Boston's Charles Street jail used to be home to the city's most notorious characters. Among its former inmates was Frank Abagnale, Jr., the con artist portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the feature film "Catch Me If You Can" (Steven Spielberg, 2002). Once the paragon of prison architecture, the facility fell into disrepair by the 1960s, when it became overcrowded, riotous, and filthy with pigeon droppings. The building was condemned in 1973, and the last inmates transferred in 1990.
Seventeen years and $150 million dollars later, the Charles Street jail is now Liberty Hotel, which boasts luxury accommodations that cost from $319 to $5,500 per night. With restaurants named Clink and Scampo (Italian for "escape") and a bar named Alibi, designers celebrate the building's past.
Former inmate Bill Baird visited the hotel on the 40th anniversary of his arrest and was amazed at the renovation. "How you could take something that was so horrible," he observed, "and turn it into something of tremendous beauty, I don't know."
Sounds an awful lot like the kind of work our God is famous for. He is, after all, in the full-time redemption business. He takes what is worn out and condemned, and rather than flatten it all and start over, He begins the renovation process. When He gets done, the result is magnificent. Of course, unlike the architects who redesigned that prison in Boston, the materials God works with have a will of their own. We can choose whether or not to participate in the process of redemption.
Ruth tells us a story of redemption. She was a woman who was as marginalized as they come; a widow in a partriarchal society, a foreigner in a country that didn't like outsiders. Yet by the end of the book, we find that God has weaved her into His redemption plan. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Come this Sunday as we wrap up the story of Ruth. And remember this final quote from CS Lewis:
It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion.