RUTH, BOAZ, AND STREET FRATERNITY
Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!” Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:10-13)
Yesterday I drove into Denver and spent a few hours talking to one of the founders and some of the volunteers and young men (ages 14-25) served by Street Fraternity, a non-profit on East Colfax that has been around for almost four years, offering a safe place for high school-aged boys and young adults to do their homework, hang out, and be supported and encouraged by caring adults - mostly men. I helped prepare dinner for a little while, played a little ping pong, talked to a few of the boys, and found out more about the program from the Executive Director, Yoal. Yoal graduated from South HIgh School in Denver and has a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Denver. The international studies emphasis seems really appropriate, since some of the boys I met have come to this country from Nepal, Congo, various other countries in Africa, and I believe Central and South America. I met one upbeat young man who was born in Congo, grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda, came to the U.S. when he was 12, and now works and is attending Arapahoe Community College. Many being served at Street Fraternity have “... left... [their] native land and [come] to a people that [they] did not know before.” (Ruth 2:11) Clearly, on four afternoons and evenings a week, some really good work is being done here, a place with a shoestring budget but a place with an abundance of love and hope. Connections are made, friendships are nurtured, boys and young men are growing up as they are mentored and encouraged.
I got up this morning and the Old Testament reading was about Naomi, Ruth (Naomi’s Moabite daughter-in-law), and Boaz (a male relative of Naomi). It’s a story of faithfulness and loyalty and love and welcoming the foreigner. It’s a story of connection. It’s a story of loving your neighbor - even your foreign-born neighbor - as yourself, and respecting the dignify of every human being. (“The Baptismal Covenant,”, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 305)
This is our work as Christians - to love God... to love others in an all-embracing, non-discriminating kind of way... to love ourselves... and to love the planet. Yes, it’s good to worship on a weekly basis. That falls under the love of God commandment. But our main work... our main action... is to be out there loving people and loving creation. Jesus’ teaching and his own actions were clear: This love we are called to offer is not limited to people “like us” - people of our nation, people with the correct documents, people of our faith, people of our socioeconomic status. No. It is love for all, because that is how God loves us. (See Matthew 5:43-48)
As Christians, we need to surrender any notion of “who is in and who is out” and be more like Street Fraternity, more like Ruth, more like Boaz.
Who will you love today? Thanks for bearing the light and love of Christ in the world!