2019 10 06: The Gospel According to Ruth

Love and costly grace showed up in the story of Ruth and Naomi, you might even say in person, and brought about redemption and new life in the village of Bethlehem. One day years later in the very same place, in the very same family, love and grace showed up in person once more, and began to work redemption and new life into the story of the whole world. It’s a story that’s still being written. Your lives, our lives, this city, this country—we too can follow the footsteps of Ruth and Boaz, with faith and grace and costly love, and be written into Christ’s story of redemption. May we all have faith, like Ruth, and trust that the way of steadfast love, no matter what, and costly grace is the way of new life, God’s way to bring redemption into your life and our world.

2019 09 29: My Song is Love Unknown

What did Ruth stand to gain from leaving her home and following Naomi to a strange place where they’d have nothing?  What did Boaz have to gain from buying a farm and giving it away, and from marrying a Moabite nobody with less than nothing?  

In the selfish kind of calculation that the world calls common sense, nothing, zip, nada.But there’s another kind of love at work behind the scenes in this story than the common-sensical kind the world knows.It’s a love that sees what others don’t see.It’s a love that doesn’t look for gain or extract a pound of flesh for every injustice.It’s full of grace.It’s patient and kind, not irritable or resentful.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.It’s a love that never ends.It’s a love that creates new loveliness in the world, and brings new life into the valley of the shadow of death.It’s the love that lives in the heart of God, the passionate love that God has for you and for me by which we are born again; Christ’s passion that brings us back to life

2019 09 22: Not a Safe God

The God of Israel is a good God and he wants what’s best for us.  But he’s not a safe God, and the path he asks us to take, like that of Ruth, will not be a safe one.  Following the God of Israel, if we’re really relying on him, is going to mean following him out on some limb where we need God to show up in our lives and keep his promises.  If you’re not out on some limb somewhere, taking a risk, doing something that only makes sense if God is real and keeps his word, ask yourself this morning: Do I really trust God to protect and provide in my life?  Or am I really assuming that at the end of the day I need to look out for myself? 

2019 09 15: The God of No Matter What

Ruth had every reason to think that by giving her life away to an Israelite woman and the people of Israel, she was making a sacrifice that would end only in suffering and death.  But as we’ll start to see next week, that isn’t what happens when you give your life to the God of Israel.  When you give your life to him, you get your life back again.  New life and a new future spring up from the bitter ashes of death.  Because Jesus walked the way of the cross, the way of hesed, faithful commitment to his people no matter what, when we like Ruth walk the way of the cross what we’ll find on the other side is healing, new life, and redemption—just like the God of Israel, the redeemer, gave to Ruth. 

2019 09 08: My Name is Bitter

What does it say about God that this story is in the Bible? It’s not a story about yet another great and powerful man—instead it zeroes in on two poor women and their hopes and troubles. It’s not even primarily about an Israelite—it’s about an immigrant, a foreigner, an outsider who comes to Israel with nothing and winds up becoming the great-grandmother of Israel’s greatest king. Just the fact that this story exists is remarkable. These are not the kinds of stories that normally got written down and passed down in the ancient world. The fact that this story is in the Bible must mean that God cares about people like Ruth and Naomi, the widows, the foreigners, the poor and the hopeless. God sees them; their struggles matter to him; his will is for their redemption, to bring them into his people and give them a future and a hope.

2019 08 25: The Bent-Over Woman

I think we sometimes come across healing stories in the Gospels and don’t really know what to do with them.  They’re out of our everyday experience, not the kind of thing that we Episcopalians do.  A healing story isn’t just about a promise that applies to eternal life.  And it isn’t a moral teaching that we can go and apply to our lives this week.  It’s actually about Jesus laying his hands on a bent-over woman and standing her up straight.  And what do we do if we’re numbered among those whom Jesus didn’t pick out of the congregation to heal? 

2019 08 18: Not Peace but a Sword

When the next test comes for you—and it may very well come as soon as Sunday brunch after church—ask yourself two questions first.  Will my response to this injustice or wrong put me in some way at risk?  Is it costly for me; does it make me vulnerable?  If it doesn’t, then you may well be choosing the path of the easy surface-level peace that papers over injustice instead of confronting it when the time comes.  Second, can my response contribute to a pathway toward reconciliation?  Am I truly acting in love toward my friend or family member who’s done me wrong, or in love for my enemy?  Or am I just seeking to defend myself, to signal how righteous and superior I am, and to land a good hard counter-punch at someone who’s attacked me? 

If the answer to either question is yes, then it may not be the way of Christ.He’s given us the ministry of reconciliation, and it will always mean walking the way of the Cross.