Under our snow-draped pulpit-to-the-world, we shared a mixture of new and classic Christmas music. Pastor exhorted us to be Christ at Christmas and extend ourselves to those around us who don’t know Him. Randy prayed for healing prayer of Peg Pendell (and her daughter) and May (Rachel Cushman's mother)…and gave thanks for Gwen’s graduation and her and Chris Budzynski’s new jobs.
Mark & Judy read Scripture and three short prayers from the Westminster Confession and the Belgic Confession as they lit the third candle of Joy for Advent. Scott and Vanessa gave us a lovely offertory duet of One Small Child, which we joined in afterward.
Pastor Kevin preached on Ruth, the third women named in Christ’s lineage from Mathew 1. Her story is a love story, rich with meaning. We were reminded of the basic story and the meaning of the names. In the time of Judges and famine, Naomi (Pleasant) returned to Bethlehem after her husband and sons die in Moab.
Her self-sacrificing daughter-in-law Ruth (Friendship) lovingly commits to her, her people, and her God. She put her faith and allegiance in God. Ruth is then redeemed by Boaz (Strength is within him) her Kinsman Redeemer who loves and marries her. He parallels Christ, giving Ruth his hesed, which is an all-encompassing blessing.
Naomi, however, changes her name to Mara (Bitterness) and twists her perception of God, the past, and who’s responsible for her situation. She ignores that it was her family’s choice to leave God’s blessing, Bethlehem (House of Bread), and their tribe (My God is King) and pursue the cursed land of Moab. Instead she blames God for her broken situation and sees Him as mean and uncaring.
Should we be judgmental of Naomi...or convicted? Have we ever blamed God and twisted our perspective? Have we like her lost faith, made bad choices, not confronted them in truth, skewed our perspective of God, and let the cycle of bitterness seep into ourselves?
Not one of us deserves to be saved and redeemed. But our God is gracious. Despite Naomi’s sins and ugliness, God not only loves her, but He’s providentially prepared for her redemption by saving Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute who was the mother of Boaz.
He works through the likes of us…and foreign prostitutes and foreign penniless widows. God choses us and prepares His hesed for us before we were born…and extends it to us even while we act like boneheads. We need to open our eyes to the truth that God cares deeply and sacrificially for us and wants us to have His hesed.
We also need to do our part to be His hesed to those around us. Joy is infectious and it can flow from the security of knowing that His loving tenderness doesn’t depend on how messed up and blind we may be. May God help us to connect to those around us and share our joy and His hesed.