Summary: Faithfulness to God’s people. Faithfulness of God. For LWML (Lutheran Women’s Missionary Leauge) Sunday.
The words of Ruth are some of the most beautiful and moving words of Scripture. Ruth cried to her mother-in-law, Naomi: “Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Such loyalty is moving and inspiring. Yet, it is much more than that. Ruth shows us the loyalty that you and I are to have as God’s people.
Although she was born a Gentile, through Naomi, Ruth came to have faith in, and confess, the promised Messiah. That was what Ruth confessed. That was what she lived. Ruth’s words show us--not mere loyalty to Naomi, but an unwavering loyalty to God’s people--and an unwavering loyalty to the faith.
Ruth could not imagine a life without the fellowship of others who also looked forward to the promised Messiah. That’s why she went with Naomi to stay, live, and delight in such a communion. Ruth couldn’t follow Orpah back to Moab. She couldn’t unite herself with others who did not believe in the one, true God.
Ruth lived during Old Testament times. She didn’t know who the Messiah would be. Yet, she knew that God had promised a Messiah--and she believed in Him! She didn’t know of the Creeds we confess, yet she believed what they affirm about the oneness of the faith, the communion of saints.
We are one in the Christian faith under God’s rule and reign. We are not alone in Christ’s Church, and our lives are to show that. This is such an embedded truth that it fully permeates what Jesus gave us to believe and confess.
Think of the Lord’s Prayer. How does it start? “Our Father”; Jesus doesn’t teach us to pray, “My Father,” as if Christians are to live lives of isolated faith. There is no me-and-Jesus attitude in Christ’s Church.
Baptism brings you into a living reality called the Church, into the community of saints. You are part of the Church--but you are not the Church! The Church is the communion of saints, one fellowship, one community, both here and in eternity.
Ruth couldn’t live without this community, this fellowship. That’s why Ruth told Naomi: “Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” God doesn’t call His people into singular lives of spiritual isolation. He doesn’t call us to live separate lives from others who also confess the same faith. We are to live in such communion.
The faith in someone’s heart influences how he lives his life. That means a Christian will seek out others with whom to be in fellowship, in a communion. To live and do anything else is not to be a Christian.
The person who says, “I don’t need to go the church to worship God,” is living a lie. For God is not a God of an abstract, theoretical faith that lies dormant within. How did God come to His people in the Old Testament to create and strengthen their faith? God set up His Old Testament Church to have real, physical ways of worshiping that pointed forward to their Savior, their Messiah.
God wouldn’t allow His Old Testament saints to have an abstract, theoretical God. They had a God who would have a man’s foreskin removed to bring one into the family of God. Believe me, circumcision is not abstract or theoretical if you experience it. They had a God who granted His forgiveness through real blood of real sacrificed animals. That’s how fleshy and real God was in the Old Testament. That’s how He saved His people and pointed them to the Messiah to come.
What about in the New Testament? God still is not an abstract God. He still calls his people to be circumcised, but now through the waters of baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). For baptism supersedes circumcision. Today, God still deals in blood, but now He gives us the blood of His Son in His Supper. For the Lord’s Supper supersedes the Passover meal.
That’s why Scripture says, “Do not neglect assembling with one another” (Hebrews 10:25). That’s why an Old Testament psalm says: “I am united with all who fear You, and with all who keep your decrees” (Psalm 119:63). That’s why Ruth told Naomi: “Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
You don’t get baptized on the golf course. You don’t get Jesus’ body and blood thinking about Him at home. You don’t get to hear Jesus’ Word of forgiveness staying away from your brothers and sisters in Christ. God comes to you in these ways within a fellowship, within a communion.