RUTH 1:11—18 ESV
11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?
12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons,
13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.”
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
MATTHEW 25:31—46 ESV
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’
45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Listen to this quote from Rev. Mike Slaughter…
Will we boldly take the difficult road and challenge people to go beyond their comfort zones into the places of Christ’s calling? Or will we settle for what has always been, bowing to the wishes of the timid resisters? —Mike Slaughter
This is how we want to finish our series today. I’m sad that we’ve come to the end of series with so much good vocabulary and images. And today’s word and image (today’s charge) is GO. Being a Christian takes boldness, it takes a willingness to embrace the difficult and a willingness to accept the challenge.
Jesus’ own life proves this ideal when He tells His disciples that if anyone is to follow Him, they must take up their cross and get moving. From our readings today, we have bold challenges. Ruth could have gone home and tried to start over, going back to what is familiar. But she doesn’t. She turns away from what is easy and makes a bold move to change her life completely.
Ruth follows her mother-in-law into a new life. You may have heard the famous line from the text, when Ruth tells Naomi, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Ruth’s husband has died and her world is upside down. She makes a bold move to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, and stay by her side. The verses I just read sound like a spiritual statement but they’re not. A closer look tells us that her commitment was to Naomi, not God. Ruth doesn’t really know God that well yet. But God uses Ruth’s commitment to Naomi to reveal Himself to Ruth. And so Ruth joins God’s people, has her life and circumstances redeemed, and her new family will eventually be responsible for the birth of Jesus.
So many of us sit on the edge of experiencing God but we never commit. We often lack the courage to ‘go’. To ‘go’ is frightening. We’re worried about what will happen. God uses all manner of situations, events, and moments in order to work in our lives. We rarely stop to recognize that grace is present in any number of ways, no matter the situation. It’s a matter of opening up our hearts to receive God’s grace in any given moment. Will we trust God enough to say, “Even here, even now, God can use what’s happening to help, heal, or reveal.”
God uses our circumstances, and even expects us to see Him and His grace in each situation. Jesus builds into our faith sure-fire ways to see God at work and gives us ways to bless others. Its what we read in our Matthew text. The people Jesus says are blessed are those in v34, those who live as Jesus lives. These are people of compassion, of mercy, of service; people who live selflessly. People who put the needs of others at the top of the list and are in ministry to them are those who inherit eternal life.
A life that responds to God’s command to ‘go’ is a life that is looking for Jesus in those they serve. And the chance to serve is rarely attractive or glamorous. A ‘go-life’ wants to see Jesus in the eyes of those they feed, clothe, house, and visit. They know that everything they do to the one who is in need, they are doing it to Jesus.
There’s a lot of places to ‘go’ if we look around. The Matthew text alone translates today as food pantries, health checkups, clothes closets, refugee work, hospitals, and prison ministry. Mike Slaughter’s quote really highlights the Matthew text, forcing us to face it or miss it.
Will we boldly take the difficult road and challenge people to go beyond their comfort zones into the places of Christ’s calling? Or will we settle for what has always been, bowing to the wishes of the timid resisters?
There, that line about ‘bowing to the wishes of the timid resisters’. Its those who resist ministry who cause hurt in our churches and communities; who leave the hurting IN their hurt. It’s the resisters who fail to see Jesus when they see someone in need. Resisters don’t love the people in front of them. These are the ones that Jesus says in the end will be separated and sent away from God, to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Resisters will feel the pain of the hurting for themselves, and there will be no one to help them. That is their punishment.
But we don’t end on that note, because Christ has made a way for you, for me, and for those who are hurting today. He’s entered this world, redeemed our souls, and given us His own example in the mission we have to CHANGE THE WORLD. He’s changing the world, through every act, great and small.
I want to end with a word from Saint Teresa of Calcutta, known by most as Mother Teresa. She said:
“We can do no great things—only small things with great love. The Sisters are doing small things: helping the children, visiting the lonely, the sick, the unwanted. In one of the houses the Sisters visited a woman living alone who was dead many days before she was found—and she was found because her body had begun to decompose. The people around her did not even know her name. When someone told me that the Sisters had not started any big work, that they were quietly doing small things, I said even if they helped one person, that was enough. Jesus would have died for one person, for one sinner.”
A go-life is a selfless life. What we do to others, we do to Jesus. He would have died for one, says Mother Teresa. So, go. Do small things with great love. Go.