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Today we will be looking at the issue of those less comfortable experiences we receive from the hand of our still loving, sometimes apparently distant yet always intimately engaged sort of God.
In short ... the God Who is there, but isn't shouting!
Let's take a moment to pray quietly as we begin that He will be present and clear with us today, as we try to be better prepared for times when He doesn't feel so close or so clear.
Here's the Word for the Week short video that addresses a particular issue in the Book of Ruth
Everyday life can sap us of strength and leave us ... well ... hungry, but with little sense of what is going on. Check the Psalmist's analysis of this normal human experience as we sing his song
As we pray today, let's be keen to give thanks to God for the good things we receive from him ... food, shelter, warmth, clothing?
(Be normal ... no need for clever words ... we are just talking to God).
And let's remember to pray for those who may lack things we consider necessities for life.
Let's pray for our land and for those who hold responsibility for government here, for the UK government and for the Senedd, and particularly for our AM Adam Price and our Westminster MP Jonathan Edwards.
And let's remember to thank God for the system of government, the freedoms and the liberties that we enjoy but cannot take for granted.
Let's pray for the developing countries of the world that are beginning to experience their first cases of COVID-19:
And let's give thanks to God for hearing our prayers for Martin Beckenham who joined us on Zoom at Easter, caught COVID, was critically ill last week on a ventilator in ICU but who has recovered, is OFF the ventilator and back on oxygen on a ward. (And we CONTINUE to pray for him and his wife Jan who is herself alone at home trying to recover from the virus ... on the phone to Simon every day). God is GOOD!
(Please let Simon have any prayer requests from yourselves by Tuesday late p.m. for the weekly prayer-ogram).
Let's celebrate God's presence, hearing our prayers, whether it always feels like that or not ...
Our Bible reading today takes in the whole of the first chapter, so we can get a grip on the shape of the whole of this first Act in the four act play that is this precious Book of Ruth. (Click the button at it will get read aloud FOR you!)
1:1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Ruth's Loyalty to Naomi
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
Naomi and Ruth Return
19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Here's a NEW song, which highlights the key moment in the Book of Ruth towards which the section we're looking at today is now moving ...
The Sermon ... Ruth 1:1-5
We are now able to embed a link to the Bible exposition on the podcast directly into this service sheet ... at the moment it comes with the blurb that's on the podcast - I hope that doesn't prove too confusing. This is a new feature being developed so if the direct link below doesn't work for you, try clicking on this one instead https://www.buzzsprout.com/478...
Let's sing that hymn of William Cowper that we've just been hearing about
Let's conclude with prayer
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give us the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,so that with one mind and one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen. (See Romans 15:5, 6 & 13)
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