Over the summer we are looking at a number of biblical characters - as chosen by whoever is leading the service. Hence, you will get the chance to learn something about Moses, Peter and Esther. For my two services during that time I have decided to look at two of the women from the Old Testament, Ruth and Hannah. I find both of their stories fascinating, they give an insight into some of the social customs of their time; they speak of love and devotion; they show that despite the gap in time and culture, many of our basic concerns are similar - do we belong? What is our role in this community? What can we pass on to our children?
Ruth is the Moabite widow who comes to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi. She is saved by social customs that provide for the feeding of the poor and her deceased husbands inheritance is ensured by her marriage to one of his kinsmen. My reading of the story is that Boaz loved Ruth, but their marriage is essentially a business transaction. That may go against the grain in our understanding of marriage as a love match, but we still have traces of it when the bride is "given away" and marriage still provides a legal protection for both partners and the children of that relationship that the modern custom of living together fails to provide unless specific steps are taken to draw up a contract.
Hannah is the senior but childless wife of Elkanah, who because of her infertility has to face the taunts of his second child-producing wife. It is one of the marriages that causes me to smile when people hold up the monogamous whole-life pattern of marriage as the biblical model. In fact biblical models cover a whole host of social customs and the constant themes are about faithfulness, responsibility, care for one another within the social customs of the time. One of the themes in the Hannah story is about the role of a childless woman, Hannah believes she is not fulfilled until she has a child, Elkanah loves her, sons or no sons. When Hannah does have a son she dedicates him to God and he becomes Samuel - one of Israel's great prophet leaders. In her joy Hannah sings a wonderful hymn of praise which will be mirrored by Mary when she learns that she is to bear Jesus.
So I would encourage you to come a learn something about our own lives, relationships and calling from the stories we hear over the summer - in all of them we are called to live as the people of God, honouring the saints who walk before us and preparing the ground for those who will follow.