Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In vacation Bible School this past week, we talked about the "heroes" of the faith. " Four stories in four days:
Abraham, patriarch of Israel;
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three young men in the fiery furnace;
Daniel the prophet in the lion's den;
Ana, mother of the prophet Samuel.
Only one woman, but there are many more women of faith in the Scriptures. The Bible says that God did not create man and woman as identical twins, but as complements. The woman to give birth and suckle the children; the man to care for and protect his family in their times of need. However, God did not create the woman inferior to man in respect to character or spiritual state. God created both man and woman in His image. so, in the Old Testament, we find faithful, wise and courageous women, like Sarah, Abraham's wife; Deborah, the judge of Israel; and Queen Esther. In the New Testament, we have the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Phoebe of Cenchrea and more.
Our text is the first chapter in the story of another woman, Ruth. Another theme repeated in the Scriptures is people who had to leave their country and how God cared for and protected those who trusted Him. It is a relevant issue for us, when each family has members that have left Venezuela. In addition, in our text a family left their country because of famine, which we have here today. But, the book of Ruth is perhaps the only book in the Bible written entirely from the perspective of women. Understand well, at that time, the only social security for women was the family. A woman depended on her husband, children and grandchildren to take care of herself in her old age. Therefore, for Naomi to lose her husband and two children, without grandchildren, was a total disaster.
"And the two also died, Mahalon and Quilion, leaving the woman bereft of her two sons and her husband. Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, and returned from the fields of Moab, because she heard in the fields of Moab that Jehovah had visited His people to give them bread. So she left the place where she had been, and with her two daughters-in-law, and they began to walk to return to the land of Judah. "
Her two daughter-in-la accompanied her, but finally she said to them: "Go, return each of you to your mother's house: May Jehovah treat you with mercy, as you have done to the dead and to me. May Jehovah grant you to find rest, each in the house of her husband; she kissed them then, and they raised their voices and cried. And they said to her, Surely we will return with you to your people. And Naomi answered: Turn back, my daughters: Why should you go with me? Do I have more children in my womb, who can be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, and be gone; for I am old to have a man. And even if I said: Hope I have; and tonight was with husband, and still gave birth to children; Would you wait for them until they were grown? Would you remain unmarried for their sake? No, my daughters; I have greater bitterness than you, for the hand of the Lord has gone out against me. "
It was a fork in the road for them. One, Orfa, chose the easiest route and returned to her village. The other, Ruth, said thus: "Do not beg me to leave you, and to turn away from you; because wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried; so may Jehovah do to me, and may he add to me, that only death will make a separation between you and me. "
The rest of the story is like a romance novel. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvests of barley and wheat. To care for her mother-in-law, Ruth picked up the ears that fell to the ground behind the reapers. She worked all day, because she did not have a husband or children, only her mother-in-law.
She captured the attention of Boaz, the owner of a field, who asked his workers, "Who is this young woman?" He said to Ruth, "Do not go to another field, and when you are thirsty, you may share the water of my workers. " Later, Boaz invited her to share the food of his workers and bade the workers to leave more ears in the way of Ruth.
In the beginning Ruth did not understand why Boaz gave her favors, but Naomi understood and told Ruth to approach Boaz. The two fell in love and were married, after some challenges. What a beautiful story of love and loyalty! But without miracles, without kings and warriors, without spectacle, it has great significance in the context of the Scriptures. The city was Bethlehem, and Obed, the son of Boaz and Ruth, was granfather to David, the greatest king of Israel, and his descendant was Jesus Christ. God not only blessed Naomi and Ruth with children and grandchildren, but also all nations through these women.
There is another important thing to understand: Ruth was incorporated into the people of God and the lineage of Jesus Christ by her confession of faith: "Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." Today the people of God is the church, because through Jesus Christ we are heirs of Abraham and David, and we have the promise of eternal life in baptism. It is a blessing to grow up in a Christian family, but that is not necessary to receive the gift of faith in baptism. Someone can be baptized as an adult and their past life does not matter. However, baptism is a fork in the road for everyone. St. Paul says so in our epistle (Romans 6: 1-11), "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus have been baptized in his death? Because we are buried with Him in death by baptism; so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life."
We are saved for the new life, that is, now we can live as children of God. We have to leave the country of our birth, that is, the rebellion and anger against God that is the inheritance of Adam and Eve, for the promised land of forgiveness and obedience. We can walk in the light or in the darkness, not in both, The new life, our journey to the light, begins at baptism.
But because of the sinful nature, which lasts until physical death, we always fall into sin. But, God offers forgiveness in confession, absolution and Holy Communion. But, like the Holy Supper, like baptism. Our Lord says in the Gospel (Matthew 5: 20-26), "But I say to you that anyone who without reason will be angry with his brother will be in danger of judgment, and anyone who says to his brother: Raca, will be in danger of the council, and whoever says to him: Fool, will be exposed to the inferno of fire. Therefore, if you bring your offering to the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you; leave your offering there before the altar, and go, be reconciled first with your brother. "
Our altar today is not only the altar of thanksgiving; it is also the altar of the body and blood of Christ. We should not approach the Lord's table with anger against a brother in the heart. The same with the desires of the flesh. No one living openly with a man or woman outside of marriage can receive the sacrament. Repentance is not just a formula, but a change of mind and life. In this change of heart and mind, this new life that begins with baptism, we have hope and peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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