“Full of Grace and Ruth”
July 5, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any stress or worry, anything, which may keep us from fulfilling Your wishes of who we could be. Fill us with the grace of the Father, the strength of the Son, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This past month has been one of those months when we realize how difficult following Jesus can be:
Hate-filled tragedy in Charleston, terrorist attacks, global financial instability (Greece), US Supreme Court decisions, legal and political posturing from candidates and government employees, at least 7 predominantly Black churches (from several denominations) burned to the ground in the last 10 days!, social media bombardment.
Many people outside the Church, and just as many inside the Church, feel discouraged, disheartened, and disoriented.
Some are feeling hopeless, helpless, vulnerable, and alone.
Can anyone here relate to any of that?
You are not all on your own!
We are in a series which explores the depth and the height of God’s Grace – how it is more than we deserve and how it is greater than we can imagine. Our scripture today comes from the Old Testament story about a woman named Ruth. How many of you have read (or heard) this story before? This Old Testament story of Ruth is in the context of despair, depression and doom.
The story starts with the news of a severe famine in southern Israel, surrounding the town of Bethlehem, a little more than 1,000 years before Jesus was born. The famine was so severe that families were packing up and moving into neighboring, semi-enemy, countries, including Naomi and her husband and two sons. But once they got settled, Naomi’s husband died; and her two sons married women from this enemy territory, and then her two sons also died! Naomi was suddenly a widowed mother with no living children!
So she decides to go back home, traveling by herself, to be with relatives who knew her customs and religion. Talk about despair and depression and doom; hopeless, helpless, vulnerable, and alone! Have you ever wondered if you might never escape the misery you were in? Darkness, fear, abandonment, estrangement … It is a terribly lonely experience – no–body, and it feels like no God!
But then this Old Testament story of Ruth also speaks of HOPE and GRACE.
One of her widowed daughters-in-law decides to go with her. Ruth was her name. She tells Naomi, “Your people will be my people (think how huge that would be – she left her own homeland and family to be with this strange mother-in-law and her extended family!), and your God will be my God (and this is even bigger than moving into a strange community – it’s a strange community and their stranger religion!).”
So these two widowed women, unrelated except by marriage, move into town with no job, no family, no means of support, no children or grandchildren, no hope ….
And God provides a job, more food than they can eat, and the attention of a handsome, wealthy, land-owner, farm-manager who falls in love with Ruth and eventually wins her to himself. From the Jewish heritage in which they lived, his title was “kinsman redeemer”. He saved her, and her mother-in-law, from destitution, and he saved them for God’s plan of Redemption for humankind.
We read in Ruth 4:13-17 (almost the end of the book) where …. —-
13 … Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.
Some of you will remember that way back in Genesis 12, God called Abram from the land of Ur and Promised him a new Land, and a Nation, and a people, and that one of his offspring would be a Savior for the world. And before that in Genesis 6, God promised a first salvation through Noah and that there would be a second salvation for God’s people. And before that in Genesis 3, God promised Adam and Eve that one of their offspring would crush the head of Satan and be a Savior for the people.
The story of this desperate foreigner woman named Ruth invites us into God’s perfect story of His perfect grace.
Almost without any regard for how valuable and important this information is, we are told, that “they named [their son] Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
Who was David? Does anyone know? Yup, the second-greatest King Israel has ever had! Who was the first-greatest King? C’mon – someone say it: Jesus!
Are you ready for some hope and grace?
1,000 years after Ruth, her ultimate descendant is JESUS, the Savior who comes full of Grace and Truth.
John’s Gospel tells us this truth with poetic beauty – John 1: (*read with breaks at the asterisks to explain some key points) “1In the beginning* was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God*. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made*; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind*…. 14The Word became flesh* and made His dwelling among us*. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and only Son, who came from the Father*, full of Grace and Truth*…. 17For the law was given through Moses; Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ*!”
I am going to close early this morning, because we are about to move into a time of prayer, where I know some of you are living with some sincere fears and worries, some anxieties about uncertainties, recovering from surgeries and preparing for treatments, and still hearing the national and local news reports about how people suffer at the hands of other people, by natural disaster, because of less-than-smart decisions – and some of those people are very close to our hearts.
We feel discouraged, disheartened, and disoriented; hopeless, helpless, vulnerable, and alone.
But follow the story of Ruth. Her story leads directly to Grace and Hope – we can live lives full of Grace and Ruth – simply by trusting in the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life – God’s perfect propitiation and expiation for our sins and our struggles.
Right after the prayer and our offering, we will be invited to the Lord’s Table where we might just experience God’s gift of Grace and where we might receive ruth-ful Hope.
And may we never forget the challenge of Hebrews 12:15: “Let no one fall short of the grace of God.” Let’s pass God’s invitation on to our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates; let’s invite them to come into contact with the GRACE of God! Amen.
“Dear God, by Your transforming grace, help Your church point beyond itself through word and work to the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. Fill this room again, with Holy Spirit power take hold of each person that is open to Your spiritual gifts and anoint us in ways everyone will know is from You. Fill this place, ignite our faith, fan the flame, and burn brightly through Your people into our neighborhoods, by Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Fellowship Community; 8134 New LaGrange Road; Suite 227; Louisville, KY; 40222; invite to Annual Conference in August 2015.
Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 66-75.