Ruth 1-2 and John 14
Have you ever looked back on an event or person in your life that, at first seemed very inconsequential at the time, but when you looked back you realized that that person or event profoundly impacted your life? I have.
When I was about 16 my brother-in-law, Dale, who was a pastor but also drove a charter bus part-time asked if I wanted to go with him on a trip to the city. He was bringing a group of young people from across the country on a Youth Caravan into nearby Washington DC to tour the national landmarks. He thought it might be fun for me to come along and spend some time with other young people from the Church of God. So I said, “sure”.
This Youth Caravan had been together and had travelled cross-country for several weeks bonding and were coming to the end of their trip. I didn’t know any of them well and I was a bit shy so I sat up in the front of the bus near my brother-in-law, Dale, while they sat in the back and visited with each other. Then, one of them left the safety of their group and came up and sat next to me and we had a friendly chat. We ended up spending the day touring the Smithsonian museums and other famous DC landmarks. Making a new friend was nice but also nice is that through that friend I was able to make several more friends among that group. After the day spent sightseeing they gave a concert at our church and then they headed out for their next caravan stop and I went back to my normal life and didn’t think a whole lot more about it, other than grateful for making some new friends who lived around the country. This was before social media, texting, snapchatting etc… so staying connected wasn’t easy, but we did write a few letters via snail mail over the next couple of years.
A couple of years later this friend’s brother became my new pastor at my church. This friend came to visit him at our Church and we briefly reconnected. The friend was getting ready to attend Bible College and I was going to a local university. By the following summer I made the decision to also attend Bible College and during National Church Camp I reconnected with that friend. By the end of that camp we decided to be more than just friends and just over a year later my friend Karen and I were engaged and then married. 37 years later we have 11 children, 12 grandchildren and have served in ministry side by side in 4 states and two countries.
All those initial little decisions- to accept my brother-in-law’s offer to ride on the bus, her decision to leave the group and come up and talk to me, her brother’s decision to come and be the pastor at my Church, my decision to attend Summer Church Camp and Bible College- and almost 40 years later the impact those initial decisions had not only on our lives but our children, grand-children and future generations. Who knows how many lives will ultimately be impacted by those first little choices.
Ruth is that kind of story in the Bible. It starts with some little choices that were made- An Israelite man and his wife and two children are living in a time when there’s a food shortage so they leave their country to go to a place to find food. They are refugees looking for a place to live. They make the choice to go to Moab- outside of Israel. There the sons make choices to marry women from among the Moabites- who are not their people. The man dies and both of his sons die. This leaves his wife a widow living with no family in a foreign land with no one to provide for her. She makes the decision to go back home to Israel to see if her family will help her- another small decision. She tells her two young daughters-in-law who are also widows to go back to their families and find new husbands while they are still young. One daughter-in-law goes back home, but the other, Ruth, refuses to leave her mother-in-law. She is steadfastly loyal to her deceased husband’s mother and will not abandon her. Ruth makes the choice to leave Moab with her mother-in-law and go to Israel and she herself becomes a stranger in a foreign land.
While in Israel an extended member of Ruth’s husband’s family chooses to be kind to her and makes sure that they have enough food and other provisions. Again, a simple decision to be kind by Boaz.
Where do all of these little decisions lead? Ultimately, they lead to Jesus. As you will see in tomorrow’s reading- Boaz and Ruth eventually get married. Ruth becomes the grandmother of a man named Jesse who was the father of David who later becomes King of Israel, and eventually one of their descendants was Jesus (when you look at Jesus’ family tree in Matthew 1 you will see Ruth’s name).
God takes little decisions that at the time we might not pay much attention to, and uses them to make amazing things happen that have lasting consequences. God is always at work, even in ways that we don’t see at the time or fully understand. God is at work in ways that we sometimes don’t realize until long after the fact. Trust that God is at work in the day to day choices you make. Should I go to church today or stay home? Should I talk to this new person or should I stay in my comfort zone?
In today’s reading from John 14 Jesus affirms that we should not “let our hearts be troubled.” Jesus says he’s going to prepare a place for us. Jesus is working behind the scenes getting everything ready for the day when he will bring to earth his father’s Kingdom forever and ever. We don’t always recognize the importance of our choices or events as they are happening in real time, but if we trust God to be a loving Father and Jesus Christ to be a faithful savior and king, we can trust that they are working every day, often behind the scenes in seemingly small ways, to bring about a future when everything will be as it should be.