Naomi’s Bitterness

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 — Week of Proper 2, Year One

John Eliot, Missionary among the Algonquin, 1690

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 966)

Psalms 5, 6 (morning) // 10, 11 (evening

Ruth 1:19 – 2:13

1 Timothy 1:18 – 2:8

Luke 13:10-17

The now childless widow Naomi, without prospects for survival, leaves the home in Edom that had shielded her from an earlier famine in her native Bethlehem. She returns now to Bethlehem, grieved and without support, hoping to find some welcome in her former village. The women of the town ask, “Is this Naomi?” She answers:

“Call me no longer Naomi, (the name means ‘Pleasant’)

call me Mara, (‘Bitter’)

for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.

I went away full,

but the Lord has brought me back empty;

why call me Naomi

when the Lord has dealt harshly with me,

and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” Ruth 1:20-21

This morning we rise with prayer in our hearts for those affected by the terrible tornadoes yesterday and last night. There are many who have cried bitterly at their loss. The death toll rises. Many helplessly cry in God’s name.

Our prayers join with them. We remember the first responders and ask God’s strength for them. We anticipate and begin to lay the foundation for sending helpers, as we did for our neighbors in Joplin so recently. We give thanks for the Red Cross, the National Guard, and for our governmental disaster and emergency programs. Maybe we make a contribution to Red Cross, and to Episcopal Relief and Development which is already in motion. Maybe we even think with some gladness about whatever we paid in taxes on April 15 for the underwriting of police, firefighters, FEMA and the other structures by which we respond corporately to disaster.

And we take our concerns to God.

One of the themes of the story of Ruth is that God works quietly behind the scenes for our good, and that God joins our hard efforts with divine blessing and support.

Naomi’s widowed daughter-in-law, the Moabite Ruth, offers to go into the grain fields to glean among the ears of grain missed by the harvesters. By chance, it seems, she ends up in the field of Boaz, a relative of her late husband. By chance, it seems, Boaz notices her. His servants have noticed her also, how hard she has worked, “on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.” Boaz offers her protection and the familial privileges of sharing water, and (we will read tomorrow) the common meal among the harvesters.

From bitter tragedy — the death of Naomi’s husband and her two sons — God is weaving a new story. Out of this story will come the ancestors of David, a descendant of Boaz and the Moabite widow Ruth.

Today we pray with hope that God is behind the scenes even now, quietly bringing resurrection and restoration to those who have met so bitterly with disaster. We also embrace the hard work that faces those families and communities. And we recognize our kinship with them, embracing our part of the recovery effort. If God is to work effectively to help them rebuild their lives and communities, we as neighbors will have to join and incarnate God’s efforts among them.

O merciful Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of thy servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of thy goodness, lift up thy countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For a Person in Trouble or Bereavement

Book of Common Prayer, p. 831

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