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Don't Go Back To Moab

October 14, 2019 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler

Verse: Ruth 1:15

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Ruth 1, 2 Timothy 2 and Luke 17 ~
Don’t Go Backto Moab
Pentecost 18-C, 10/13/2019
Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, OH

INI

And she (Naomi) said, "See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law."

Ruth 1:15 ESV

In the name of the Father and of the (X ) Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Dear beloved of the Lord:

        We’ve seen them. Men, women, and children,from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, and many other countries, streaming over bordersinto the countries around them. They’re fleeing war, famine, drought—looking for hope, for life, for peace and rest,for safety in another country. We call them refugees.

        Naomi, Elimelech and their two sons are—refugees. A famine caused them to leave their home country Israel and flee to Moab. They remained as refugees in Moab ten years. While there, their sons married native (not Israeli) girls, named Orpah and Ruth.

        But the trouble they fled didn’t stay in Israel—it followed Naomi. Famine and living in a strange place was accompanied by the deaths of her husband and both sons.  So when it was time to go back home, Naomi did not return unaffected. She was beat up and beat down. Maybe she didn’t want any reminders of this tough and bitter time in her life.She wanted her daughters-in-law to have a better life than she had.So she tells them: Go back. Go home. That will be better for you.

        But, Ruth, would not go back. She had been blessed by these refugees. She received from Naomi, Elimelech and her husband something far more valuable than family, nation, land, or home. She learned there was something more desirable than an easy life. She had been given faith in the God of Israel. She had been adopted not just into Naomi’s family but into God’s family.Bound by faith, Ruth will not go back. Instead she says: where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

        The Apostle Paul would not turn back either. He too had received something far more valuable than anything else in this world.Arrest and prison could not sway him. Persecution and suffering could not turn him back. His former life was a pretty nice life, he was well-respected Pharisee, highly advanced and an important political figure. But compared to what he received—the grace and forgiveness of his Savior—all that past life was a Moab to him now. Like Ruth, he will not go back.

        St. Paul tells young pastor Timothy as heconfront the hard work and challenges that come while serving God’s elect: Remember Jesus Christ.  Paulgives Timothy the reason—a saying, Paul says, that is trustworthy and sure:

                If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

                if we endure, we will also reign with him;

                if we deny him, he also will deny us;

                if we are faithless, he remains faithful -

                for he cannot deny himself.

        Now, what exactly does this saying mean for Timothy, for you, for me?Note Paul starts with baptism.If we have died with Him (Jesus Christ)—that’s baptismal language for Paul. We die and rise with Jesus in baptism. We die to sin and rise to live a new life. Not the old life, the Moab life, but a new life as a child of God, adopted into His family. And being baptized by Him we will also live with Him, both now and forever.

        But as a baptized child of God, you will face difficulties, struggles, and trials you will have to endure. Like Naomi and Ruth. Sometimes for doing what is right. Sometimes for speaking the truth. Sometimes for resisting temptations to sin, for not going along with everyone else. Sometimes with trials sent by God to strengthen you.Sometimes with attacks by the evil one to weaken you.You will feel trampled on by all this, but if we endure, we will also reign with him. You won’t just live with Him, Paul says, you will be exalted and reign with Him.  Jesus has promised to sustain you and give you endurance through His indwelling Spirit.

        Some do not endure. Some deny Him. When the going gets tough, they go into hiding. When the trials get hot, or the temptations get hot, they get out of the church. That’s what Israel tended to do in the days of the judges, when Ruth lived. They would fall away from God, deny Him. As a result, He denied them His protection and allowed foreign nations to come in and conquer them, in order to discipline them, that they might return to Him.

        And when they returned in true repentance, they found a faithful and forgiving God. For, Paul goes on to say, if we are faithless, He remains faithful. Yes, even Christians can be faithless. Even you and I can act without faith, violate our faith, and be false to our faith, turning back to Moab. Such is the case when we do not forgive, but hold on to anger and grudges …that is going back to Moab. When we listen to the wisdom of the world and follow it instead of the Word of God …that is going back to Moab. When our hearts are captured by the pleasures and things of this world …that is going back to Moab. When our mouths here confess the creed and out there curse and swear and speak words that cause hurt and pain …that is going back to Moab. Our Father brought us out of our Moab’s in baptism and forgiveness and has given us a new life as His children, are we going to keep going back?

        But even though we act in these ways not of faith but of sin, He remains faithful. We are not constant, but He is. For He cannot deny Himself. He cannot deny His Word. He cannot deny His promises made and given. He cannot deny those He has made His sons and daughters in baptism. He is faithful. He forgives. He restores. He heals. He lifts up.

        Paul, like Ruth, will not go back. He will suffer, he will work like an athlete, he will endure all things, like the hard working farmer, but he will not go back. Nothing could compare to what he had received.

        Likewise for that “one leper.”We normally hear this reading at Thanksgiving and the focus is on the leper giving thanks, but hearing it now gives us a chance to hear it a bit differently, and with a different perspective. This leper also would not go back. He would not go back to his Moab,rather he had to go back to Jesus and fall at His feet and worship Him. He had received so much — not only cleansing, but life, from Jesus. His disease separated him from his family and all other people, except for other lepers. His disease made life not worth living. But Jesus bridged that gap, came to him, drew near to him, and gave him his life back again. And not just his physical life, but a spiritual life—a life of faith, hope and love.

        Jesus has done the same for you. Jesus came to you in the flesh of His incarnation, drew near to you in the water of your baptism, and raised you to new life. That you who are unclean be clean again . . . and again and again.

        So perhaps the song of Ruth the Moabitess, the song of the Samaritan leper, and the song of Paul the persecutor could be the song that we sometimes  sing just before coming to the altar to repent and receive the forgiveness, life, and salvation of Jesus in His Body and Blood:

        What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? I         will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call on the         name of the Lord. I will take the cup of salvation and will         call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord           now in the presence of all His people,in the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem(Offertory,Divine      Service 2, LSB p. 176).

        No leper, no foreigner could do that. No leper, no foreigner could be in the midst of God’s people. No leper, no foreigner could be in the courts of the Lord’s house. But you can! You have been cleansed. You have been made holy sons and daughters of God in Holy Baptism.

        The world may say “go back.” Many might tell you there’s a better way. But there is only one who laid down His life for you, who went to a cross for you, that you might live with Him forever.Here in God’s house is what we all need. Not just for life here and now, but for when we finally get to go home, to our fatherland.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.