9 September 2018 A Story of Redemption Martin Baker
Over these last four weeks we have been hearing this ancientstory from the Book of Ruth.
Some key themes and challenges in the story:
What stories are we basing our lives upon? The stories that happen every day of lovingkindness and generous people seldom make the headlines. And yet they are theheadlines here in the Book of Ruth. Tobase our lives on the stories and lessons from our holy scriptures. And not from this morning’s newsfeed.
Ruth too in so many ways is an ordinary story, preservedover 25 centuries. But it is also a sacred story. And the simple message for usis that in the midst of our regular lives, there is sacredness, there is thepresence of God. There is in each act of kindness a reason to give thanks toGod. Every act of selflessness and loveprovide small proofs and assurance of God’s presence and providence.
Another important lesson: Kindness and love are alwayskindness and love. Whoever shows them. Christian Jew, Moabites. Our response isthankfulness to God
The thing that gets us through: Faith in God’s presence andthe love and kindness of others get us through the toughest times.
So let’s hear this morning the conclusion to the Book ofRuth. And like so many stories when it comes to God and us, the story ends withthe affirmation of redemption and the promise of a new future.
4:1 No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat downthere than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boazsaid, "Come over, friend; sit down here." And he went over and satdown. 2 Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, "Sitdown here"; so they sat down. 3 He then said to the next-of-kin,"Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcelof land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. 4 So I thought I would tell youof it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in thepresence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but ifyou will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you toredeem it, and I come after you." So he said, "I will redeemit." 5 Then Boaz said, "The day you acquire the field from the handof Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man,to maintain the dead man's name on his inheritance." 6 At this, thenext-of-kin said, "I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my owninheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeemit." 7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerningredeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one took off a sandaland gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So whenthe next-of-kin said to Boaz, "Acquire it for yourself," he took offhis sandal. 9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "Today youare witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged toElimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquiredRuth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man'sname on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut offfrom his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you arewitnesses." 11 Then all the people who were at the gate, along with theelders, said, "We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is cominginto your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house ofIsrael. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem;12 and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman,may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah." 13So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lordmade her conceive, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi,"Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin;and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer oflife and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you,who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him." 16 Then Naomi took thechild and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 The women of the neighbourhoodgave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi." They namedhim Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. 18 Now these arethe descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron of Ram,Ram of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, 21 Salmon ofBoaz, Boaz of Obed, 22 Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.
Let us pray
A few weeks ago now I bought an older Mitsubishi Pajero onTrademe to take out to Great Barrier where we have owned a house for 25 years.
Our even older Toyota Surf had rusted away after some yearsand we needed a replacement.
But when I got the car home I noticed that the seat was veryloose. It’s strangely disconcerting to have a very loose driver’s seat.
And I was kind of worried about it. Would it be hard to findthe bolts that were obviously missing? Would it be costly?
And I was talking about this and I mentioned it to Kevin.And he said ‘ just bring it around and I’ll have a look.’ And so I did.
And 5 minutes later he has found new bolts in his garage andthe seat is fixed. It doesn’t rock around anymore.
I’m not particularly handy, but isn’t it great to findsomeone who can fix something? Sortsomething out. Find a way through a problem that maybe you have been worryingabout for some time?
And you can think back, and think ‘well I've spent that timeworrying about that, imagining all sorts of things, and I could have just had that sorted out allthose days or weeks or years ago. Why didn't I just sort that problem outthen?’ Why didn’t I find the right person to help?
And it seems to be a common thing.
Whether they are accountants or doctors or councillors ormechanics, and the list could go on and on, one of the most difficultchallenges people in those roles face is with those who have let a problemlinger for too long. And sometimes things have got so much worse over that time.
The power of our bad experiences, fear to limit our sense of possibility, our hopesfor the future.
This morning we hear about Boaz. And we hear that he issomeone who sorts something out. He is described as the redeemer.
