Long ago in ancient Judah, in the time when the judges ruled and before the time of the kings, there was a great famine in the land. And a man from Bethlehem named Elimelech went with his wife Naomi and their two sons and went to live in a land called Moab, far away. Elimelech died in the land of Moab, and Naomi raised her sons there. When they were grown up, they both got married to women of Moab. Naomi’s daughters in law were called Orpah and Ruth.
Both the sons died as well, so Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. In those days, that was a great tragedy, as a woman had no status apart from that which her male relatives gave her, and Naomi was a stranger; alone, in a foreign country.
“There I was. Alone. There was only one thing for me to do, and that was to try to return – on my own which I know was crazy – to my own country. I had heard through the grapevine that the famine had passed, and there was now food growing. So I resolved to set out from Moab, which had become a place of so much bitterness for me, and so many sad memories and try to go home.
Orpah and Ruth set out with me, but I said to them “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s house. May God be as kind to you as you have been to me. I pray you will be married again and find security in a home with your husband.”
My lovely girls…they were so kind – they both said “No,
we will go with you!” I told them they were both being silly and impetuous. ‘Why go back with me? I’m nobody. I have no sons in my womb to give you husbands. I have no man to protect us. Hah, even if I could have sons, you wouldn’t wait until they grew up. No, I told them, you don’t have to carry my bitterness with me. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. I’ll get by.’ Orpah kissed me, and said goodbye.
But Ruth. Ruth wouldn’t go.”
“Do not insist that I leave.
I’m going too and don’t turn me back
from following you.
Where you go, I will go;
where you make your home, I’ll be home too
your people will become my people and your God, my God.
Where you live will be my life
Where you die will be my death and they’ll bury me beside you
May God do thus and so to me, and even more
if even death parts me from you!”
Of course it wasn’t easy. There were great hard times ahead for both of us, but we were walking the road together. You’ll have to read the middle of the story yourself, but I’ll tell you the ending if you like. All our kinfolk knew that Ruth loved me and stood by me, and people even said she was worth more than seven sons! And in those days, that’s saying a lot!
And we lived all together – me, and Ruthie, and her man Boaz and their son – my grandson – my little Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David. Yes. King David. Ruth was great-grandmother to a king.
The solidarity of women, is ancient.
The love of women has sustained us through all the centuries.
The fortitude of women to stand together and face adversity is a legacy we carry forward, from thousands of years ago to this very day and into our common future.
Well, here's a question. I don't even remember where this came from! I think I wrote it for a liturgy for International Women's Day (March 8th) about 3 years ago. Feel free to use it in liturgy or as a play, or however you like.