Lets get this straight right off the bat, I love my mother in-law very much. That is not where I am going today though!
I have done well over 200 weddings in the past 15 years or so, and one of the readings that pops up now and again is a portion from our reading today. The portion they usually choose starts shortly after the start of the 16th verse:
“Do not press me to leave
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.”
Often they don’t go on to the 17th verse as it talks about death, and who wants to talk about death at a wedding.
When couples bring this verse to me, we talk about it and I say something like, you know Ruth is talking to her Mother in-law here right? No, they don’t, at least I don’t remember anyone saying they really understood the context of this verse, I think they like this verse it because it sounds romantic.
Most often they stick with this verse because it is so deeply loving and the story is powerful, they just have a broader understanding of how God’s love works. Well it is, sort of, it is a part of a much larger love story. You see Ruth is Jesus’ great, great, great, great….etc. Grandmother. This is where the story of God’s loving plan for salvation becomes much more particular and it starts with a deep and nearly illogical expression of love of a daughter in-law for her mother in-law!
I think the cultural understanding of weddings is that it in particular is the brides “special day.” Hence, bridezillas and all the rest of the junk that often gets heaped upon weddings. This verse cuts that junk out of the way, and points to the fact that who we are in God’s plan is not all about us. Don’t get me wrong, God’s love is definitely for us and about us, and that is very cool. God has much bigger things in mind for us and for his love, it is to be shared, it goes beyond the expected and it changes the world!