Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Woman Called Faithful: Stepping Out on Faith

Ruth 3:1-18

When we first met Naomi, she was a woman who seemed to have everything go wrong in her life. There is a famine and she travels with her husband and sons to a foreign land. While they are there, her husband and her sons die. She decides to travel back to her home town of Bethlehem and Ruth, her faithful daughter-in-law comes with her. Once back in Bethlehem things begin to look up. Ruth goes out to glean with the other widows and just so happens to go gleaning in the field of an extra-ordinarily generous man named Boaz, who just so happens to be one of Naomi’s closest relatives. He is so generous that not only does he provide water and meals for Ruth while she while she is gleaning, but he instructs his workers to be sure there is extra grain for her to glean and to allow her to even pick grain they have not yet harvested. This allows for the two women to have not only enough to eat but enough to sell and provide for all their needs.
And so we enter into a new phase of our story. After the continued generosity of Boaz goes on for the entirety of the Barley harvest and through the wheat harvest as well, we see a complete change in Naomi. The Widow, Naomi, who lost her two sons to sickness and disease in a foreign land, who returned so distraught that wanted to change her name from “Sweetness” to “Bitterness”, after watching the faithfulness of God poured out upon her through the generosity of Boaz, she becomes a completely new woman. And she hatches a plan; a plan to make sure that she and Ruth continue to benefit from Boaz’s favor, a plan that will assure that they will never go hungry.
She calls Ruth over and gives her specific instructions to about what to do, when to do it and what to say and by the end of the chapter Ruth and Boaz are effectively married, with only a small issue concerning Naomi’s husband’s land and the only other relative of her husband who is a closer related to her than Boaz. But don’t worry, Boaz will fix all that by the end of the day.
You see Naomi’s plan is basically for Ruth to take matters into her own hands, there has to be only one reason Boaz is being so very generous to Ruth, he must think she is awfully pretty. And Naomi is sick of waiting for him to do something about it. Clearly he needs a little nudge, now granted, the nudge she proposes for Ruth to carry out, is just that a proposal. When she lays at Boaz’s feet she is effectively asking for him to marry her, when he spreads his cloak over her, he is in fact accepting that marriage. Spreading one’s cloak over a woman was a sign that you were married. By morning the two of them are effectively married.
The only problem is this issue of the land. You see the land basically belongs to the son Ruth could potentially have with Boaz. But, the responsibility of taking care of the land, was the responsibility of Naomi’s closest relative. He is the one who is supposed to be tilling and planting and harvesting the land and basically holding it until any son Ruth might have comes of age. So now that Ruth is married and could actually possibly have a son, it is not really in his interest to take care of that land. Boaz is going to go out and settle the issue with the land so that they can properly celebrate their new marriage with their whole community.
There are two movies that come to mind when I think about Naomi and the plan she hatches. Both of which so happen to feature Harrison Ford. The first one is from the first Star Wars movie where Luke and Leia are trying to escape and find themselves at the edge of a precipice with nowhere to go. There is no way to go forward without falling and no way to go back, so Luke, pulls a grappling hook out of his utility belt, because what good utility belt does not come with a collapsible mini-grappling hook? He is able to use it snag a piece of something overhead and the pair, with a kiss for good luck, and a whole lot of hope that their cable will hold, are able to escape nearly being captured by swinging across the precipice to safety. The two must come up with a risky plan in order to move forward.
The other movie scene this makes me think of is when Indiana Jones comes to a similar kind of precipice and must make a literal “leap of faith” in order to go on. He must walk out into the precipice trusting that he will not fall, in order to discover that there is a perfectly camouflaged walkway right in front of him that allows him to cross safely. Indie has to move forward trusting that there is a walkway in front of him that will keep him from falling.
