"Being A Part Of Destiny"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - November 3, 2002

Ruth 4:7-17

     Today brings closure to five weeks of speakers who have discussed a number of key areas in our shared ministry -- Education, Worship, Membership, Missions and Stewardship. As we are well aware, these and so many other areas of service cost money and the responsibility for funding our work is each of ours to share.   

     If Stewardship is our theme this morning, what relationship does this passage from the Book of Ruth have to this emphasis? This is an interesting passage because it tells us how the faithfulness of one person shaped and molded history in ways he could not possibly have understood.  

     Here is how that worked.  Boaz sought and was given permission by his tribal elders to marry a Moabite woman named Ruth.  Ruth bore a son who was given the name Obed by the women in her village. This baby boy greatly pleased Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi.  The women said to Naomi, "Ruth has loved you more than seven sons and now she has given you a grandson.  May the boy become famous in Israel!"

     An interesting question comes to mind. Did anyone hearing these words from the village women live to see Obed make a difference in their nation's history? No!  Even Obed died not knowing how his contribution would influence a chain of events that affected the destiny of a significant number of the world's people.

     Many people who impact others with new horizons to explore remain unrecognized.  St. Matthew's, for example, was made possible by financial contributions and acts of faithfulness from people whose names most of us would not know. The miracle is that we are here in this wonderful building.  In our lesson, Obed and his wife had a son whose name was Jesse.  Many of us remember that Jesse's wife gave birth to the greatest king in Israel's history -- King David. No one at the time would have known the significance the relationship of Boaz and Ruth would have to the formation of humanity's destiny. 

     Understanding our lives in this manner can produce in us peace of mind.   God is the creator.  All we need to do is live faithfully. God will do the rest.

     Many of us have known people who enjoy reciting their accomplishments.  By doing so, what are such people admitting to themselves? Perhaps their treasure, their energy and their life's meaning remains in the past which is not a creative place for such an understanding to be.  A more creative alternative is to allow God to inspire the future through our faithfulness today whether we are 10 or 96.

     Did Moses' mother, for example, grasp the big picture when she placed her infant son into the tar-thatched basket, trusted God with the outcome and floated him down the Nile River? She could not have known what her act of surrender helped to create.

     Did a professor of Biblical Interpretation at the University of Wittenberg in Germany understand that his 95 suggestions for reforming the Christian Church would result in the Protestant Reformation?  He could not have known what his act of faithfulness would bring to him personally, nor could he have envisioned how it would liberate Christianity from the tyranny of an inner circle of clerics who had grown very powerful.

     Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther.  In addition, he was labeled "an outlaw and a heretic" by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.  He feared for his life.  Yet, the world has been influenced far more by one act of faithfulness by this priest than by the entire reign of a Pope whose accomplishments most people have forgotten. 

     Again, could Martin Luther have known this?  Of course not.  But his faithfulness to living the truth gave him the vision to remind officials within his beloved Church that they had become more attracted to power and wealth than to helping heal the lives of people who remained confused by the twists and turns caused by life's many dramas. 

     The Book of Ruth was included in the Scriptures because of the chain of events caused by the relationship of Boaz and Ruth.  Their contribution continued to influence history long after King David.  Joseph, the father figure for Jesus, was also a descendant of Obed. Simple acts of faithfulness have the potential to change the world-view of millions of people.  But it will do so in God's time, not ours.

     We simply do not know how lives are touched by their experience at St. Matthew's.  What we do together produces enormous energy like a meteor striking the still surface of a lake. We may never understand any result that we create. The truth stands, however, that every act of faithfulness influences creation in ways that are beyond the scope of our wildest imagination.

     Jesus once said, "I am telling you the truth, those who follow what I have taught them will do what I do.  In fact, greater things than these will they do." (John 14:12)  Jesus gave three years of his life to ministry. Look at what happened to many of the world's people because of that very brief period of time when Jesus taught others a healing way to live!

     Think of how little it takes for one person's act of faithfulness to become a part of shaping the destiny of how humanity thinks and responds.  One woman, putting in two copper coins in the Temple treasury, lives today in the minds of millions because she surrendered to God the little she had. Paul wrote personal letters that have influenced lives over the span of two thousand years. God becomes the amplifier of every act of faithfulness.

     Remember what God did in an obscure town named Bethlehem.  Might God also work through St. Matthew's in a city that is equally unknown to the rest of the world?  Absolutely! 

     Jesus said that where our treasure is there will our hearts be also.  Soon we will have the opportunity to give witness to where our treasure is.  Estimate-of-giving cards will arrive at your homes this week.  Fill in the number that reflects where your heart is and bring it to the worship experience on Sunday, November 17. Through our faithfulness, God can change the world.  The faithfulness of others before us has already changed ours.   


    God of mercy and hope, you have required nothing from us.  In our midst you have allowed many crossroads.  You have invited us to learn from our choices.  We face the paths of financial security or generosity.  We know the roads of fear or faithfulness, of doubting or trusting and of standing still or growing.  Today we are grateful for what so often we take for granted. Much that we enjoy in our church has come to us as gifts from others.  We are eager to bring their vision into our present, so that tomorrow may be blessed by who we have become.  Amen.


    Always present God, whose word was as faithful yesterday as it is today, we thank you for the times when we struggle with alternatives, when we doubt and when we face moments of uncertainty.  We would know nothing of what it means to experience faith without such times.  If every outcome was known to us, you would not be the potter and we would not be the clay.   

    We thank you for creating us with such adaptability.  During moments of  scarcity, we can be generous.  When frailties outcrop in others, we can be kind.  When our values appear violated, we can remain patient.  When life presents us with challenges, we can display hope. When we are troubled by someone's lack of good judgment, we can look at the sea of blessings that virtually floods the landscape of our lives and remain eternally grateful.  Who are we, O God, that we should complain about anything?  

    Today we celebrate lives that have gone on before us.  We celebrate gifts presented to our church.   May our generosity of spirit reflect the kind and gentle nature of your presence that surrounds us every moment of life.  With grateful hearts, we now pray the prayer Jesus taught us to say . . .