10

Xenophobia #AtoZChallenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter X

Xenophobia means the fear of strangers. The word does not appear in the Bible. Letter X is always tricky!

However the Bible has plenty to say about strangers, aliens, foreigners, sojourners and Gentiles (non-Jews). The Law given to Moses has rules for the treatment of these people, who may not be worshippers of the Lord. They were to be treated with justice. Exodus 22:21;23:9; Leviticus 19:33,34; Deuteronomy 1:16;10:19;24:1 (Bible Gateway topical)

Ruth and Naomi

In the history of God’s chosen people, they were often strangers themselves, travelling to the Promised Land, exiled or travelling for various reasons. (Letter I and Letter P)

The well-known story of Joseph is set in a time when there was a famine. A later story from the time when Judges ruled begins with a famine.

Naomi and her husband Elimelech lived in Bethlehem with their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.

Because of the famine, Elimelech and his family went to a country the other side of the Dead Sea – Moab. They settled there, but Elimelech died leaving Naomi with her two sons. Life was very hard for widows in those days. Naomi’s sons married local girls, Orpah and Ruth. After about ten years of living abroad, Mahlon and Kilion also died.

Naomi received word that the Lord had provided food for the people in her original home. She and her daughters-in-law prepared to go to Bethlehem. They all set off together, but Naomi began to wonder what would be in store for her daughters-in-law as foreigners in a place they did not know.

She told them to return to their own mothers and prayed that they would find new husbands. Both Orpah and Ruth declared that they would stay with Naomi, but she argued with them, spelling out the difficulties they would face. Orpah was convinced and returned home, but Ruth promised to stay with Naomi. ‘Where you go I will go. Your God will be my God.’

They continued on their journey until they arrived at Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. Some of the people in Bethlehem recognised Naomi after all this time. She told them not to call her Naomi (which means pleasant), but Mara (bitter). She blamed God for the change in her circumstances. (Letter N mentions the meaning of names.)

Ruth as a foreigner had the right to glean in the fields, picking up the grain the harvesters had missed. She went out to a field and began to glean. It was a field belonging to one of the relatives of her late father-in-law – a well-to-do man named Boaz. He protected and helped her while she was working in his field even leaving sheaves for her to collect.

Another part of the Law set out that a widow should be married to a close kinsman of her husband and any children would be considered to be from her first marriage.

Boaz was not the closest relative, but acted according to the custom of the time to ascertain that the closer relative did not wish to carry out his duty as a redeemer-kinsman.

Ruth and Boaz were married and Naomi was blessed with a grandson, Obed. Obed grew up and became the father of Jesse, whose youngest son became King David.

Boaz, Obed, Jesse and David all were ancestors of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Thus Jesus was from the House of David. Interestingly Boaz’s mother was Rahab from Jericho. She had helped Joshua’s spies.


The story of Ruth is told in the book of Ruth. It is only four chapters long and well worth reading. Rahab’s story is in Joshua 2 and Joshua 6. The genealogy is in Matthew 1:1-17.

Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37-50.

Two occasions when Jesus met Gentile women are in Matthew 15:21-28 and John 4:1-42

Bobbie Ann Cole (mentioned in my post for Letter V) is also looking at the story of Ruth.

8

Harvest and Hallowe’en

The original version of this post appeared on More than Writers on 31st October 2016. I have updated it to include the differences in celebrating Harvest and Hallowe’en in 2020 with a pandemic compared with previous years.

The date of my original post is a controversial one in October.  Celebrations of Hallowe’en are regarded with anything ranging from acceptance to horror by different Churches and individual members of the Church.  Merchandise connected with Hallowe’en appears in shops before the start of the autumn term.  More and more families and businesses are putting up decorations.  Here in the UK it is not as prevalent as in the US, but is it growing.

By 31st October many churches will have celebrated a Harvest Festival or Harvest Thanksgiving.  There is no set date for this.  It is not a Red Letter Day.  By contrast Hallowe’en can be placed in the Church calendar.  It is the day before All Saints’ Day.

Celebrating and giving thanks for the Harvest is a long tradition.  In the lands where the Bible stories were lived out there were harvests of different crops at different times of year.  In the story of Ruth harvests of different crops (and their failure) form the backdrop.

I live in a village surrounded by farms; harvest is an important part of life.  It is hardly surprising that Harvest Festival is usually one of the best attended services.  In 2016 the Reader, who gave the address at our service, mentioned a crop, which may not be well-known in drier parts of the country.

The expression make hay, while the sun shines is all very well, but where the land is often soaked by the damp (very wet) weather from the Gulf Stream, hay has been replaced by silage as a fodder crop.  As I understand it silage is made from grass, which has not been dried out fully to make hay.  It is partly rotted by the time the animals eat it and has a distinctive rather sweet smell.  Before Harvest Festival, I had already decided that my photo for the original post would be of some novelty silage sacks at a farm.

When I was close enough to take my photo, I could also read the name of the supplier of the sacks.  Carrs Billington had been running a competition on Facebook and raising money for a charity for sick children – WellChild – through these novelty sacks.  (The previous year there were some pink sacks for a Breast Cancer charity.)

In 2020 our Harvest Festival was rather low-key. The church building was not decorated lavishly with flowers and fresh produce to distribute later to the very elderly and those in hospital or care homes. Instead there were donations of non-perishable items for the local foodbank. The service was attended by a few people, while others watched the live-stream or caught up later.

October has brought our thoughts to Harvest and God’s good gifts to us and to his creatures.  It will soon be Hallowe’en for which the UK government has issued guidelines. Do you expect any Trick or Treaters to call?  How would you treat them?  I know this is something I am not good at.  Some people might give them home-grown apples as an alternative to the sweets they expect.  Other options are specially produced leaflets with a Christian message and perhaps a puzzle. It is likely that children tell their friends which houses have welcomed them.

Personally I’d prefer October to be remembered for Harvest, but the majority of people are likely to think of Hallowe’en first.