Boaz in his kindness, his love, his loyalty, his faith,transforms the future. Worry, bitterness, anxiety hopelessness, as overwhelming as those things were, asthose things can be, do not have the final say for Ruth and Naomi.
So let’s remember the story over these last weeks.
Ruth, chapter 1 starts with tragedy. It starts with famineand emigration and death. It starts with a vulnerable older woman called Naomiwho feels helpless and hopeless. God is not named in this. There's no statementof purpose, of why these tragedies happened. There is no statement of blame. The famine is not described as apunishment on Elimelech and his sons do not die because they sinned.
And while we might spend a great deal of time concerned withhealth and wealth, this story testifies that it is possible for awful things tojust happen to you. The story of Ruth says sometimes tragedy just happens. In fact, right through scripture there is thepresence and threat of chaos and the meaninglessness which it brings, which wefind right at the start of Genesis. Remember, God creates out of chaos.
In chapter 2, events begin to occur by chance. Ruth happensto wind up gleaning in the field belonging to Boaz. Once Boaz finds out whoRuth is, he singles her out for favour and blessing, doing this because she hasbeen a blessing to Naomi. Boaz says,"May God reward you," but then he personally carries out the actionsof rewarding her. In the book of Ruth we see human beings acting as we expectGod to act. With hesed.
In chapter 3 there is this encounter at night between Ruthand Boaz. There is a romantic encounter. Despite her situation Ruth takes theinitiative, proposes to Boaz and he makes a commitment to fulfilling his roleas redeemer.
And now in chapter 4 we have this encounter at the villagegates. The place where legal transactions take place. The first person who hasthe legal obligation to look after a dead relative’s property declines theresponsibility when he learns that his responsibilities will extend to the careof Ruth.
Boaz is there though. He takes on this legal role and he marriesRuth. He is identified as a redeemer. His kindness, his loyalty, his love, his affirmations of God’s presence in all ofthis transforms the life of a foreign Moabite woman and her mother in law.
An action that we can take that transforms the future.
That claim of redemption present here.
Present in the great Gospel claim we find in Romans chapter8: In all things God works together with those who love God to bringabout what is good.
So with Ruth and Naomi, with their losses, troubles, fears, with the good things and not so goodthings that have happened to them, the story for them, and the story for us isa story of redemption.
Finally today we hear that "So Boaz took Ruth and shebecame his wife. She conceives and bore a son."
The ancient audience would be thinking, where is chance inthis story? Where are the actions of God? One of the ancient Jewish discussionsof Ruth says at this point, "Boaz did his part, and Ruth did hers, andNaomi did hers; [then] the Holy One said, 'I too will do mine!'"
The story that began with tragedy ends with King David.Israel's greatest king and the forerunner of Jesus.
Maybe we want to think there is a formula. That somehow we could understand or explaintragedy.
But the story of Ruth comes from a different place. When wethink we have it worked, out , who is sinner, who is saint, who is worthy, who is not, who is a foreigner and who is one of us, lets call to mind some of Jesus ancestors.
Tamar had a child by her father in law.
Rehab- who was a prostitute.
Ruth- foreigner from the cursed land of Moab.
Mary- An unwed mother.
Let’s remember again what Paul wrote to the early Christiancommunity in Rome. He said in Romans 8:28, "We know that all things worktogether for good for those who love God and are called according to God'spurpose."
In the Book of Ruth famine happens. People die. Suffer griefand loneliness and exclusion and hunger. But God's desire for redemption cannotbe undermined, and even out of all that suffering, God raises up a saviour.
So three things:
Even when we do not understand the answers to all the whyquestions, we can be part of God’s purposes. We can work together with God forgood.
That God is all about redemption. In a world in which peopleare enslaved through human trafficking, unjust labour conditions, and too whenwe are at times, enslaved by our fears we are called by God to act in ways thatbring freedom to others.
And finally, in Jesus we find a new freedom. Paul tells us in Galatians, for freedomChrist has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to ayoke of slavery.
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.