Gleaning Women in God’s Harvest of Plenty
Use this guided meditation on Thanksgiving Day, or other times in the year, as a way to examine the work of God in your life and the lives of migrant workers in the United States and around the world.
“Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.”
Knowles Shaw (1874)
Ruth 2:3: She (Ruth) came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers.
Psalm 126: 6: Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed of sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.
The story of Ruth and Naomi is a story against the backdrop of a harvest in Bethlehem. The story of Ruth, in particular, is a timeless story of a woman who gleaned and gathered barley for her loved one, Naomi, and for her own future.
I invite you to imagine a vast stretch of field ripe for harvest. A corn field, maybe. The cornstalks with ripe golden grains are waving at you. I invite you to go to an old-fashioned way of gathering harvest, just like Ruth. See the cart. Move toward it. Pick up the empty baskets on it. There, see the other laborers in this harvest season who are filling their baskets with plenty?
Move gently, move slowly but steadily.
In your mind’s eye, recall all those who made this harvest possible:
- Those who seeded it.
- Those who watered it.
- Those who nurtured it.
- God who gave the sun and the rain.
- God who smiles on the bumper harvest.
- God who blesses you as you fill your basket with the blessings of the earth.
Recall with me, the verse from the Bible Ruth 2: 3, “Ruth came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers.” Take your baskets to your cart. Fill them as you wish as far as your cart could bear. Now each time you go back to the harvest field, recall all those who:
- Seeded your life;
- Nurtured your life;
- Watered it; and
- Gave sunshine and moisture.
Pick up these gifts that you received from others, place them in your baskets, walk back to the cart, place them one behind the other, or on top of each other.
Gathering the sheaves
Now come back to where you are now. Recall the key events that have happened to you since last Thanksgiving Day. What has God done to you in the past year? Maybe it is time to gather both your joys and tears this year.
If it has been a year of sorrow, loss, grief and loneliness, let us take hope. Thanksgiving season can be a lonely time, too. God is in the midst of it all providing endurance and hope. Consider these questions:
- Is there a faith community that sustains you?
- Can you talk with a friend?
- Can you pick up the phone and pray with a friend in faith?
Ruth and Naomi offered a supportive community to each other.
- Can you provide community to someone who is lonely this season?
- Can you contact them by phone or with a card, note or e-mail?
- Can you stand in solidarity with the suffering and the sorrowful?
Psalm 126: 6: “Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”
Remembering the Ruths of the world
Come with me, with your hearts free of all preconceived notions, and walk into a farm in a less developed country where there are laborers who do not often look like us.
- Can you visualize these workers setting up three stones and lighting a fire to cook their meals in a space close to the farms they work?
- Can you sit beside them invisibly and watch the meager food they eat? Often the farm workers are malnourished.
- Can you see the face of the “least of these” in them?
Let us not fail to see the faces of the Ruths of the world today, migrant laborers from one less developed country to another less developed country whom provide food at the table for others.
In 2005, 191 million people, three percent of the world’s population, were estimated to be international migrants. Nearly 40 percent are moving from one less developed nation to another. Migrants end up offering cheap labor both in developing and developed nations.
The United States is the home to the largest number of migrants in the world. The United Nations has reacted to the violations of the rights of migrant workers, and members of their families including women and children by enacting the “The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families” on December 18, 1990. As of 2007, only 52 countries are parties to the Convention.
Unfortunately, the United States has not signed the Convention.
Farm workers in the United States earn less than $10,000 annually. Their family income is the lowest. Foreign-born farm workers are more likely to be poorer than those born in the United States. More than 70 percent of farm workers in the United States are born in Mexico.
If you want to learn more about the AgJobs Bill (S. 232/H.R. 371) now before the Congress, and if migrant farm workers could benefit from this legislation, visit the website of the National Farm Worker Ministry at www.nfwm.org.
Bringing in sheaves of prayers and action
- Can you collect migrants and their families in your thoughts and bring in your sheaves of prayers to God, and pray for them especially, during this season?
- If you are so inclined, can you write a prayer on their behalf and post it in United Methodist Women’s Online Community, in the Faith Exploration Community?
- Can you “speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy,” Proverb 31: 8-9?
Today is a day of remembrance and thanksgiving. It is a day for remembering the Ruths of the world and the Ruths in our midst.
- Foreign-born Ruths in the midst of us provide food to the natives.
- Migrants are enacting a reversed story of the first Thanksgiving when natives offered food to the Pilgrim forebears.
- In their search for bread for themselves and their families, these Ruths take up the task of providing food for us today.
As God’s pilgrim people, the faith community is called upon to remember the stranger in our midst. In Matthew 25: 35, Jesus says, “I was hungry, you gave me food.”
Can it be that we are called to give food security and the hospitality of welcome to the strangers in our midst who give us food? Shall we bring in our sheaves of thanksgiving, sheaves of prayers, and sheaves of action?
Let us recapture once again the poignant mood of Psalm 126: 6, and sing:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.
*Glory Dharmaraj, Ph.D, is the director of spiritual formation and mission theology for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.