In both situations the main characters must come up with a plan and then move forward on faith, trusting that things will work out. This is exactly what Naomi and Ruth do in our chapter today. Ruth and Naomi have come to the end of the Harvest. God has provided for them for this season. But she and Ruth are at an edge of a precipice, the harvest is over. They might have enough grain stored that will allow them to eat for a while, but they probably don’t have enough to eat all through the winter, the planting season, and growing season, while saving enough aside to plant in Naomi’s husband’s fields, so they are not continually in this same place each year. And they still have yet to find someone who will step up and help them till, plant and harvest when the time comes. They are standing at the edge and need to find a way forward, so Naomi comes up with a risky plan. She is Luke fumbling around in her utility belt for the grappling hook so they can swing across. Once she has the plan, she goes to Ruth and lays it out for her, telling Ruth that she needs to trust her. Ruth needs to take a leap of faith. She needs to step out over the precipice and trust that God will be there for the two of them. Faithful (that is what Ruth means after all) needs to have faith and trust that God will not let her fall. Ruth must act on that plan in faith trusting that things will work out as Naomi trusts they will.
The women do not just wait for God to act, they do not just keep doing what they are doing hoping that God will make things better for them. They act, they come up with a plan and they trust God to walk with them through that plan. They trust God to be there for them, just as God proved to be faithful to Naomi, when Ruth clung to her; just as God was going before her and leading her when Ruth happened upon Boaz’s field; just as God had been providing for them through the genericity of Boaz. Now Naomi was trusting that God would continue to work in their lives; through this plan has put together that will end with Ruth having the security she needs through a husband, and both of them having the food they need to live, if not from Boaz himself, from the planting and harvesting of Naomi’s land (because it is the issue of the land that Boaz will have settled by the end of the day), and if all goes well (spoiler alert they do) Ruth will have a baby, which will ensure the women’s future as they age. This is not just any plan, this is the plan that will put everything right, the plan that will assure that in the end Naomi, who returned to Bethlehem empty, will forever be made full, that plan that will give them a hope and future.
These women move forward trusting that God is with them, that God is in their planning, that God is in guiding them and instructing them. They move forward in the faith that God is there with them, just as God has proved to be there with them all along the way.
There is a saying I hear everyone once in a while that goes like this, “We make plans, and God laughs.” But I don’t think God laughs at our plans. I think God created us to be creative beings. God gave us brains. God gave us the ability to reason and to dream. God the creator, created us in the image of God to be creative beings.
God gave Naomi the ability to hatch a crazy plan. God gave Ruth the gumption to go through with it and to figure out what to do when things did not go exactly as Naomi predicted. God did not laugh when Naomi made her plan. No, God created Naomi, so that she would be the kind of woman who could come up with a crazy plan like this, sending her daughter-in-law to the threshing floor, a male only domain, to basically propose marriage to him. And God gave Ruth the spunk to hear Naomi’s plan and care it out. God made these two women, and gave them the very abilities they would need to carry them through this time in their lives.
God created us with all our gifts and skills and abilities, so we can use them, and God works in them and through them when we use them, trusting that God is with us as we do so.
I am a planner. I like setting up flow charts and to do lists. I like to have everything laid out. I like to know what is coming and what we are doing next. I can hear Mike inwardly groan when I start to lay out the agenda for the next few days or for our upcoming vacation. I think many of you know this about me, it is not something I could hide, even if I tried.
I think most of you have seen my sermon planning chart. Once a year I sit down and plan out 18 months of sermons. I pour over scriptures, and choose what I will preach. I put together serieses, just like this one. And even write little notes for nearly every week.
Shortly before the end of one series and the beginning of the next I put together notes for each week, so that the sermons fit together and work in sequence. I do this because I love to do it and it helps me as I move through the year as a preacher. But I also do it because God gave me the gift of being a planner. I have joy inside me that loves looking at the chart and seeing where my sermons are going and uses that to help make me the preacher I am. I enjoy this time of year (because Summer is when I work on the next year’s chart).
