By the end of last week, I came to believe that "restoration," for both Job and Bartimaeus, has more to do with being reconciled with a community than it has to do with gaining wealth, children, or even vision.
And this week, it seems like our Bible stories just keep luring us to draw even more closely together.
First, Ruth's story begins with tremendous grief (and you thought things would get better when we finished Job's story!). Right on the heels of grief, though, is a bold choice: Ruth chooses to cling to her mother-in-law, and to return with her (Naomi) to Naomi's homeland, a foreign place for Ruth. Now, choosing belonging to mothers-in-law may sound odd in our own culture, but Ruth's choice was daring for even more reasons. Somehow, though, God lures her to take up this solidarity. And we know the end of the story: Ruth enables Naomi to become a mother again, and one of her descendents will be Jesus.
Then, Jesus reminds us of the greatest of all the commandments: to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love neighbors as ourselves. The closeness comes not only in loving neighbors as ourselves, but in how close this work brings us to God's kingdom.
This is good stuff: after all those weeks when the disciples kept getting it wrong, we finally get a glimpse of what would be right (or close-to-right, which may now count in horseshoes, hand grenades, and God's kingdom-building...). It's in loving others.
And I suspect that when he says "neighbors," Jesus means to direct us to love others who may be more difficult for us to love.
(Maybe even as difficult to love as that creepy guy who seems to lead the "Others" on Lost... I digress.)