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‘Ruth’

by Graham Kings

I wrote the following poem, ‘Ruth’, on Friday, July 5, 2019 at the Royal Foundation of St. Katharine, London, during a regular monthly Quiet Day.

My wife, Alison, and I had picked up the painting (above) on which it is based, “Ruth,” by Silvia Dimitrova, the previous Saturday from the home of Silvia and her husband, Simon Potter, in Bath.

It is the sixth painting in the series of seven “Women in the Bible” on which we have been working together over 16 years. The seventh, “Esther,” will be completed before Christmas this year.

For this series, I choose the texts and discuss them with Silvia. She prays over them and draws a sketch that Alison and I consider, and between the three of us we agree on the changes. Alison and I do not see it until it is finished and framed by Simon.

Covenant published our first four paintings and poems in June 2016: Magdalene (2003);Lydia (2009); Priscilla (2013); and Sarah (2016) and then in 2018 published Miriam. I have also written about Priscilla, Sarah, and mission at Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion (see here and here) and on Miriam (on Covenant, see here).

For Italian translations of the first four poems, by Gemma Debono, the Pontifical University Urbaniana, see here.

Tristan Latchford, Director of Music at St Chad’s College, Durham, is composing anthems on each of the paintings and poems, which work in English or Italian.

For details of a Quiet Day I am leading at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, London, on Saturday, November 2, 2019, on the paintings and poems, see here.

Ruth

Who is this woman,
poised and balanced,
pointing to baby,
carrying sheaves, which
wave to waves of barley?

Who is this man,
supporting, protecting,
prosperous, assured,
backed by sprouting
and spreading tree?

Who is this madonna,
cuddling a boy,
with delight and tenderness,
signalling the way
to fertile foliage?

Ruth, the Moabite,
widowed, bereaved,
loyal and faithful to
mother-in-law from Israel.

“Where you go, I will go:
where you lodge, I will lodge:
your people shall be my people
and your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die
and there will I be buried.”

Ruth reaps and gleans
a harvest of love
and husband of joy.

Boaz, worthy and wealthy,
honourable and wise,
hospitable to foreigner,
welcoming, redeeming,
redresses history
and Moses in Moab.

Naomi, triply emptied,
gentle guidance
now fulfilled,
nurses her grandson.

Obed, gurgling, worshipping,
bequeaths the tree of Jesse.
Bethlehem rejoices to house
the house of David,
and, in God’s good time,
great David’s greater son.

Graham Kings July 5, 2019, Royal Foundation of St. Katharine, London

——

Notes:

 

Naomi means “delight” in Hebrew.

Obed means “worshiper” in Hebrew.

In their wanderings, before entering the Promised Land, Moabites refused to give the Israelites food and water. Therefore, God gave a law to Moses, who died in Moab: “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord … because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 23:3-4)

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Graham Kings is honorary assistant bishop and world mission adviser in the Diocese of Southwark, England.

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