Each year I put together the chart prayerfully, in faith believing that God is in the planning, that God is at work throughout the process that brings each Sunday morning sermon into being. From the moment I put together the chart, to the plan ahead times I have for a series, to the weekly studies, to the writing, the rewriting, and the early Sunday morning editing, all the way up through my actually preaching the sermon and you hearing it, God is at work in and through it all.
God is at work in the things you do. You may not be a planning person like I am, but God made you person you are, and is able to work in and through all the gifts, skills, and joys that you have. God directs you through the things you do on a daily and weekly basis using who you are. God is at work in the things you do that move you forward. God is guiding and directing you just as God was guiding and directed Naomi in the plan she put together. And just as God guided and directed Ruth as she carried out the plan and improvised on the spot as she moved through it.
God is at work in our lives, in the things we do. Often times the most mundane things we do that help us get from point A to point B God is able to use. God is at work in our plans, working in our plans and with our plans, and in everything we do.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that, or get frozen in place, waiting for God to move or to direct us, when what we really need to do is take the leap of faith and trust that God is there in the leap providing a path on which to walk. Moving forward past a precipice is not always easy. Finding the direction we need to go is not always clearly laid out. Rarely does God speak to us through a burning bush, in a great and booming voice, or even with a clearly marked road sign. Most of the time God is at work in our inclinations, in our gifts and skills, just as God was in Naomi’s plans and Ruth’s actions and words on the threshing floor. God works in mundane ways throughout our lives setting the path before us, and sometimes all it takes is for us to put one foot in front of the other and take the first step for us to truly be able to see the way.   

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Woman Called Faithful: Fingerprints of God

Ruth 2:1-23
When last we left our heroes, to say things were not going well for them would be an understatement. Naomi and Elimelech fled to Moab in search of food, where Elimelech died. And then not long after that their two sons died as well, leaving Naomi with two daughters-in-law and no way to take care of them. Naomi decided to travel home to Bethlehem in search of better prospects, attempting to send the two young ladies back to their families, so they could get on with their lives. Ruth refused to leave, clinging to Naomi, vowing to make Naomi’s home her home, declaring that she would convert and worship Naomi’s God, saying she would never leave Naomi, no matter what.
Today we find our heroes (heroines?) Naomi and Ruth back in Bethlehem, having traveled together along a perilous journey and finally having arrived in Naomi’s hometown. Will there be bread in the house of bread?  Will they be accepted and taken care of among Naomi’s kin, or will calamity continue to follow them where ever they go?
Upon returning they immediately realize their journey was ill timed, they have returned just as the Barley harvest is beginning. Calamity it is!
To those of us who know how the story goes this seems fortuitous, but it most definitely was not. Naomi was returning hoping to find someone who would help her plant her husband’s abandoned field, so the two of them would have grain to sell and food to eat, but they had mistimed their journey and returned just as the harvest was beginning. The land had not been planted; therefore there would be no harvest for the ladies. They would have to wait out the winter, and then continue to hope to find ways and means to provide for themselves through both the planting and the growing seasons. Most likely there would be no guaranteed way to take care of themselves until this time next year. A year is long time to go without food.
Ruth must have asked around, seeking advice from the neighbors about what to do and how to get food, because she comes to Naomi and asks about gleaning. Gleaning was a specific way to provide for the poor in Israel’s society and was not common in other lands.  Anyone who was hard up was allowed by law to go through a field after it had been harvested and pick up anything that had been dropped or pick anything that the harvester’s had missed. In fact land owners were forbidden to go back over a field in order to pick up what remained. It was to be left for the poor, the orphan, foreigner and the widow. Ruth was a foreigner and both of the ladies were a widows, so this was exactly what they were supposed to do.
Can you imagine what a relief it must have been to Ruth to find out that not only had she landed in a country where there was a system in place that was meant to provide for those who were unable to provide for themselves, but that she had also manages to convert to a religion and had chosen to worship a God who made it a religious obligation. A God who set up in the laws and commandments of their religion to make sure the poor, the orphan, the widow and the foreigner were to be taken care of and provided for? There were explicit instructions telling land owners exactly what they were and were not supposed to do with their own land (given to them by God) so that those who were struggling the most would be able to have grain that would not only provide them with food but allow them to be able to sell the grain to provide for their other needs as well.
