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Spiritual Growth

Wesley Bible: A Study Guide

Journey of Faith: Session 4

By Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D.

"The heart has its reason of which reason knows nothing" Blaise Pascal


The story of Ruth and Naomi:
Scripture Ruth 1: 1-18, 2:1-13, 3: 1-10, 4:13-17

PATHS OF TRANSFORMATION INSIDE ONE'S SELF: 
Combine Lectio Divina with a specific Wesleyan way of reading the Book of Ruth (The Wesley Study Guide, page 327). 

  • Read the Scripture passage slowly. Ask a Wesleyan question in the evening of the day, "Where have I gleaned today?"
  • Ponder the words or phrases that stay with you. "What improvements have I made in grace or knowledge?"
  • Talk with God about what makes these words meaningful to you. "What have I learned or done?" How has my daily labor contributed to creating an ideal society? 

IMAGINING A SOCIALLY-WELL TREE AND SOCIALLY ILL TREE:

  • If an ideal community were a tree, what could be the roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and fruits? In other words, how would you communicate an ideal community pictorially or in words?
  • If a socially ill community were a tree, what could be the roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and fruits? In other words, how would you communicate a broken-down community? 
  • For the basic data about the economic and social conditions in a particular community in the U.S., visit The American Community Survey at www.census.gov/acs.  

THE BIBLE IS FULL OF RENEWED VISIONS OF SHALOM
Shalom is peace, harmony, wellness, wholesomeness, health, and restoration of relationship with one another, with communities, and with creation itself. Shalom is restoration of God's relationship, God's promised presence in the midst of God's people.  Shalom is renewal. It is God seeking to establish a covenant of mutuality in love and mission. Shalom is God's eternal rhetorical question, "Is anything impossible for God?"

God seeks to establish the covenant of shalom with God's community often when God's people are in alienation, in fatigue, and find no way forward. The gospel of John calls it "Fullness of Life." Shalom is finding home in God, in community, and in oneself and experiencing the interrelatedness of it all. 

READING THE STORY THROUGH THE EYES OF RUTH & NAOMI

FACT: 

  • What do you see in this story? 
  • Where is this story taking place in the story in Ruth 1:1-18?
  • What do you think is happening? 

(More questions can be framed that draw on the realities in the story which allow the readers to sharpen their observation and enter the story and the discussion easily)

ASSOCIATION: 

  • How do you think the persons in the story are feeling? 
  • What are some of life's blows that have made Ruth and Naomi displaced persons?
  • How did Orpah work with herself? How did Ruth work with herself? 
  • Have you ever felt like one of the characters in this story? Have you known of someone who has gone through such situations and adapted to life?

 (Questions that refer to personal experiences and the shared experiences from their own contexts)
MEANING: 

  • How is Ruth adapting to life in Ruth 2:1-13?
  • What is a survival strategy (Ruth 3:1-10) suggested by Naomi for Ruth? 
  • What are the risks involved in this strategy? 
  • What are the risks and challenges involved today in the integration of an immigrant or displaced person from another race or ethnicity in a host community? 
  • What are the key insights for you in the story?

(Questions that help the readers to move into the next level of ideas, values, and  key thoughts in the story)

ACTION: 

  • How does Ruth prove to be a carrier of hope in a time of abandonment and loss?
  • How does Naomi look after Ruth's welfare in the midst of her own bitterness and loss? 
  • What is the relevance of this story in your life? In your community? 
  • What are the actions that you as an individual and your community as a whole can take in order to address the needs of a stranger in the midst of you or in your community?
  • Read Ruth 4:13-17. Who names the child? Does this sound unusual?
  • Why do you think the Bible records the role of a community of women in Ruth 4:17?
  • Share instances of how your United Methodist Women's family or church family or neighborhood stood beside you in times of need. 

 
The family tree of Jesus is a radical one, as we see it in Matthew 1: 1-17. Ruth is the great grandmother of King David in whose family line is born Jesus. Jesus' family tree includes women such as Tamar who acted as a prostitute, Rahab who was a sex worker, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, who was married to David, and Ruth, a foreigner and a migrant. 

Jesus identifies with the migrants such as Ruth everywhere. "God chose to be incarnated in as a migrant in Jesus, who as a tender child became a refugee to Africa, and as an adult became an itinerant teacher of good news to all people. Jesus identifies himself with the sojourner in our midst and calls his followers to provide hospitality to the sojourner. Matthew 25: 38-40" (Statement on the U.S. Immigration Situation, Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church, May 2009).

WHITE CHRISTMAS VS MULTI-COLORED CHRISTMAS
In an Advent 2009 newsletter from Reverend Kristin and David Markay, the General Board of Global Ministries missionaries serving at the Chiesa Evangelica Metodista, in the Northern Italian town of Milano, the Markays write about dreaming of a multi-colored Christmas in response to a code word, "White Christmas," used by the police for a door-to-door document-checking operation during the month of December in order  to crack down undocumented immigrants in the northern Italian town. 

The missionaries said that the Protestants organized an ecumenical silent vigil on a main pedestrian road in Milano. Ministers and lay persons from various cultures stood with signs that read, "You know the heart of an alien, for you were once aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 23:9), and "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35). 

Is there room in the inn yet?

Wesleyan Life Application: Justice 
"Everything belongs to God, and humans are God's stewards and tenants. Justice requires that all people have access to the resources necessary to flourish. The test of God's justice is this: Do the powerless and the vulnerable have access to life's abundance? A distinguishing characteristic of Israel's God is this: The Lord protects the orphan, widows, and sojourners---the powerless. The early Methodists went to the people who were the least, the last, and lost because they believed that the poor, those whom Charles Wesley called "Jesus' bosom friends," are special recipients of God's justice and means of divine grace." (The Wesley Study Bible, page 200).  Prayer: Provider and sustainer of our lives, our cups run over with your goodness and mercy all the days of our lives. Make our hearts and communities a place of belonging and acceptance to everyone, including the least, the last, and the lost. In the name of One who became a refugee and outcast for our salvation, and rose again to rule the world with justice and grace, even Jesus the Christ. Amen. 

Click HereJourney of Faith: Session 5


This Bible study was also published by United Methodist Publishing house; a print-friendly PDF can be downloaded from their site.

Last Updated: 03/17/2014
 
 

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