As you may or may not know, Mockingbird has been working on a devotional for… quite a while now. “Devotional” being a fancy word for a compendium of 365 short reflections, or devotions, on Bible verses. We published forty of these a few years ago, under the title Two Words: Teaser Edition (still available!). The good news is, we’re making progress. So much so that to continue to sit on them feels rather silly. So we’ve decided to alternate the much-loved, regular Monday morning PZ’s Podcast blurbs with a new feature called Hopelessly Devoted. One week there will be a double-feature blurb for PZ’s Podcast – new episodes of which will continue to go live every seven days (i.e., if you’re a subscriber, you won’t miss a beat) – and the following week we’ll post an entry from the forthcoming Mockingbird Devotional. We hope you’ll find the material to be edifying and an encouraging way to begin your week. This first devotion actually made its debut in the Teaser and comes to us from Mockingfather Jim Munroe.
I have a memory. I don’t recall exactly where or when it happened. I simply remember my father reciting these words from the Book of Ruth. The memory is firm, because there were tears in my father’s eyes, as he was moved by Ruth’s words to her mother-in-law, Naomi:
“Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God.”
These enduring words of love and commitment that so touched my father are uttered by an outcast. All of the power and passion of Ruth’s love for Naomi are set in the context of Ruth being an outcast in a hostile, alien land – and of her choosing to move into that land, in order to be with Naomi.
What is your understanding of being an outcast? There are refugees in war torn lands. There are homeless folk on the streets of our prosperous nation – a recent survey noted that 150,000 Vietnam veterans are homeless in America, thirty-five years after that war. There are patients in hospitals and nursing homes who know that, even with all of the love in the world, you feel different and set apart when you’re sick, when you’ve got cancer, when you use a walker, when you’ve contracted Alzheimer’s.
Some of us have tasted outcast experience when we’ve been out of work, when our marriages have failed, or when our bodies haven’t measured up to standards set by Jane Fonda workouts and Lance Armstrong posters. And even for those of us who show no outward hint of being an outcast – even for those of us with a secure home and a loving partner and a good job – even then, there comes that 3 A.M. moment, when the dreams are still unfulfilled and the pressure to “make it” mounts – that secret, solitary moment when being an outcast defines us all.
I asked a friend about when he feels like an outcast, and he said, “The question is, when don’t I?”
We are children of Ruth. We are heirs of this woman for all seasons – and this is good news. Because Ruth marries a terrific fellow named Boaz. They have a son named Obed. Obed has a son named Jesse. And Jesse has a son named David – King David, whom God calls, “A man after my own heart.” (Acts 13:22)
But that’s not all. David also has a son, and his son has a son, and on and on, until generations later, in the same little town of Bethlehem where Ruth had married Boaz, another child in the house and lineage of David is born – a child whose ancestor is an outcast.
It’s the heart of the Gospel – that God took on flesh and chose to be an outcast, chose to take on his shoulders all the pain and the consequences of our 3 A.M. moments, so that we may hear Him say to us, “Welcome home.”