The Lord be with you.....
Ha. Ha. I know that some of you just read that first sentence and replied, "And also with you." Funny how a comment within a special context spurs a response. This common greeting is often used in our liturgy for Holy Communion, Baptism, and in some cases weddings. Don't assume the saying is used only in church settings and don't think it to be only a United Methodist thing either. As I wandered through the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, I came across Boaz and his return to Moab. Here is the scripture that caught my attention.
"Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you! ” “The LORD
bless you!” they called back." (Ruth 2:4, NIV)
This greeting from Boaz isn't word for word as it appears in our Book of Worship and hymnal, but it's close. The meaning is the same. The general greeting in biblical times was simply a reminder of the closeness of God in one's life. It would be customary to say, "The Lord be with you." When a group of people share a common faith the response is much like the harvesters here in Ruth 2. They returned the blessing.
Today, we use statements like these to build a bridge of faith toward another. Often, I will ask the question, "How is it with your soul?" This query digs a little deeper than the standard, "How are you doing?" It goes beyond the "The Lord be with you" encouragement. It seeks to know the inner soul condition.
This conversation about relationship building 101 is based upon the premise that life can be difficult, but God is always good. If I approach you and ask, "How is it with your soul?" I am reaching out to show concern and love to you. I want to rejoice with you if your life is fantastic and I want to walk beside you to help bear your burdens if life is one pothole after another.
Sorely lacking in our world today are people willing to reach out to build bridges with others. In some cases, this restorative act isn't practiced in churches as much as one would think. We would hope this passage from Ruth 2:4 would be a standard greeting within the walls of the church so that when we move out into the world around us the same greeting would be used. For those of us who love the Lord God, greeting other people with hope and love is a command not a convenient afterthought.
Today, take a deep breath, approach another human being, and say, "the Lord be with you my friend." It is likely, they will respond with "And also with you." It's also likely that some may curse you out. In either case, smile and wish them the peace of God and carry on. Peace be with you.