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  • Gary T. Burke

The Story of Ruth

Sadly, many sincere Christians seem to believe that the simple act of a woman reading a passage of Scripture in the Sunday assembly would be an act of “exercising authority” (I Tim. 2:12) over the men present. I guess their experience of the way men read the Bible publicly in their church is different than mine. How the reading of Scripture in any way by either men or women is somehow seen as an exercise of authority baffles me.

Once our congregation changed its practice and women were put in the regular Scripture rotation, wonderful opportunities to improve our worship experience were opened up. Not only were some of the women better public readers than some of the men, but many women who had never been anything but largely passive participants in our worship were given much-appreciated opportunities to serve alongside their brothers. One such sister was Ruth.

Ruth was a frail woman in her late 70s or early 80s who lived in a nursing home. She was a recent convert and reveled in her new-found faith and her fellowship with a family in the place of the one she no longer had. Ruth had not lived the typical sheltered life of many who had always “gone to church.” Earlier life choices were coming home to roost. She was confined to a wheelchair and on just enough portable oxygen to keep her COPD in check long enough to attend class and church. When we asked everyone to indicate what roles they would be willing to fill in our assembly, Ruth checked “Read Scripture” on the form.

One morning her turn finally came. Someone wheeled her up to the front of our small auditorium near the communion table. Because she had no microphone and her disease did not allow her to project much volume, we all had to listen carefully. Then in an humble act of service she had never been able to experience before, this frail, gentle, elderly saint read to us from the Bible in her lap. It was for me the most moving part of our worship experience that morning.

Before she went home to the Lord, Ruth was able to read a few more times. It gave her great pleasure to be able to serve her brothers and sisters this way, and I always looked forward to seeing her name on the worship program. It was on those days that I felt a special connection to my own first-century brothers and sisters in the simple, spirit-filled worship assemblies they must have had. (June 7, 2019)

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