We just finished preaching through Naomi and Ruth’s story here at Central as a way to visualize moving into 2021 with our God and with one another. It’s easy for us to relate to these two widow ladies because they suffered great loss during the days of the judges, when the social and political landscape was an absolute mess, and they were dealing with a famine, a national natural disaster that was causing the death of many people. Tough times. Feels familiar.
When Naomi details her plan for their financial and familial security in Ruth chapter three, Ruth replies, “I will do whatever you say.” That reminds me of the first time God gathered his people together at Mt. Sinai and gave them his commands. The people all responded together, “Everything the Lord has said, we will do!” That’s what Mary, the mother of Jesus, told the angel Gabriel: “May it be to me as you have said.” That’s what Jesus said to our Father on that last night in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but yours be done.”
It seems like the correct response to a powerful line in Psalm 37: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust him and he will do this.”
And that seems like the best way to live in 2021.
Ruth and Naomi and Boaz each had their own struggles, their own issues. But in the middle of their own problems they showed an uncommonly selfless love for one another. Each one showed extraordinary care and concern for the other two. And they had plenty of differences between them. There were background and culture and nationality differences, gender and language and social status differences — a lot of differences here with a lot of stress and pressure on top. There’s plenty of room for disagreements and arguments here. Selfish behavior would be understandable, it would be expected and probably excused. But they each show this incredible compassion for the other two, even at great personal risk.
And God moves them and he moves their story from famine to harvest, from emptiness to fullness, from hopelessness to promise, and from devastating death to everlasting life. That’s how it happens. When we trust him and his ways, God makes it happen.
Our God has already inaugurated the new creation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus has been raised and exalted, he is seated at the right hand of the heavenly Father in eternal glory where he reigns supreme today and forever. That assures you and me that death will be destroyed, that creation will be redeemed, and that God’s people will be restored to righteous relationship with him and with one another forever. All of that is happening right now and you and I are the instruments of that transforming work. Through us, the Kingdom of God breaks into the world for healing and reconciliation and justice and peace. Christ’s Church is a witness and a community that embodies the Kingdom of God as present and real. We are participating in God’s everything new and we are a sign of God’s everything new. We are both the promise and the presence.
Just like he works in Naomi and Ruth and Boaz, we trust the Lord is working in us and through us to still make amazing things happen. God is still at work when parents make sacrifices for their children and when children go out of their way for their parents. God is still at work when strangers open up their doors and their hearts and their lives to other strangers. When people cross the barriers of race and culture and class without a second thought, when people rise up to defend and protect the marginalized, when we move to understand instead of accuse, when we love and forgive and accept first, when we put the needs of others ahead of our own — God will move you and he will move this world from emptiness to fullness, from division and violence to unity and peace, and from darkness and death to everlasting light and life.
I am confident that he who began a good work in you and in this world will carry it on to completion until the day of our Lord Jesus. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.