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Saturday, September 26, 2020

A Tale of Two Ruths

This past week, our country bid farewell to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsberg was a "pioneer" in the true sense of the word. Against all odds she attended the prestigious Harvard Law School where she was one of only 9 women out of a class of 500 prompting the dean of Harvard to ask her why she was taking up a place that "should go to a man." However, Justice Ginsburg was undaunted by such comments and became the catalyst for advocacy of women's rights. Some would say Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the "architect" of the legal fight for women's rights in the 1970's. She changed the way the country treated American women. For more than a decade until her first judicial appointment in 1980, Justice Ginsburg led the fight for gender equality. When she began her legal crusade, women were treated, by law, differently from men. Hundreds of state and federal laws restricted what women could do, barring then from jobs, rights, and even jury service. By the time she was elected to the Supreme Court, however, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had worked a revolution. 

A Revolutionary "Rock Star"

For over 27 years of serving on the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg's decisions forever changed life for American women. By the time she was in her 80's, Justice Ginsburg had become something of a "rock star" to women of all ages and was dubbed the "Notorious RBG." She was so well respected on the Supreme Court that Justice Ginsburg and her conservative colleague Justice Antonin Scalia developed a close personal friendship. Despite their political differences, Justice Scalia once gave Justice Ginsberg two dozen roses on her birthday after she had denied him a vote that he needed for a particular case. When asked why he gave her the roses, Justice Scalia replied, "Some things are more important than votes." Indeed it can be said that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a trailblazer. Even in death she was still breaking down barriers not only as the first Supreme Court Justice to have two days of viewing at the Supreme Court but also becoming the first woman in U.S. history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Additionally, she was the first Jewish American to ever lie in state at the U.S. Congress. 

The "Other" Ruth

The Bible tells us about another woman named Ruth who changed history forever. Her beginnings were more humble. In fact she was a foreigner, a Moabite, who left behind all she was familiar with, including her family, to stay by her mother-in-law's side after she and her mother-in-law were both widowed. We read in the book of Ruth after Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to return to their own people and their gods, Ruth declares, "Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me." (Ruth 1:16-17 NIV) Ruth's commitment to Naomi was significant. One could say it was life changing. We're told when the two women returned to Bethlehem, "the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?" (Ruth 1:19b NIV) Can you imagine what it was like for Ruth to become the center of attention? A Moabite among a people that were ethnically and culturally different. However, this did not hinder Ruth's determination to do whatever it took to help her mother-in-law. 

A Sacrificial Love

Ruth loved her mother-in-law so much that she was willing to go into the barley fields to pick up leftover grain to help support them. In Biblical times, women were considered property and were dependent on men to support them. If a woman was widowed, she lost that source of support, especially if she had no children, specifically sons.  Naomi was equally dedicated to Ruth as she suggested Ruth go down to the threshing floor of a close relative named Boaz. Boaz subsequently falls in love with Ruth and is able to secure the rights to Naomi's deceased husband's property from a guardian-redeemer who had first rights to the property. However, that person also had to marry Ruth in order to maintain the name of the dead man with his property. When the guardian-redeemer refused to marry Ruth for fear of endangering his own estate, he willingly turned the property over to Boaz. (Ruth 4:1-8) Ruth and Boaz married and brought forth a son. Ruth 4:17b states, "And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (NIV) The Davidic line ultimately brought forth the Messiah, Jesus. 

A Lasting Legacy

Women helping women. Two Ruths, both women the unlikely beneficiaries of lasting legacies. One Ruth, whose legacy made a difference here on earth, the other Ruth whose legacy has eternal value. Through one woman came freedom for women from oppression in the here and now. Through the other woman came freedom from sin forever for all humanity through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both women willing to stand against culture and convention out of love for others. Praise God for the sacrifice of these women to accomplish God's sovereign plan. 

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Sheree




 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

"Good Trouble"

The passing of Congressman John R. Lewis brought a pivotal point in history to a close. John Lewis was one of the significant figures in the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for racial equality. The funeral service which took place on July 30, 2020 was a mixture of politics and praise for the many accomplishments of the congressman and the lives that he touched during his 80 years on earth. There are very few public figures that are eulogized by three living former United States presidents, however John Lewis earned that respect for his selfless contributions to better the lives of not only black Americans but all Americans. Despite the political references, the consistent thread that ran through the many testimonies from friends, family, and notable public figures was John Lewis' sacrificial spirit. The congressman poured himself into so many people and causes that some considered him a modern day saint. In fact one of the people who shared at his service stated, "John Lewis was truly human and divine." Some believers may be disturbed at such a statement as we acknowledge that there is only one who was truly human and truly divine--Jesus. However, I believe the intention of this person was not in any way to deify John Lewis but demonstrate how he reflected the character of Christ. 

