Who Does the Story Belong To?
Who Does the Story Belong To?
This isn’t a question we ask when we sit down to read a book or watch a movie. Often it is enough to be entertained or informed, idea’s of ownership don’t enter into our thought and if they do replying with the name of the author or director is sufficient. However, when we are talking about scripture, who the story belongs to has a much larger range of implications.
Who does the story belong to?
If a writer publishes a book, who does the story belong to? Does it belong to the author or does it belong to the reader? Whose interpretation stands as correct? This happens a lot with music, where a particular song will have great meaning for someone beyond any meaning that the artist might have intended.
Who does the story belong to?
Last week I told you that the Book of Ruth was really all about Naomi. That much of the narrative dealt with Naomi and was told from her perspective. This week we return to this short book in scripture, we jump around a bit, but we deal with the ending of this story. A story that starts in despair and ruin and ends with joy. Last week Act 1 finished with the promise made apparent by the start of the barley season.
This week the story ends in joy, with the birth of Obed. Who we read will be the father of Jesse, the father of King David. Now we know why this short book was preserved in scripture, it tells us about David’s parentage.
But who does the story belong to? Naomi seems to have taken centre stage in the book of Ruth. Even look at who Obed’s mother is proclaimed to be? We read, “A son has been born to Naomi.”
Reading that might give you whiplash as I’m fairly certain it was Ruth who was pregnant and gave birth to Obed, yet the book declares that a son has been born to Naomi.
It’s interesting isn’t it? Why does the book of Ruth do this? There are a variety of reasons, but it might be to link David with Israel. Ruth is a Moabite, a stranger to Israel. Scott Hoezee puts the contrast we see on display this way, “David, however, turns out to be more than his ancestry could have produced. That is, David would become Israel’s greatest king and the founder of the Messianic line, but Israel itself could not produce him. Israel, as symbolized by Naomi in this story, was empty, bitter, without prospects. Only when a Moabite came onto the scene is it possible for David to eventually be born. The one who would go on to solidify the kingdom of Israel and prepare the way for the coming of the Christ needed something – or someone – beyond Israel to be born.” (Scott Hoezee)
Who does the story belong to? It seems as if God is expanding the circle, reminding Israel that there was a promise available to all people.
Just as David’s ancestry and birth came from an unexpected place. The birth of Jesus also comes from a surprising source. Consider even the genealogy of Jesus as we see it in Matthew’s gospel. Four women are listed there. In our time and context that isn’t surprising, but back then. Unheard of! Then consider who the four women and the reputations attached to three of them.
Jesus is a gift of grace that comes from unexpected places.
The gospel passage from Mark today features Jesus and the disciples witnessing another gift from an unexpected source.
The passage begins with a warning:
Watch out for the scribes who devour widow’s houses. Not all scribes, but some of them. They like to be seen and heard in all the right places, but are short on those things most important to God. Watch out for them, they devour widow’s houses. And then along comes a widow. Remember that in our old testament reading from Ruth, both Naomi and Ruth are widow’s.
The widow shows up at the temple and she gives two little copper coins and Jesus makes a comment about her gift.
The Good News, NRSV and the NIV translations all say of the two coins that the widow “gave all she had to live on.” Implying that this is all she had or this was all that remained of her weekly allowance. This is actually a softening of the Greek. While we still see great sacrifice being made by the widow, the Greek is better translated not as “she gave all she had to live on” but rather as “she gave her whole life.” Giving one’s whole life is very different than giving all one has to live on. (Amanda Brobst-Enaud)
Why is this important, well think back to the reading last week from Mark. In it we read “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
When we read that the widow gave her whole life in light of the passage immediately before this it takes on heightened context. The money sacrificed to the temple was important, but giving ones whole life that is giving on a different level altogether.
The passage from Mark makes a stark contrast: Beware the scribes who consume widow’s houses and giving one’s whole life voluntarily. These are different things. The scribe who consumes a widow’s house is a predator. Giving one’s whole life to something may be seen as noble, but we can also be consumed and give ourselves over to things that are not life affirming.
I don’t believe this is true of the widow here, I believe she made the choice to devout her life to God and gave of herself willingly. But the warning is there, be aware of what and who you commit yourself to.
The woman’s sacrifice of giving her whole life is surprising. It’s a gift from an unexpected source, an example to others of what faithfulness looks like.
As we come full circle on unexpected gifts and their unexpected sources I ask the question once again: Who does the story belong to?
It belongs to God, and God invites us to participate in the story and to give our life to it. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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