Ruth would not have needed to go very far or ask around very much, everyone knew exactly what she needed to do. She needed to go glean in the fields.
So Ruth goes to Naomi and tells her that she is going to go glean with all the other foreigners and widows. We can only assume that Naomi was too old and frail to be able to go in to the fields and perform this laborious task, so Ruth goes out alone. And she works hard. In fact when Boaz inquires about who Ruth is, his servants not only tell him who she is, she Ruth is the Moabite woman from Moab, who returned with Naomi. But they also tell him that she has been working hard all morning, without even stopping to take a break. She is working hard.
But it is not Ruth’s industrious nature, or her can do attitude that saves Ruth and Naomi, although I am sure these attributes did her no harm, but is pure coincidence that completely changes her and Naomi’s lives forever.
You see Ruth just so happens to choose to glean in Boaz’s field. And Boaz just so happens to be one of Naomi’s closest relatives. Not only that Ruth just so happens to catch Boaz’s eye. I mean perhaps it is a small town and being someone he did not know and a foreigner, she stuck out. But he sees her and is curious about who she is, so he asks his servants who she is, thus finding out that she just so happens to be the widowed daughter-in-law of Naomi, a woman who just so happens to be related to him. And he then decides that he will be generous, no extra generous, and does several things that are above and beyond any obligation he might have had to any gleaner who came to his field. First he instructs her to stay close to the reapers, gleaning right behind them. This way she would be able to catch everything that fell and would be the first to see anything they failed to be harvested. He also tells his young men to leave her alone, to not give her a hard time or bother her in anyway. He then instructs her to drink from the water he provides for his workers. Then at lunch time he calls her over and allows her to eat alongside of his workers, giving her an extra heaping portion, so that she is satisfied and has enough to take back to Naomi, so they both have food to eat that day. And then he instructs his reapers to purposely drop grain for her to pick up off the ground and to even allow her to go ahead of them into the standing grain and take whatever she likes. The man is beyond generous and is making sure these women will not only, not starve, but they will be able to make a livable wage by selling what Ruth was able to glean.
At the end of the day she has gleaned so much that Naomi asks her where in the world did she glean all day. It is only then that Ruth finds out that she had managed to stumble upon the field of a very close relative. Needless to say, Naomi tells her to stay in Boaz’s field for the entirety of the harvest. The ladies may be unfamiliar with good fortune but they still know it when they see it.
Ruth and Naomi’s circumstances have indeed taken a turn for the better. And it is due to three coincidences, first Ruth stumbles upon the field of a relative, where she just so happens to catch the eye of the land owner, and lastly that relative just so happens to be in a particularly kind and generous mood.  And because of these three coincidences, the ladies have enough to eat and plenty left over to sell, so they are able to meet their needs, not only throughout the barley harvest, but on through the wheat harvest as well. And the ladies whose lives seemed to be marked with nothing but destruction and calamity are finding that things are indeed looking up.
In chapter one there is a lot of “God talk.” Naomi instructs her daughters-in-law to leave asking that the Lord will deal kindly with them and hoping God will provide security and husbands for them there. Naomi laments that God has turned away from her and does not want Orpah or Ruth to share in this fate. It is not only to Naomi to whom Ruth chooses to cling, but to God as well. And upon returning to Bethlehem, Naomi declares to the women of the village that God abandoned her, dealt bitterly with her and has returned her empty to her homeland. God is mentioned throughout the chapter, Naomi’s husband’s name is even, “God is my king.” But when we get here to chapter two, it is almost as if God has truly abandoned these ladies. God is scarcely mentioned, except by Boaz in his conversation with his servants. God is not mentioned nearly as much or even alluded to as God was in the previous chapter. It is almost as if God is simply not there.
