Rise with Resilience 

Sunday, October 13, 2019
Pastor Mark Aune

Ruth 1:1-17 

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

We’ve heard some wild and crazy bible stories so far this fall.

3 visitors to Abraham and Sarah’s tent telling Sarah she would have a baby at an old ripe age. Who wouldn’t laugh at that ridiculous idea?  But it happens, Isaac is born.

Jacob, in deep fear for his life as he flees from an angry brother wrestles with God all night long by a river and he ends up limping forward with a new name and a new purpose.

Moses is minding his own business as he watches sheep and goats and God shows up in a burning bush with a new calling and purpose for Moses to free God’s people from slavery in Egypt. This is pretty dramatic stuff.

I hope you noticed that in today’s story there are no God sightings, no dramatic effects, no strange appearances that would cause us to say, I’d really like to see something like that.

No, this morning’s story is a lot more like you and me. We can connect with Naomi and Ruth and Orpah. Female or male, there is a common experience in this story.

It is a beautiful story and it has a full range of human emotions and experiences.

It has food refugees looking to survive.

It is a story that has love – loss – grief – tragedy – fidelity – hope – faithfulness.

It is a powerfully human story and even though God doesn’t show up in a dramatic and exceptional way, we can see that God is indeed present and it is a beautiful thing to behold.

There was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. Naomi becomes a widow. The sons lose their father.

The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth.

Hope returns to the family. There is joy when Orpah and Ruth become part of the family.

When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. Once again loss and grief appear.

There are now 3 widows.

3 deaths in 10 years.

No social safety net. No resources. 1 mother. 2 daughter’s in law.

This is where the story turns and the reality of the situation becomes clear.

Naomi decides to return to Judah because she heard that the Lord had provided food there.

So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.”

Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud.

Out of love Naomi tells her daughters in law to go back to their homes. Naomi blesses them and tries to let them go. She’s trying to do the sensible thing here. Orpah and Ruth refuse.

They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?” 14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

Picture that image as Ruth clings to Naomi. Ruth won’t leave even after Naomi tells her to go back to her own people.

Can you feel the emotion in this story?

Can you sense that God is at work in these women? In these relationships.

Their faithfulness is evidence of God as they try and figure out what to do.

Faith intersects with life which is precisely the place we want God to show up, to give strength and provide hope. In the ordinary and challenging places of our lives.

This story of Naomi and Ruth and Orpah is a story about how we are to steward our relationships with family and with God. Notice how these women care for each other. Notice how they are looking out for one another.

If we don’t take care of, or steward our relationships in our families and with God and if someone isn’t caring for, or stewarding us, it makes it really hard to share our lives and our resources with others.

I think it is easy to speak about the money part of stewardship but it is more difficult to speak about the relationship part of stewardship. The two things are not separate but rather they go hand in hand.

The intense interactions between Naomi and Ruth and Orpah are a model for how we steward our relationships.

What are these three women doing after all?

They are taking care of each other. They are looking out for one another. They have the other person’s best interest in mind as they try and find a way forward in this difficult situation.

“See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”

My goodness. This is such a beautiful example of generosity. Ruth rises in resilience and literally gives her life to Naomi in love and faithfulness. Stewardship at its finest.

The extraordinary presence of God in the ordinary places of our lives.

Blessed is that ordinary stuff of life.

The difficult and heartbreaking stuff that rocks us to the core and challenges our faith.

Blessed is that ordinary stuff of life.

The joyful and the heart- filled stuff that gives us a glimpse of heaven and the love of God.

Blessed is that ordinary stuff of life.

For what comes out of it is the faithfulness of God’s people. Of you and me and the church.

A faithfulness that creates community and builds relationships.

A faithfulness that creates generosity.

A faithfulness that makes it possible to care for widows, for the Ruths and the Orpahs in our midst and for all who need to see the power and the presence of God in each of our lives.

A faithfulness that gives rise to a resilient faith. A generous faith.

What is stewardship?

This is the question we lift up – he question we all need to answer.

What is stewardship? You are. I am. The church is.

It is individuals who together have been gripped by God’s love and transformed by God’s grace to be a people who care. People who show up. People who give.

Blessed are the ordinary folk who say where you go I will go, what you need I will give, what you have to share God will use.

What is stewardship? It is the story of Ruth and Naomi.

The story of living a life of faithfulness to God in the ordinary days of our lives where we do what God actually wants us to do and where we go where God wants us to go.

This is what it means to be faithful.

This is what it means to be generous.

This is what it means to be a steward. Thanks be to God. Amen

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