"TROUBLEMAKER"

One of Congressman Lewis' favorite sayings was lets get into"good trouble." This saying was meant to challenge people to fight for what was right and just even if it costs us everything. Isn't that so like Jesus? Jesus like John Lewis was constantly in "good trouble" during His brief time on earth. He stood in opposition to the religious leaders and their failure to recognize Him as the Messiah. Jesus' claims often drew such anger from the teachers of the law that they wanted to kill Him. (Luke 14:14-28; John 8:58) Jesus was ultimately crucified not because of any thing that He had done wrong but because He spoke God's truth and came to deliver humanity from sin through His death and resurrection. John Lewis almost lost his life after marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Alabama to protest racial inequality and secure voting rights for black Americans. The marchers were met with police hostility and Lewis ended up in the hospital after a blow to his head from a police officer's baton. Lewis was not doing anything illegal, immoral, or even violent as he peacefully lead the march alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other protesters. He spoke the truth about the evils of segregation and sought to bring about change as the book of Micah declares, "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8 NIV) 

A REFLECTION OF GOD's HEART

John Lewis knew that before God, all human beings are created equal regardless of race or gender. John Lewis knew that in heaven there is no segregation as the book of Revelation states, "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9-10 NIV) The challenge of the church today is to have a desire to get into "good trouble" for the sake of the gospel. The early church knew and demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice all for Christ, even if it meant losing their lives. Are believers today willing to follow in Jesus' footsteps like John Lewis? The times we live in may be different but the call upon the life of God's people has not changed, to love God with our entire being, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and preach the gospel. (Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Timothy 4:1-5) John Lewis loved God and his neighbor so much that he was willing to sacrifice His life. Let's follow his example as he followed Jesus and get into "good trouble" for the sake of Christ and the gospel.
To God Be The Glory!
Pastor Sheree


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Holy Applause!

Many of you are aware that the baseball season has begun. Teams will be vying for a spot in the World's Series in this somewhat modified and shortened season. Additionally basketball players are gearing up in "the bubble" down at Disney in Florida to commence their season. Some teams including our own Boston Celtics have already begun engaging in scrimmage games with other teams. The Boston Bruins hockey team is about to begin their season in Canada. Finally, the NFL has submitted their plans to protect players and their families during the corona virus pandemic. The Patriots are scheduled to start their training camp on time. One thing that all of these sports teams share in common is they will be playing without fans in the stadiums. The corona virus has hindered the ability of people to actively support their teams in person. The various leagues have tried to enhance the experience for the players through piped in crowd noise as well as cardboard cut outs in the stands. The option has even been offered to fans to take a picture and purchase a cardboard cut out which can be placed in the seat of a particular stadium. We as human beings thrive on the support and accolades of others. Players on the various sports teams will be quick to acknowledge that a crowd of fans shouting and clapping energizes them to perform at the highest level. What happens when there is no longer any crowd noise? The game can still be played but there is a sense of loss and diminished level of energy.
 

FOREVER FANS

Followers of Christ are forever receiving encouragement as they walk through the challenges of this life. No matter what may take place, there is a "heavenly crowd of fans" cheering us on. We read in the book of Hebrews "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

 ETERNAL VICTORY

Team players have their eyes fixed on accomplishing the ultimate goal of being crowned "the best" in their sport. After the victory of winning the ultimate prize, players will often comment that they won the trophy for their fans with whom they share the prize. A celebratory parade in a major city often follows with ongoing cheers and applause. The lack of an active fan base in the stands and the cancellation of victory parades may diminish the joy in celebrating the win. However, when our eyes are fixed on Jesus and the ultimate prize of sharing eternity with Him, it encourages us to keep persevering in this life. Our "fan base" are all the saints that have gone before us. Friends, family, and other brothers and sisters who have finished the race are now participating in the never ending celebration of glory to God for what Jesus has done through His sacrifice on the cross. So I encourage you as the writer of Hebrews states, not "to grow weary or lose heart" when life challenges us and others oppose us for our faithfulness to the Lord. We have an ongoing "holy applause" that resonates in heaven which will never be silenced by anyone or anything!

Thanks be to God!
Pastor Sheree