Sermon in a nutshell: You have a sign of Hope! Ruth 1:19-22
God works in our lives in mysterious ways. If I am allowed to use our Methodist theology, God works in our lives through “prevenient Grace.” God offers blessings to us even before we ask. One example is sunshine. God created the sun and shares life-giving light and heat with us. In the spring and summer, we can see how sunshine works in trees and flowers. We can work in our gardens because God has already provided us sunshine.
We have to work for God’s Kingdom and its righteousness. However, we can do it because God has already given us life, strength, a conscience, reason, and vision. All of these are possible because of God’s “prevenient” Grace (Grace that comes before us).
The 3rd step towards the full recovery of God’s blessings in our lives is to acknowledge God’s grace in a place where nothing seems hopeful. We have to actively find the sign of hope. God is already working in our lives. We should see it and find out where God works. Pastor Rick Warren said that a good surfer does not create waves but he or she will ride on them when they come. We have to be sensitive to God’s signs and use them when we see them.
As I already mentioned in previous weeks, we have to come back to God and carefully examine what we still have in our hands. Even though God continually blesses us we fail to see those blessings. Our complaining blinds us. We are too busy blaming others and accusing somebody else so we fail to see our blessings.
A good example for that is found in today’s scripture. Naomi complained that she came back with empty hands and blamed God for all her suffering. She wanted others to call her “bitterness” (Mara). That is why Naomi could not see the importance of Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law.
One of the ways to avoid her mistake is to treat everybody as if he or she is God’s blessing. When we do not know who the real treasure is, we should treat everybody we meet as a treasure. Then we will not miss the true treasure. Once, in a monastery, there were five monks. They did not get along well. The monastery was losing financial support from the people and getting smaller and smaller in its influence upon the community. Once, a traveling monk stayed one night there. He had a dream. Then in the morning he shared his dream with the five monks. He said, “God said to me that a future pope is here in this monastery.” However, he did not reveal who that person was. After the traveling monk left, each monk there respected the others and treated the others well because they knew that one of them was going to be a pope. Then people started to notice a dramatic change in the atmosphere of the monastery. Faithful people started coming there for their personal discipline and supported it financially. The monastery grew in its influence upon the surrounding communities and people. Later one of the monks of that monastery actually became a pope in the Catholic Church!
That is what we must do to restore our blessings. We must treat everybody around us as an important person in God’s Kingdom. When we see small children in our church, we should treat them as if they are our president or a senator. When we see our youth members, we must treat them as our spiritual leaders and community leaders. I treat our youth director, Jake Ritter, as a great scholar and I know that someday he will become a great scholar in religious studies. With young adults I endeavor to serve as a positive role model, for these young people are our future. Some will possibly be leaders of our church and community.
When we see our Spanish- speaking brothers and sisters, we must not treat them as a Moabite daughter-in-law but as channels of God’s blessings. When we see our Filipino brothers and sisters, we must treat them as our partners in mission and ministry. When we see our senior members who are physically weak and sick, we should treat them as heroes and heroines of our church and of our community. An old lady who looks like a poor country woman could be a major contributor of our mission and ministry! A widely circulated tale tells us that Leland and Jane Stanford, dressed in a suit of homespun cloth and a faded gingham dress, visited Harvard University’s president. The president, the story goes, rebuffed their offer of money for the University (to be given in memory of their son, Leland Jr.), and so the couple went west and founded Leland Stanford Junior University. Leland Stanford Junior was just short of his 16th birthday when he died of typhoid fever in Florence, Italy on March 13, 1884. It is incredulous that Leland Stanford, a former governor of California and well-known railroad baron, and his wife Jane were knowingly kept waiting outside of the Harvard’s president’s office and that their offer of money was turned down. The Stanfords also visited Cornell, MIT, and Johns Hopkins. However, the story has a point: Treat everybody with love and respect and you will receive God’s serendipitous blessings! You can host Bryan College boys and girls and later you may be able to say to others, our president stayed at my house for two nights!
While we are treating everyone with love and respect, God is doing God’s part! Ruth and Naomi arrived at Bethlehem “as the barley harvest was beginning.” God pre-arranged this timing for them to have an opportunity for their future! Likewise, God arranges events for us to harvest the fruit of our behavior: Love and respect. How do these two factors, human love and God’s providence, work together? We will see the development of these two interwoven factors later (To be continued!)
- Who would be the one person that God might prepare for you?
- What would be the one event that God may prepare for you?