Ruth 3:7-9 (The Message)
Boaz had a good time, eating and drinking his fill - he felt great. Then he went off to get some sleep, lying down at the end of a stack of barley. Ruth quietly followed, she lay down to signal her availability for marriage. In the middle of the night the man was suddenly startled and sat up. Surprise! This woman was asleep at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” She said, “I am Ruth, your maiden; take me under your protecting wing. You’re my close relative, you know, in the circle of the covenant redeemers - you do have the right to marry me.”
Intoxicated people have said the nicest things to me. The old saying is that we should be the kind of people our dogs think we are. But I think we should be the kind of people intoxicated ones think we are. I’ve been called the greatest preacher ever to be at my church, a really good guy, and a lifesaver. In college (a good United Methodist college) my roommate was the Resident Assistant. One night, when he was out on a date, I was in the room when there was a huge racket in the bathroom. I walked in to find two of the guys totally smashed, sitting in the showers as the water ran over them. They looked at me and knew I was Steve’s roommate. They asked with fear, “Are you going to tell Steve?” I said, “No, but you guys are going to have to be quiet and get to bed.” They said, “Thanks Rick, old buddy, old pal.” They had never hardly spoken to me before and they hardly spoke to me after that encounter. But for one brief, shining moment was their “old buddy, old pal.”
I do not condone this behavior but I know it is what it is. Prohibition failed, even though the Methodists thought it was wonderful and probably encouraged it politically and said it was what Jesus would have done. It is the main reason we still have grape juice at Communion. At another roommate’s wedding in Long Island in 1977 (I helped officiate that one) he referred to “happy hour” as “attitude adjustment” hour. I think humanity will forever be enslaved to substances which change our attitudes. Early natives in sub-tropical climates saw animals eat the beans of a certain plant and then start running around euphorically. That’s when coffee was discovered. Now it keeps us from heinous crimes once it is consumed each morning.
So in the book of Ruth, our heroine has to wait for the hero to get drunk (The Message is a little more gentle than the RSV), lie down to sleep, and then she slips in next to him on the “threshing floor.” That’s right, he didn’t even make it to a bed. He wakes up surprised she is there, and, basically, she proposes to him. Then he says “yes.” To Boaz’s credit, he WAS sober when he said “yes.” With that, the family line of David continues from the tribe of Judah. In Matthew’s gospel, the lineage of David mentions five women by name. One is a daughter-in-law (Tamar), one is a harlot (Rahab), one is a seductress (Bathsheba - but David is not innocent), one is a foreigner (Ruth) and the fifth is, of course, Mary.
Humanity remains one big jumble of emotions, wills, foibles, goofs, and horribly spoken words. But enough about golf! The human condition is continually broken but we still find ways to rise from the ashes and persevere, despite ourselves. The quickest way to human behavior change is through punishment. The better way is through love and grace...but it’s messy and difficult. A pandemic, an election, and (even MORE sacred) our family holiday traditions which might have to change, make love and grace even more messy and difficult. We struggle. I struggle. But we must never stop loving.
The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his and he is mine forever.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love he sought me;
And on his shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing, brought me.
O God, adjust our attitudes with the love of Christ. Amen.
Pastor Rick Moser