I pray that, as you remember grandma, you find comfort in the knowledge that you meant everything to her. You and your children were her world.

For the extended family, for all of us who had the privilege of knowing Ivy, I pray that we will find inspiration in her memory.

Father God, I pray that your tender love will be a balm for spirits that are hurting so much now, that your compassion will bring about restoration of our souls.

And in the name of the Father who created us, and of his resurrected son, Jesus Christ who saves us, and of the Holy Spirit, who is with us and comforts us - may the peace of the living God be upon us - each one. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

One Night


Oh Elimelech, what have I done? I have sent the girl to … to prostitute herself. For what else is it if she lies at a man’s feet and asks to share his bed? What would Mahlon say if he were here? But he’s not; like you he’s dead and gone and that is why we have to resort to these measures. How could God take you all from us? Why, God, why did you do it? Was it something I did? So bad that you chose to punish me by taking my husband and my sons? Oh Elimelech, I wish you were here now.

But have I done wrong again? By telling Ruth to go to Boaz have I sinned again? But what was I to do? We have nothing. It is by Boaz’s generosity that we are managing to live. He is a good man, honest and true. Unlike your cousin, who, I know, is our closest kinsman-redeemer. I hear nothing but bad about him in the town. Would you have Ruth tied up in marriage with him? Pah.

She will be all right with Boaz. She will be safe; he is not a man to take advantage of her. I would never forgive myself if I had sent her to your cousin and he had abused her. Every day I thank God for her and I am sorry it has come to this, to begging for help. But is it begging? We are only asking for what is lawful and expected. But it is much to ask of a man, to put his own estate at risk, his own name.

Yet Ruth is a prize worth having. She is a foreigner it’s true, and from Moab at that, but I have seen the way young men watch her as she walks down the road. She keeps her eyes averted and does nothing to draw attention to herself but still they watch and admire her. She will make him a good wife and bear him many children. If he will redeem our land.

Oh, Elimelech, have I done right?


I cannot sleep. How can I when I lie, unbeknownst to him, at the feet of a man? If I did not know that Naomi is a good woman I would question her instructions. But I love her as my own mother. She would not send me into wrongdoing.

But to dress in my best clothes, to wash and perfume my body and then to lie next to a man – who is little more than a stranger to me – is alien to me. It goes against everything I have ever learned. But I trust Naomi. She knows what she is doing.

And Boaz is a good man. He has treated us well; he has been generous and kind. I need not fear him.

But yet, he is a man. Who is to say how a man may behave in any situation? He may wake and be angry. He may forbid me to glean in his fields. Or he may wake and not recognise me; he may think I am a prostitute for his pleasure. Oh Naomi, what have you sent me into?

But Boaz is a good man. I know that. I have heard them in the town talk of him with respect and he has treated me well. I do not need to be afraid.

But he is a man of wealth and position. He can take his choice of women to have as a wife. Why would he agree to marry me, a Moabite, a stranger? Are the laws of this land so binding that he would be obliged? And if he married me because he was forced to, what kind of marriage would that be? A marriage without love would be hard to bear.

And yet if that is what I must do to provide a home and a future for us then so be it. I will do it for Naomi.

And marriage to Boaz would not be too hard I am sure; he has shown himself to be gentle and honest.

I pray that morning comes soon and I will know what the future may hold. Mahlon, if you watch over me, keep close to me tonight.


My God, she is so beautiful. When I woke to find her at my feet my heart raced. Would that morning come quickly so that I may know my fate. I cannot bear to see such a one as this married to that oaf of a cousin of mine; yet I must do what is right. I must choose my words carefully when I approach him.

People have said to me in the past, ‘Boaz, isn’t it time you took a wife? Think of your family name.’ And I’m sure some of the same people will say the same thing to me if God grants my request and I marry this girl.

So young, so loving, so good to Naomi. And so beautiful. What care I if she is from Moab? I have seen her work and humble herself – even to this, to lying at my feet and asking for marriage. How much must that have cost her? Her nobility of spirit becomes her well.

No! I must restrain myself from reaching out to stroke her hair. I can smell her perfume and feel the warmth of her body. I hear her soft breathing. I long to hold her close.

But am I an old fool? Would I be so willing to be Naomi’s kinsman redeemer if her daughter-in-law were ugly and vain? Am I just another whose head has been turned by a pretty girl? I cannot fool myself that she comes to me out of love – except for Naomi.

But maybe she will grow to love me. She is the one I have been waiting for. I think I knew that from the first moment I saw her.

God of my fathers, if this be your will let me be a good husband to Ruth and a good son-in-law to Naomi.

Morning cannot come soon enough.