"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people..." Ruth1,16 NIV
14 "At mealtime Boaz said to her, 'Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.' When she sat with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, 'Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don't embarrass her. 16 Rather, pull out some stalks from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her.' 17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered and it amounted to about an ephah. 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth alos brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough." Ruth 2,14-18 NIV
We read the names the 28 folks from our Dartmouth 1983 class who have left us physically in death. By reading their names we remember them with love as part of us in 1983, and part of us still, in 2018, 35 years later.
Each their souls is dear to God, and thank God, dear to us.
As for Godly love, the Apostle Paul says, "Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away, as for tongues they will cease, as for knowledge it will pass away." 1Corinthians13,8. Godly love is loyal and everlasting love. It's about friends who stick closer than brothers or sisters. Perhaps, we all have one or two Dartmouth friends, or more, like that.
Such love never ends because it is a spiritual thing. There and then, and also here and now it hangs around. There and then, and here and now it's in the air, thick or thin. We can't forget the ones we love, even ones who have died, so why try? This Godly love even grows and matures, and so compels us to move forward with it as fuel, and perhaps with even greater and noble-eternal aspirations for it, and with greater understanding and more appreciation of it than we had when we first experienced it back in 1979-1983.
Why would we even come back to reunion and honor and love our absent-in-the-body classmates, if our hearts weren't being fueled by a loyal love that grows greater, despite loss, despite the time and some heartaches that have slipped by, all the pura vida, that has happened between now and then?
I told one of the illustrious organizers of the reunion after he kindly asked me to participate in this service that I thought for many years that prior experiences would wax more memorable and ever-present, and more full of Godly love and favor than Dartmouth. But as I told him much to my surprise it wasn't so.
So why has Dartmouth been more memorable and present, even as we grow older and recognize the loss of loved ones, and class mates here and there? I can only surmise that it was here at Dartmouth that we sort of became adults, you perhaps sooner than me. And then sooner or later, we actually realized that we were part of a love and a something greater that has out-distanced what came before. Not that Dartmouth is the only peak we ever summitted, but perhaps you agree with me that Dartmouth has out-distanced our expectations and out-stretched our minds, and out-loved us more than so many experiences in our lives.
And I suppose it will continue to do so.
I'm not going to go long today, but if I could and you'll let me, I want to preach a little about Ruth an Arab gal, a Moabite, who married into a Jewish family that had migrated on foot about 50 miles east from Judah to Moab because there was famine in Bethlehem. This was about 800-900 years before the Common Era, in the time when Judges ruled Israel.
But her Jewish husband Mahlon died in Moab and Ruth was left childless. And her brother in law died too. And therefore, her mother in law Naomi had no support, and not too much to look forward too. So the widowed Naomi asks her dear Arab daughter in law a rhetorical question just before she goes home to Bethlehem, Ruth 1,11: "Have I any more sons in my womb to make husbands for you?"
But that's not the end of the story- because now back in Judah- back in Bethlehem, house of bread, the famine after ten years is lifting.
So Naomi is going back and she expects Ruth to stay home, amongst her own people and probably find a Moabite husband this time.
But when you join into any loving family, or the loving class of 1983, you realize that you are part of something greater. And Ruth doesn't want to stay in Moab. There is also something about her dead husband's people that makes her want to go with them, and then stay with them. So she says to her mother-in-law "Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people..."
Have you all heard of Emmy Lou Harris? Emmy Lou Harris was an emerging young folk singer in the late sixties. And as grace would have it, Graham Parsons heard her sing in DC in 1971 and he promptly recruited her for his 1973 "GP" album and to tour with him in1973 too. (Rolling Stone, June 7, 2011) And though Graham Parsons died early, like Ruth's husband, he had introduced Emmy Lou to something way bigger than folk, to the whole huge mixed juggernaut that is "country."
And the rest is history.
Emmy Lou Harris has played and sang with all the country greats back in the day right up til now, and she's in the Country Music Hall of Fame in the good old Nashville USA. And there is no sign that her life-giving music is going to stop.