Or is God?
We could choose to say this was just a series of coincidences that allowed the women to get back on their feet. We could say it was Ruth’s hard work and industrious nature mixed with a bit of good luck that allowed the women make a living for themselves. We could even say that Ruth must have been awfully pretty to have caught Boaz’s eye and caused him do all those nice things for her as a way of gaining her favor. And looking at the chain of events that would not be an incorrect understanding of what had occurred. But I think it was God. I think it was all God.

After an entire season where nothing is going right in Naomi’s life, everything is famine, destruction and death, but here in this chapter, after a rough start over the timing of their return, everything seems to be going pretty well. If God had abandoned Naomi when she found herself alone, where is God now that she has industrious Ruth to go gleaning in the fields and generous Boaz looking out for them and plenty of food on the table and a bustling side business selling the extra grain? God must be there.
 I would venture to say that the fingerprints of God are all over this story. I mean it was God’s laws that set up the system which allows for Ruth to go gleaning in the first place. It had to have been God who guided Ruth to the just the right field. It had to have been God who allowed Ruth to catch Boaz’s eye. It had to be the voice of God speaking through Boaz’s servants praising Ruth, and therefore it was God who softened Boaz’s heart and created in him the desire to not only be generous to Ruth, but to go above and beyond the bounds of generosity, causing him to show exorbitant favor.  God was at work in these ladies’ lives, helping them and guiding them. As one commentator put it, a coincidence is really just a miracle where God remains anonymous. And a series of coincidences is a surefire way to know that God is at work in a person’s life.
Last week we looked at the faithfulness of God in seasons of trouble, nothing was going right for Naomi. Her life was an utter disaster. She was plagued with one calamity after another, tragedy upon tragedy, heartache upon heartache and even though she felt she was abandoned by God, we could see God’s faithfulness to her in and through it all. Even when she doubted that God was faithful, God was there working through her daughter-in-law Ruth, a woman whose name literally means faithful, refusing to leave or abandon her; clinging to her when it seemed that the only other things that clung to her were death and destruction.
And here in chapter two we can see God at work in the good fortunes of these two ladies’ lives. God is faithful in times of trouble and therefore God is of course faithful in the good times as well.
What is interesting is that we, like these chapters are all too ready to blame God for the calamities in our lives, and barely even mention God when things are going well. Perhaps we are able; almost always retrospectively of course, to see how God was there for us when things got really tough, but then we attribute our good fortune, to our own hard work, and industriousness, or to good luck or coincidence. When life is at its darkest and we are unable to see clearly at all, of course it is hard to see God at work in our lives, but when things are going well, when we are walking in the sunshine, what is our excuse? Why are we unable to see God at work when there is light all around by which to see?
The fact is God is always faithful. God is faithful when everything around us is falling apart and God is at work when life is going pretty well. When we look back on our lives, when we see the course of past events sometimes it is easier to see how God sustained us, was our comfort, our strength, provided people to help us through our dark times but when we look back at times of prosperity, when things were going well. We tend to only see what we did to make things go well. It is easy see how hard we worked, the long hours of labor, how diligently we studied, we are even able to see what others did to help us, to encourage us and when we can clearly see that something happened that we had no part in, we easy laugh and speak of our good luck (like we had anything to do with it) or shake our heads at the amazing coincidence. It is almost as if we are completely unable to see God at work for the good in our lives, helping us, guiding us and directing us. We are like these first two chapters of Ruth all to ready to blame God for our hardships, for all the death, and destruction, we see that God had dealt poorly with us when everything is falling apart (which by the way is not true) and then when things are going well, we are silent when it comes to God. We put on blinders and refuse to see the miracles God is working all around us, calling them good luck or amazing coincidences. We see only what we have done to better our lives and are completely unable to see the fingerprints of God working through our lives, guiding us and directing us, giving us strength and comfort, bringing the right people into our lives, and providing for us in so many unseen but no less amazing ways. God is at work, the fingerprints of God are all over our lives, we just need to pay attention and see them.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Woman Called Faithful: When there is no Bread

Ruth 1:1-22
There once was a young girl, whose mother died when she was very young, and before she was fully grown she lost her father as well. She was left to live with her step-mother and two step sisters, who made her clean all day and at night she was forced to sleep near the fire among the cinders and they called her Cinder-Ella.
