‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’
When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ She said to them,
‘Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’
So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Migrants have become easy targets for politicians and the media; the manipulation of tension and suspicion is a smoke screen to prevent the racism of privileged people and systems being unmasked.
“Africa will have ten times as many young people as Europe. If Europe doesn’t do anything, they are going to kick in our door.” Viktor Orban Hungarian Prime Minister—March 15, 2018,
Let’s not forget, the Syrian who comes to us has still his Syria, the Afghan who comes to us has still his Afghanistan […] But if we lose our Germany, then we have no more home!” Björn Höcke, head of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AFD)
“Vile discourses of explicit hate and ideologies of racial supremacy have moved from the fringe to the mainstream. Racial, ethnic and religious bigotry fuels human rights violations, including extreme violence against minorities, and against refugees, migrants, stateless persons, and internally displaced, including people of African descent, with a particularly acute effect on women, and sexual and gender diverse populations. This bigotry is unashamed,” said a statement issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in March 2018.
The migrations at the heart of the Book of Ruth hinge on the same injustices and tragedies as today. Naomi and her family leave Bethlehem because of famine and leave Israel for Moab as climate refugees. They then return as economic migrants after the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons. Ruth has to risk prostituting herself for her mother in law. They risk all for their families and become a test of the generosity and justice of their neighbours - like all migrants. But Ruth’s arrival as a migrant into Bethlehem becomes a vital link for the coming of Jesus, not just as his great-great-great grandmother, but because it gives him an ironic claim on a home town which the ‘heavenly migrant’ then escapes because of political violence.
Rise up Jesus. Rise up in power to inspire and lead us. Reveal in our midst the world you are creating. May your ‘last will be first’ Spirit move us to do and believe your word: “many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness” Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Peter Cruchley is the Mission Secretary for Mission Development for Council for World Mission and a minister of the URC.