15 So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said,
“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.
17 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!”
In worship on Sunday October 31st our Old Testament reading was Ruth 1:1-18, where the above verses are found. These verses are familiar to many, in part because they are commonly read at weddings. The covenantal language in the passage can be a beautiful reflection on the joining of two people in the covenant of marriage, but there is another covenant it is equally if not more so is representative of, baptism.
In baptism we recognize God’s claim on our lives and in water are given a sign and seal of God’s mercy and grace. Baptism (or confirmation for those baptized as young children) is also a time for us to commit ourselves to God as God has given God’s self to us in Jesus Christ. It is in this aspect of baptism that we see Ruth’s words to Naomi reflected in our own words towards God.
We claim God in Christ as our own, just as God has claimed us, similarly Ruth says ‘do not press me to leave you… where you go, I will go;” thus claiming Naomi as the one to whom she is covenanted. God is with us always and as Christians we are called to be mindful of God’s constant and abiding presence with us. Immediately following this Ruth promises to lodge where Naomi will lodge, reminding us of Christ’s language in John’s Gospel, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” Though baptism does not bind us to God in Christ alone, but also to Christ’s people, the Church. So Ruth’s word’s adopting Naomi’s people as her own ring true for us as well.
The last part of Ruth’s covenant, and perhaps the most significant when looking at it through the lens of baptism regards death. Ruth promises to die where Naomi dies and there be buried. In the waters of baptism we are buried with Christ, and as we arise from them, with water running down our face, we are raised with him to new and eternal life. For it is in his death that Christ defeats our sin and in his resurrection that he defeats our death, so in being united with him we not only die to sin, but are promised resurrection as well.
So may the words of Ruth find renewed meaning as we read and hear them, that we might be reminded of our baptism and the one to whom we can cling with all our life, just as Ruth clung to Naomi long, long ago. Amen.
1 John 15:4 NRSV