There once was a beautiful princess whose hair was as black as ebony, her lips as red as blood and her skin as white as snow and her name was Snow White.
When telling a story, names matter.  Sometimes a person just so happens to be named the right name like when a person with the last name Major is a Major, so his name is Major Major, but most of the time when you have heard a story where the Chiropractor’s name is Dr. Bones, the Medic’s name is Dr. Healer, or the nicest guy in the story’s name is Mr. Goodman, you know that the names were put there to make a point.
The story given to us in the book of Ruth is no different. When you are reading this story in the original language that is exactly how this story feels. In fact many scholars believe that although the events of the story are real, most, if not all of the names of have been changed.
 I almost feel like before we begin to read this story we need a deep voiced narrator:
 “Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to make the point more evident.”
Oh, and the story itself is rife with word plays and puns. If there is one thing I learned about the ancient Hebrews from learning to translate Hebrew, is that they are a people who love their puns. The Bible is seriously full of corny word plays and groan worthy puns that we all miss simply because we read it in English.
At one time there was a famine in the city called The House of Bread, where there lived a woman named Sweetness, her husband, God is my King and their two sons. They were from the Tribe whose name literally means Fruitful or Fertile. There in the House of Bread, nothing was fertile, the land was not fruitful so therefore there was no bread. The three of them, Naomi, Elimelech, and their two sons, decided that the living some place with actual food and not merely named for food, would be best. So they traveled to the far off land of Moab to live. They made a pretty good life for themselves there. There was food and apparently women, because both of the sons found wives for themselves. And for a while Sweetness had a pleasant life. That is until her husband died and her sons, whose names were Sickness and Consumption (Mahlon and Chilion) died (perhaps of sickness and consumption – but we cannot be sure the Bible does not tell us).
Now Naomi heard that there was no longer famine in her homeland and decided there would be more bread for a widow woman in the land of her relatives, than here in a land full of strangers, who might not be willing to take care of her. With this in mind, she decided to journey back to the House of Bread (Bethlehem) in hope to find a better life there among people she knew and who knew her, than here in this strange land where her husband and her two sons had died.
Now each of her sons, had a wife, one them was named, Back of the Neck, and the second was named Faithful Friend. When she decided to leave she instructed these two women to go back to their mother’s houses and find for themselves new husbands.
This is when Back of the Neck (Orpah) turned her head and left Naomi there in road, and as she went away Naomi saw nothing but the back of her neck. Faithful on the other hand clung to Naomi and refused to leave her, journeying away from the land of her mother and her father, and everything that she had ever known to go back to Naomi’s homeland, because she could not bear to leave her.  Would that all mothers of sons had daughter-in-law’s like Faithful Ruth.
The story we have before us this morning is actually all about Naomi. And her story is not a pleasant story. Nothing is as it should be, the land is not fertile or fruitful, there is a famine and there is no bread. So they have to leave the land where they belong and travel to a far off place and try to make things work there. And they go alright for a while. Her sons find wives and things are going well. But then her husband dies, and then her sons die and Naomi is left alone, in a foreign land with no one to take care of her. Her life has not been pleasant, nothing is sweet, everything is bitter. In fact at the end of the chapter she asks for the women of the town to change her name to bitterness because she feels the God of all faithfulness has abandoned her and left her empty.
She has lost it all. She has no husband, or no sons. She has no one to take care of her and no means of taking care of herself.  And although the root of the word used in Hebrew to talk about the Covenant Faithfulness of God is used throughout this chapter and the next, Naomi, sees none of it. It seems that even God has abandoned her. The forever faithful God is unfaithful.
