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Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 26B

Track 1: The Family of God

Ruth 1:1-18
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

Today we begin a look into the life of Ruth, an ancestor of King David, and later that of Jesus of Nazareth. We read from the Book of Ruth:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.   (Ruth 1:1-5)

A childless widow was tone of the most disadvantaged classes in the ancient world. There was no one to support you, and you had to live on the generosity of strangers. Naomi had no family in Moab, and no one else to help her. She was in a desperate situation.

We have been talking about the importance of the family unit as a building block of our society, But in the case of Naomi there was no more family. She thought it best to return to the land of Judah without her daughters-in-law. So she encouraged them to return to their families so that they might be able to find new husbands. Ruth did not want to do this. Again reading from Ruth:

Naomi said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!

Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;

your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.

Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.

May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,

if even death parts me from you!”

When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.   (Ruth 1:15-18)

From Ruth’s point of view it would seem that she might have a better future if she stayed in Moab with her family. Naomi faced an unknown future with few guarantees. Why would she want to follow Naomi? Perhaps she realized that Naomi had something that her own family did not have. Perhaps she knew that it would be better to cling to Naomi and her God than to return to her people and their gods.

While one’s personal family is important it is not as important as joining the family of God. There was a time early in Jesus’ ministry where his family apparently wanted to stop him from doing his ministry. From Mark’s Gospel we read:

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”   (Mark 3:31-35)

Doing the will of God is all important. Reading from today’s Old Testament lesson:

Moses said: Now this is the commandment–the statutes and the ordinances–that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.   (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

The blessings of God are received through obedience. It is more important to be in the family of God than our own families. In fact, it has been prophesied that families will turn against themselves. She said:

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.   (Mark 13:12-13)

We are entering those last days. We need the support of the family of God. We need to lend our support to those who are being persecuted because of their faith. Let us take courage because God is with us.

 

 

 

Track 2: The Commandments and the Kingdom

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Psalm 119:1-8
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

Many scribes and Pharisees were asking Jesus questions in order to trick him or to trip him up. In today’s Gospel reading that does not appear to be the case:

One of the scribes came near and heard the

disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”   (Mark 12:28-34)

Jesus perceived this scribe was sincere. The scribe understood how important the commandments of God were. How seriously do we take those commandments today? Moses warned the children of Israel to take them seriously:

Moses said: Now this is the commandment–the statutes and the ordinances–that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.   (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

We remember what happened to the children of Israel. They lost their way in the wilderness. Many people today, including church goers, have lost their way. Perhaps we as parents, mentors, and church leaders are, at least, partly responsible. Our young people are bombarded by the media with practically everything that is opposed to the faith.

God saw this forming and he gave Moses the remedy:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.   (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

We are to teach our children the commandments of God and not rely on others to do so. We are to take every opportunity during at our disposal. The media is taking opportunity to do otherwise. The way of the world has become the culture. The world makes so many empty promises. Sooner or later we discover that we have been lied to, In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.   (Matthew 7:13-14)

Our eternal life is at stake. Nonetheless, the joy we find in this life is tied to the commandments of God. The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!

Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts!   (Psalm 119:1-2)

The scribe in today’s Gospel reading was not far from the Kingdom. We want to be as close the the Kingdom as possible. Jesus is the way. He is the gate that is narrow. Let us enter into him and steer as many people as possible to him, especially our families. Amen.

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