FROM A READING FOR NOV. 21, FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
'...the Jewish leaders made fun of him: He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah whom God has chosen!' -- Luke 23:35


Sunday's first reading (II Samuel 5:1-3) narrates one of the most important events in Jewish history. It happened on the easiest date in all Scripture to remember: 1,000 BCE.

Before "all the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron," Jews were divided into two tribal confederations: Israel in the North, Judah in the South.

Until the northern tribes met with David in Hebron, he was only ruler of the South. But once they "anointed him king of Israel," he became ruler of a united Jewish nation, leading up to "the glory" his son Solomon enjoyed. His Hebron anointing ushered in the most remarkable period in Jewish history.

Though, as Hans Walter Wolff noted, "While David is Scripture's lousiest parent, he is, at the same time, Israel's greatest king."

On this Sunday, dedicated to kingship, I trust we won't get lost in the glories of that position. It's better to reflect on an oft-forgotten biblical person: Ruth.

Who was she?
This fascinating woman wasn't even a Jew. Ruth belonged to a despised people: the Moabites. But after the unexpected death of her Jewish husband, Ruth stepped forward and offered to travel to Israel and care for her widowed mother-in-law. That was a heroic gesture.

Normally it would condemn the young foreigner to a life of widowhood. But, because of her dedication to Naomi, she eventually marries Boaz, a wealthy landowner, and "Yahweh enabled her to conceive and she bore a son....They called him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David."

The author of Ruth did his or her best to remind the Israelite readers of the book that the only reason their greatest king even existed was because his Gentile great-grandmother gave up her own future and dedicated her life to caring for her Jewish mother-in-law.

Jesus' dedication
Luke (23:35-43) wants us also to zero in on the dedication dimension of the crucified Jesus. Though "above him there was an inscription that read, 'This is the King of the Jews,'" Luke's Jesus demonstrates His kingly power not by saving himself, but by His concern for a criminal sharing Golgotha with Him.

Jesus answers the dying man's request to be remembered when He comes into His kingdom with a promise far beyond anything the thief could have expected: "This day, you will be with me in Paradise."

Knowing this, the most important line in Sunday's Colossians (1:12-20) passage becomes the statement, "He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church."

Jesus is both the person and force who points the direction into which we Christians should always be traveling. Though Jesus is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation," He's also the person we daily strive to imitate.

Commenting about his recent visit to the traveling "Vatican Splendors" exhibit, Tom Smith wrote, "The splendor of the art obliterates the splendor of a humble, lived faith."

If Ruth lived long enough, she would have often reminded her great-grandson that self-giving is at the heart of faith - as Jesus reminded us from Golgotha. True faith revolves around it.