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Weekly worship: Sunday 4 November

Well aligned for purpose: points for sermons and prayers for Sunday 4 November.

Syrian women walk to collect water at a Syrian refugee camp set up outside the Beqaa valley town of Jeb Jennine, eastern Lebanon.

Syrian women walk to collect water at a Syrian refugee camp set up outside the Beqaa valley town of Jeb Jennine, eastern Lebanon.

Ruth 1:1-18

I struggled through my high school years with my faith. I oscillated from one faith to another as I tried to root myself in something spiritual. In the midst of my struggle for identity and meaning in life, I left boarding school and reverted to living at home fully for my final year of high school – but it was a significant time because I was able to observe my elder brother and sister who were part of a nearby church community. They seemed well rooted socially and spiritually, carrying themselves with a measure of confidence and contentment that I greatly admired.

This drove me to follow them one Sunday to their church, a few minutes’ walk from our home. I soon began to observe the same thing with their young friends and indeed many in the church community. It became a magnetic attraction and I slowly found myself making friends there. In no time I found the source of this attraction which was none other than their faith and Christ in them. I made the decision to commit my life to this Christ and the local community of the church.

In that most read and initially tragic story of Ruth and her mother in-law Naomi, all who suffered great personal loss, one wonders what caused Ruth to forego what would have been an attractive option to start life afresh in a community where there were good prospects for the future. Why did she so passionately and clearly choose to commit herself not just to Naomi, but to everything that defined her, from her stable past, her current tribulations and her uncertain future? She stated very clearly in response to Naomi’s urge to return to her people:

‘But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”  When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.’ Ruth 1:16-18

There may have been something deep within Naomi’s constitution that spoke to Ruth. Her decision was probably from observing and interacting with Naomi in a way as to be convinced that if she aligned herself to her mother-in-law, she would be guided to a better future than that proposed by going back to where she came from. And she was clear that those things that were Naomi’s experience were key to that future. It was her presence, her wisdom, her community and her God. In faith she aligned herself to those things and in hope set the direction for her future.

In doing the work that we carry out at Christian Aid, we seek to speak about God’s heart, especially that heart of justice. And we hope and pray that through this, people will be drawn not to us but be pointed to the person of Christ, who in grace and mercy reaches out to us and stands in solidarity with the marginalised and oppressed.

This week’s sermon pointers have been provided by Bob Kikuyu, Christian Aid’s senior theology advisor and church partnerships co-ordinator.

Prayer

God of Ruth,

May her story encourage those who are far from home, and considered a stranger.

May her story challenge those who seek to exclude to recognise their neighbour. Amen.

Points for prayer

Pray for all those who are seeking refuge from the conflicts in Myanmar and Syria. Give thanks for Christian Aid’s partners in Bangladesh providing healthcare support, blankets, tents, shelter kits and winter clothing to families displaced in Myanmar.

Pray for our partners in Lebanon, Association Najdeh providing aid to Palestinian refugees from Syria, and Mouvement Social ensuring refugee children can continue  their education and access psychological support they need.

Prayer points taken from the prayer diary which you can read in full here.