Delivered at Ames UCC on August 5, 2018
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
Sermons are written to be heard rather than read. Please join us for worship at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, except in July and August when times vary. Check the calendar for details.
Sometimes I get into conversations with people who aren’t religious who want me to offer proof of God or with people who are religious who want me to defend my concept of God. Often, I’ll talk about love. When I do, sometimes I get eye-rolls or accusations of making God weak. Why do we need a religion to practice love? Doesn’t calling God love deny God’s true power over us?
I don’t understand either response.
I don’t understand because nothing takes more focused, collective preparation than living into the love of God. And nothing, not any of the Biblical tantrums or pouts attributed to God, asks more from of us than God’s love.
Just look at the book of Ruth.
The book of Ruth offers a depiction of love which, in our tradition, is paralleled only by that of Jesus. It is a kind of divine love known as hesed. That’s the Hebrew writing on the cover of your bulletin. Hesed is hard to define, but you will see some attempts listed there, too: loving-kindness, so a love that takes a kindly form. Long-acting love, a love with long-term repercussions. Steadfast love, a love unmoved by time. Devotion: a love with a worshipful quality. Covenantal devotion: Love that is worshipful and relational at the same time. A love the will not let you go, no matter how hard you try. Hesed is a love shown in “loyalty and commitment (to other people) that go beyond the bounds of law or duty.”1Hesed is to manifest God in the world between people.
The moment on the threshing floor that we just saw in light and shadow is considered the ultimate expression of hesed, of divine commitment, humanly expressed.
How is that possible? How is this story of sexual trickery a story of divine love?