Naomi’s story is a story we can all relate to. There are times when it seems that there is no goodness in sight, the people we love have died, we have lost any means of providing for ourselves or our family. Our lives or the lives those closest to us are plagued by illness. It seems we can never get out from under the continual barrage of bad things that just keep happening to us. We feel like Naomi. Even the God of all faithfulness seems to be unfaithful.
Last year was like that for me. I had a list, it started with Estelle and I getting food poisoning, and then due to some very poor customer service on the part of Best Buy my family went 5 weeks without a refrigerator, my wallet was stolen out of my office on a Sunday morning during worship, my father got sick, you would think that I would end the list with his death, but then I got back from the funeral and broke my foot. And then the Summer that followed was long and I fought with depression for what felt like forever. I felt like Naomi, maybe at one point my name was Sweetness but I sure felt like my life was full of bitterness.
All of us have had a week where we felt like this, most of us have had months like this, or seasons, and some of us have had years that are like this, years that seem to never end, one bleeds into the next and there seems to be no end to the heartache and the pain, to the disappointment and the bitterness. Where is the God of covenant faithfulness when our lives are so full of misery and pain? That is where Naomi is in our story today. She is in the middle of that season where there is no goodness, there is nothing to cling to, but yet in the middle of it all there is someone who is willing to cling to her.
She may be bereft of all that is good and beautiful in life. There is nothing that is going well for her, and yet Ruth refuses to leave her side, even though it is in Ruth’s best interest to go home to her own family and get on with her life, she refuses to leave Naomi. Naomi has nothing of value left to her, but Ruth will not leave. Ruth sees Naomi in her distress; Ruth knows Noami in her abandoned state and stays with her through all things. Even when God seems to be unfaithful, Ruth (whose name literally means Faithful Friend) remains faithful.
The thing is, Ruth staying probably did not entirely look like a good thing to Naomi at the time. Now, Naomi has to not only worry about herself, taking care of her own needs, but now she has to take care of Ruth as well. But it is through Ruth that God’s faithfulness is seen, it is through Ruth that Naomi will one day be restored (but let’s not rush to the end of the story quite yet). Right now Ruth is small crack in the clouds of what is otherwise a very dark and dreary day.
And that is the way it is in our lives. There are times in our lives when nothing is going right, when our lives are full to over flowing with nothing but darkness and pain. We hurt, we cry, we look around and we have lost everything. We look around at the shattered broken mess that is our lives, we see our pain, we see our loneliness, we look in the mirror and we are not even sure we know who we are anymore, are we Sweetness or Bitterness. And we begin wonder if we can even believe in the faithfulness of God.
But let me tell you God is always faithful. Sometimes we cannot see it, but there is something in our lives, perhaps it is small, perhaps it even feels like an extra burden at the time, but it is there, clinging to us like Ruth and it never leaves. It could be a person, the kindness of friend, or it can be something, a thing of beauty that we find each day, or even the love of a pet. But there always is a way that God is continuing to be faithful to us, even in the darkness. And because of the darkness we may not be able to see it. In the midst of the despair, and heartache we may not be able to find it, even when we are looking for it, but our “Ruth” is there. God is always there, faithful, clinging to us just as assuredly and as steadfastly as Ruth clung to Naomi.  
The hard thing is to never lose faith in God, to go on trusting, even when it is hard, to go on trusting even when we feel we have no trust to give, to go on trusting, even when our trust feels like it is being mislaid. God is faithful. It is who God is. No matter how rough things are, no matter how many pieces our lives have been shattered into, even when we have lost absolutely everything, God is still there, always faithful, even when we doubt, and find it hard to trust. God is still there, even in the darkness. And when it seems like the only thing to take hold of us is heartache and pain, death and destruction, know that God is faithfully clinging to us in all things through all things. God is always our faithful friend.