Risky Investing During Unsettled Times April 5, 2020 Palm Sunday
Here is a statement from 1997 about ‘risk avoidance’ He said, “I’m afraid we may well miss the next great advancement. We’re so afraid of failure that we may not pursue that next step (Stealth).” He was talking about stealth aircraft and his point was, that too much energy goes into avoiding the risk that we may miss out on the next advancement.
For the last few weeks ‘risk avoidance’ has been the centerpiece of life in the US. As I write this sermon there are five states that do not have lockdowns in place. What has shaken us to our roots started 140 days ago in China with a man who got sick. Right now, John Hopkins’ display shows 98k confirmed cases, 50k deaths, and 204k recovery. All but essential businesses are closed. 6.6 million people applied for unemployment the past week and the Dow went from 28k to a low of 18.5 and is rebounded bit as of today.
Reality of Fear
In 140 days, this virus has shaken us, has shaken the whole world, to its core. It took a decade to shake Naomi, Ruth, and Orpha to their core but it did happen. These three women are left as widows in a country that God had not given to His people. In Deuteronomy God gives his people a promise and a warning. The promise is simple. This promised land has what you need “as long as you obey (Campbell)?
"Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey” (Dt 6:3)
When Naomi’s family heads off to Moab it is to save themselves from a famine. Who can blame them, right? It makes sense. Where is God in this famine? A man has to do what a man has to do. All thoughts and questions weren’t just asked by Elimelech. At the very heart of “Becoming More than Survivors” is the issue of control and has the authority to make our choices.
Naomi, Ruth, and Orpha reap what Naomi’s husband did. Not only are they living in this place, but Their two boys marry Moabite women. The rule against this needs no interpretation. Once more Dt 7:3-4 reads,
"You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly." Dt 7:3-4
Fear versus Faith
Fear is real. Until we are in Christ’s kingdom it will remain real. But, it doesn’t have to be a controlling factor in our life. Fear alerts us to danger. Fear keeps us safe. Fear may also give us an opportunity to prove our faith in God when we react to it in accordance with our faith in Christ.
Ruth becomes a stranger in a strange land as she leaves Moab. Her social, cultural, spiritual, and relational norms were behind her. Her fellow daughter-in-law returned after being convinced by Naomi. But Ruth knows that is she stays with her family they might be blessed by her family. So, Ruth leaves all she has known for a mother-in-law whom she believed in and trusted. Ruth’s fears were substantial, but her faith was grand enough to allow her to risk the uncertainty of the future they face as they leave and travel to Bethlehem.
When Naomi returns home “the whole town is stirred” (19). She was home, among ‘her’ people and once there she takes on a new name for herself—Mara for which she blames God “for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (1:20) she tells her neighbors. Yet the bitterness in Naomi’s heart doesn’t turn Ruth’s heart bitter.
I want to take you down a rabbit-trail for a bit. It’s about changing names. God is the one who changes names because He and He alone is the only one who knows who we really are. Thus, Abram and Sari become Abraham and Sarah. Jacob becomes Israel, and Cephas is called Petros.
The Prophet Isaiah writes of the completion of God’s salvation in chapter 62 in which he says:
The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give. Is 62:2
And when Jesus returns. Jesus warns and promises the church in Pergamum
16Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’" (Rev. 2:16-17)
In Revelation 3:12 Jesus promises those in Philadelphia that for those who “hold fast” “will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name”.
The issue of naming is crucial to understand if we are to become more than survivors in 2020 and beyond. Don’t accept the names with which the world labels you. Don’t bow to those names that would cheapen the mercy and grace of Jesus’ death for all our sins. Don’t accept the names you’ve called yourself in the past. Only listen for God’s name for you—beloved, heir of the Kingdom, loved of God, redeemed by the blood of the lamb and others
Wading Through Fear into Faith
God has a strange sense of humor for he calls all of us who name Jesus as God and Lord to a “Ruth-like risky-ness”. For the sake of a grieving mother-in-law, Ruth risks being noticed by a distant relative of Naomi’s and takes pain to make sure she is remembered by him. She risked being shunned, cheated, or even putting Naomi at risk but, she believed that the God whom she dedicated herself too would prevail.
Jesus, coming into Jerusalem in the midst of the celebration and pageantry wasn’t much different. He’d told the disciples he was going to Jerusalem to die and Thomas announced, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (Jn. 11:16). Fear was real and Jesus waded through it as he did the crowd.
Confronted by religious leaders who wanted him to silence his followers he reminded them the stones themselves would praise God as he entered. He taught, He demonstrated God’s power, shared Passover with the disciples, was arrested and executed knowing it was God’s will. He strode forth in the certainty that his trust in his Father was well placed.
This Sunday we would usually celebrate that ‘Last Supper’ as we take the bread and cup and trust God to meet us, spiritually nourish us, and remind us of His love for us. We’re going to forgo that, in order that when we gather again around Christ’s table we do so with a faith that doesn’t simply take it for granted.
Let us pray…
Campbell, Phil. "The Danger of Do-It-Yourself." Sermon Central. 2002. Web. 1 Apr. 2020.
"Stealth Technology." Modern Marvels. History Channel. 16 February 1997. Television.
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