Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Bottom Line

November 4th, 2012, Pentecost 23, Proper 31

This week's sermon was based mainly on Mark 12:28-34.  To download the podcast, click here.

Ruth 1: 1-18
The Book of Ruth is set in the time of judges, between 1200 and 1050 BC, however it is obvious from later passages that trace the descendants of Ruth and Boaz that book was actually written much later.

One of the shortest books of the Bible, the Book of Ruth is nonetheless one of the best-loved.  The best way to read the book is as a poignant morality tale; a great dramatic story in which the reader is invited to sympathize with the main characters and their plights.

Today’s opening passages of Ruth set the stage.  Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi has been left a childless widow, which would have been one of the most precarious social and economic situations for a woman of the time to be in.  Naomi would have no means of support, either now or in her old age.

Ruth, as a young widow, would have been able to marry again, and indeed she should have in order to ensure her own security, but she loves Naomi greatly and does not want to abandon her.  Instead, she chooses to stay with her and share her fate.

As readers of the story, we are invited to reflect on family ties and personal values as opposed to financial and worldly security.

Having established in earlier verses his belief that Christ is an eternal priest and having compared His sacrifice to the animal sacrifices performed by the earlier priests, the author of Hebrews then explains how Christ has become the “mediator of a new covenant”.

He explains this by using an image of the realms of earth and heaven which would have been familiar to Jewish audiences: the image of these realms being similar to the inner and outer courts of the Temple.

This image would have seen the earth as the outer court and heaven as the inner sanctuary.  Remember that in the Temple, these two courts would have been separated by a veil, a veil which was either literally or figuratively rent in two the day Christ died.

This image of the veil, although not explicitly stated in this passage, seems to be present in the theology of the author of Hebrews.  The message is that through Christ, that veil of separation from God no longer exists; that through his sacrifice, the two realms of earth and heaven are no longer separate.

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