Country Music Hall of Fame, that's sort of like Ruth, who out of her loss came back to Judah and then became great-grandmother to King David, and to Israel's Davidic and messianic dynasty. So we migth say Ruth is in the bible Hall of Fame.
Now Ruth was introduced to something greater too, to a people, the Jewish people, by her husband Mahlon and mother in law Naomi, and then she became part of that bigger people by her choice. So she goes back to Judah with Naomi. She went there sort of like we came to Dartmouth, without much knowledge of what we were joining, but with great eagerness and expectation that something good was about to happen.
Her Moabite people had fed the Jews and now her new people were about to feed her, and very richly at that!
When we came to Dartmouth, to a strange and cold land, we were like Ruth, joining a particular people. Like us lowly freshman arriving at Hanover in 1983, the only right Ruth had was the right to glean a little in anybody's field, that is, pick up the scraps of grain that the harvesters going fast leave behind.
When she arrived she didn't fit in. But she was going to do her very best and make sure her widowed mother in law got fed.
But something happened, as good things always do when we join good people and something greater. This new people, not just Naomi, began to be kind to her and love her. They saw how she cared for and loved her mother in law, and what a hard worker she was, and that she was the kind of person who could fit in anywhere.
And lo and behold Ruth just happened to be gleaning that first day on Boaz' field, the righteous man's field, the best man's fruitful field. And in that one day, she not only harvested, but then threshed, by hand, 20 quarts of grain and shared it that very day with her mother in law.
And on her lunch break, she and old Boaz broke bread together, flirted a bit, sort of like an old-fashioned date on the farm.
She still had no rights, but the male relatives in Mahlon's family did have the right to marry her if one of them would also buy the family homestead from Naomi, and thus take care of her. One male kin of Mahlon didn't want to because he was already married, or didn't want to, the scholars don't much agree as to why he said "no." But old Boaz, no fool, took to her right from the first.
And as soon as Naomi realizes there are love and marriage in the air, she tells Ruth put on her finery and to hurry down to the final harvest celebration, where after the hoedown party, she will find a sleeping Boaz in the barn, having enjoyed his share of the fruit of the vine. And Naomi enjoins her to lie at his feet as he is sleeping. I am not making this up! This is her chaste, but not too subtle, proposal for marriage.
And why was Boaz sleeping on the floor of harvest barn after the party was over? No, not just from the wine. Because he was guarding the townwide harvest from Moabite grain rustlers, but certainly not from Ruth, who soon was no stranger anymore!
Now our Dartmouth experience has also been about becoming part of something greater, and even sort of like joining a new people, where we didn't fit in at first, but now we do. And though we don't fully understand why, or how or exactly by what ceremony and when we joined, that's sort of what we have done. And for better or for worse, and after 35 years, it's a little too late to opt out now.
And perhaps, also being a peculiar people, we have come to strangely care about each other and to willingly join something greater in 1979 and again here and now in 2018.
I say this for all of us here at our 35th reunion and also for the benefit of those who couldn't come to reunion, or didn't want to, or we haven't kept up with, or who didn't want to be kept up with and didn't return calls yesterday or twenty years ago. Love never ends. We join back into the something greater that is Dartmouth again and again. We love all the folks here in the class of 1983, folks still in the flesh and those who have passed on, those here at our reunion, or not.
Yes, the Spirit Godly love hangs around. So why fight it?
Our Dartmouth experience began 39 years ago with gleaning like the lowly Ruth in Boaz' fruitful field in Bethlehem. And for many of us our Dartmouth experience has been fuel for great pursuits in this life, as individuals, and together as a class, and has shown us a great and ongoing harvest in so many ways in this our earthly life.
This great harvest has come by living and loving to the fullest and belonging to a greater people, a Dartmouth people that looks beyond ourselves and our own individual brands once and awhile, for the sake of the greater good of a greater people.
Like Ruth leaving what she knew, we still carry high and hopeful expectations for the future and yet still carry dear memories of those we have lost in our class of 1983. Time and experience, and the Godly love of many people, taught Ruth, and also teaches us, that we too are part of something greater, a people that, like God did for Boaz, has placed many gifts at our feet.
Br. Tobin Hitt
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...