Emmanuel Baptist Church
275 State St. Albany, NY 12210
Click here for directions
|A Welcoming and Affirming Congregation||
Minister: Rev. Kathy J. Donley
The Places We Go
Rev. Peter JB Carman, Guest Preacher
Scripture Lesson:Ruth 1: 1-22
One of the most popular books of the Bible is the book of Ruth. One of the most frequently quoted verses in that book, most often has been read in the King James Version at weddings, to give voice to the deep covenant between—traditionally that is-- husband and wife. We shared it this morning.” And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.””
something universal in these words. And
yet let us notice, let us claim as
Welcoming and Affirming Bible-loving
people, that in the story these are not
the words of a bride to her groom. This
is a recently widowed young woman
speaking to the Mother-in-Law she loves.
These are not traditional wedding vows.
They are the vows of one woman to
another, pleading and promising across
the lines of generation, tribe and
nation. Ruth creates a covenant. She
creates family, woman to woman, as they
prepare to leave
new about the fear of foreigners. And
there is nothing new about the
experience of refugees. The disdain of
“Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried....”
A Personal Note
It is good to
come be with you from across the border
I want to share
a personal note about the connection
between this story and your pastor Kathy
Donley and my family. I first met Kathy
in 2004, at the funeral of my
We remembered Grandma Naomi as is our custom as a family, with a service of our own devising, there in her church, where Kathy was a young Associate pastor. When I hear the words “Entreat me not to leave you” I cannot help but remember the last years of my grandmother, the hymns we sang at her passing. We talkative Carmans barely gave Kathy room to say anything, but she represented the wider Christian community and Grandma’s congregation with few words and much compassion. To say I was pleased to find out Kathy was my colleague here at the “other Emmanuel” when I arrived a year and a half ago doesn’t touch the respect and thankfulness I have held her in since that day ten years before my arrival.
Dr. Seuss wrote a wonderful book entitled “Oh the places you’ll go.” It starts…
The chapter we are reading today doesn’t tell us how it works out in the end for the new Naomi-Ruth family that challenges the deep divides, the suspicion, the fear, the history of exclusion. Only how it starts. And that’s a good thing. For today. Because while many folk talk about – and I use this term in quotes—the “Race Issue” as though it were a thing of the past, you and I know full well that to be poor and black in America remains a crime. We know full well that the internalized legacy of white supremacy continues to bite us in the posterior collectively and individually, all of us, but some worse than others: Black, white, Latino and Asian.
When we polite people start talking about race, it sounds often as though we had all been laboring long and hard to overcome racism in our world, and we are so tired and we just don’t have the energy to deal any more. Truth be told, I for one haven’t done much at all yet to undo the economic, personal and law-enforcement versions of racism. Now maybe you’ve done more than I have, in which case, forgive me. But if you and I are at all alike, I want to propose that when we act tired, or what have you, we are actually covering, while we hide from our own interior nausea—because we are scared. Scared to face into something ugly and personal and ugly and systemic. Scared.
And so you and I
in the US of A, we are only at the
beginning of the story of dealing with
Let’s talk about Covenant:
In the recent
But marriage isn’t the only kind of covenant, and the nuclear family is not the only kind of family we need. In church we also talk about covenant: a covenant with God—actually when we come to the Communion Table we talk about the communion cup as what? “The cup of the new covenant”. In fact the term “New Testament” that we use for the skinnier second half of the bible may be better translated “New Covenant.”
The radical terms of the new covenant that we claim as fellow travelers with Christ are the terms of utter Grace; uncompromising Justice; unquenchable burning Love. And let me push this further with you—God doesn’t just declare a new covenant with people who follow Jesus—it is a new promise, a new relationship with all of humanity. The moment when Ruth made the decision to cross over that border with her beloved Naomi, she gave us a foretaste of what that new covenant God wants is all about.
I had a grandmother named Naomi who spent her life trying to cross the boundaries of fear, hate and especially racism. Her faith is my faith, and the places she went with it are in many ways the same places I have to go, in different times. But say-- you too have a grandmother named Naomi—if only through the power of a story and the love of a God who will not let go, but clings to you, saying “Entreat me not to leave thee.” That Naomi’s God is our God too, and the places she and Ruth went together you and I need to go together now, in different times, not retreating to the comforting haunts of the past but braving a new covenant, a new humanity. Utter Grace; uncompromising Justice; and unquenchable burning Love.
There is an oft-quoted old hymn by James Russell Lowell I’ll close with, though I adapt the words a tad.
Once to ev'ry
woman and nation
Tho' the cause
of evil prosper,