Monday, July 08, 2013

MP3: Jesus wants the rose

Download: Jesus wants the rose (mp3)

"There was once a dream that was Rome, you could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish. It was so fragile and I fear that it will not survive the winter."

The dying Marcus Aurelius speaks in the film Gladiator. A hope. A dream. A whisper. Such was Ruth's story. Last night she'd gone to see Boaz. The proposal moment in her story. He'd accepted her invitation to marriage but then said: there is another person more eligible than I. We must ask him first. Boaz lived by the law of God that reflected the heart of God to provide for the orphan, the widow and the foreigner.

And so she goes home, hoping that her dream will not vanish, her fragile hope for the future.

The morning comes and Boaz gathered the closer redeemer and 10 others at the town gates of Bethlehem. Twelve, with the town and Ruth in the background. Shrewd Boaz offers the land of Naomi. God's story isn't ethereal spirituality it's about mud and dirt too. The story of God is people and place, where will God and people live together. The redeemer accepts until Boaz reveals the "small print" - you get Ruth too. And he walks away.

A moment of rejection that Ruth must've feared. Sat there, wondering. Fragile. Will he want me? Will either of them want me? If you really knew me you'd know the rejection of my Moabite family as I married an Israelite. The 120 painful child-less months of my marriage. The grief of his death. The departing from Moab. The journey. The taking my life in my hands as I gleaned in the fields. And now this.

And we too might feel so vulnerable. Meet someone new and make a good impression - but what about when they get to know you, and your past. Can they cope with you? A friend shared that he feels this way. He asked if I do too. I said, no. And thought why. And I realised that I make poor first impressions but imagine "if you really knew me, you'd like me". I said, "I think I'm a whole lot more self-righteous than you". We both look too much at ourselves. Neither is healthy.

Matthew Henry comments that Ruth was never said to be beautiful, but if she was then surely the grieving and the travelling and the gleaning will have withered her lilies and roses. She's like a rose, passed around a room, looked at and touch by everyone, damaged and scarred by life.

And, will Boaz have second thoughts?

Who would want me? (Ruth 4:1-6). 
Good news: he give everything (v7-10). 

Boaz lays his future aside. Closes all other doors to have Ruth. He carries the cost that the other guy wouldn't. See the young man marrying a single mum and taking on her kids. Beautiful.

Who would want her? 
Let it be known: Boaz wants the rose!

[In this recurring theme of the rose I'm combining Matthew Henry's quote with Matt Chandler's illustration from this video]

This is a model of a godly man, a holy man. Not superior or holier than thou, but serving. Seeking out the needy, the weak, the excluded and seeking to meet their need. This fore-father of Jesus foreshadows him. He looks like him. Literally probably, as a middle eastern man, but also in character and action.

Who would want the dead, rebellious, lifeless humanity who become the church?
Let it be known: Jesus wants the rose.
Jesus comes and acquires a bride for himself through his death. He gives his life to give her life. For the church.

Not just for a private piety and personal relationship with the church.
It's change the world amazing that we can enter the life of God. And from that:

He builds from nothing (11-12). 

The ceremony is witnessed by people - and then written down. And then at last, to Boaz relief, attention turns from him to the LORD. The LORD will make Ruth into the new mother of the nation, and he will give the offspring. The LORD makes and gives. All from him. Working with nothing. Working with broken people. Dead people. Lifeless people. Through a marriage to build a society. Through the church to remake the world.

And it's all very ordinary. Those who know Jesus become fascinated with this world, they act to preserve it from decay and they dignify people.

  • My new favourite room on the planet is Colonna and Smalls coffee house in Bath. My wife indulged me a trip there recently. A place where environment and aesthetics and flavour matter, and are taken seriously. The death of a coffee bean to give life to people. A magnificent example of how this world should be. Coffee might not be your passion, but let your eyes be opened to enjoy something of this marred but beautiful world. I've no idea of the worldview of those who run Colonna and Smalls, but they've seen at least a glimpse of this world as it is meant to be.
  • I've suggested in the past that a dentist is a good analogy for how many of us see God as a necessary evil. I repent. Dentists fight decay - they're remakers of the world. As are binmen. 
  • Or, see the millions in service industries in the UK. Given the option of treating people as people or degrading them. I worked for a year in a high street bank and was pretty successful, not because I'm charming, but because I treated people consistently and well, humanly. Those who know Jesus aren't unique in doing this... knowing Jesus they can join him in the remaking of the world.

The story of Jesus isn't a fragile whisper it's a loud shout: Jesus wants the withered rose. And he'll take the rose and remake the world with her. And it looks as ordinary as two people getting married. The kind of thing that happens every weekend. Ordinary but packed full of life, like a coffee bean, like people waiting to die so that life can come.

Let it be known: Jesus wants the rose.

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