The Core Sunday Gathering

June 12, 2011

Love Life: Flesh and Blood

Ruth & Naomi

Question: Have you ever had a temporary “falling out” with a relative?

        -How does it feel now? Still hurtful? Embarrassing?

        -There was a pair of twin brothers from the book of Genesis, who didn’t speak for decades.

        -Question: Do you know their names? What was their quarrel about?

        -Let’s take a closer look, in Genesis 25 & 27



[Tell story of Jacob buying Esau’s birthright for a bowl of chili] – Genesis 25

[Tell story of Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing with a costume.] – Genesis 27

Group Reading – 4 Volunteers: Genesis 27:41-46 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob." 42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, "Your brother Esau is consoling himself with the thought of killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother's fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I'll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?" 46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, "I'm disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living."

        -So Jacob runs for his life. This isn’t just a falling out, he really believes Esau’s actually going to slaughter him,

                -like Cain did to Abel…

        -Decades later, when Jacob prepared to meet Esau again later in life, he spent days preparing gifts

                -And wrestled with God the night before.

        -Question: Why do we lose sleep over our family relationships? And why do they go wrong so easily?

        -Not only were Jacob & Esau flesh and blood, they were twins

                -Sometimes our relatives are chosen, but not always by us.

                -Ruth and Naomi didn’t choose each other, but they were thrust together by others’ choices

Assign Scripture: Ruth 1:16-17 [Give background story for Ruth & Naomi – up to the point of departure]

Group Reading – 4 Volunteers: Ruth 1:16-17

-No doubt Naomi felt that her life was a waste.
-Some people lose everything for the sake of righteousness, but her loss was from
a failure to trust God
    -But God does not produce waste. This pagan land was not worthless... one good thing did come out of it.
-Ruth means "friend" and she clung to Naomi.

                -Ruth had just lost her own husband, but she was ready to make a new commitment “till death do us part”

                -It would have been awfully easy for Ruth to only think of herself and her own future.

                        -And that’s what Naomi tried to get her to do.

                        -But for some reason she decided to put this relationship at the center of her life.

                        -Naomi was not fun. She was not full of promise. She was an aging and depressed woman.

                        -She was no good to Ruth at all.

                        -But still, Ruth chose to follow her into a country that would probably ostracize her.

                        -Is this how you planned your last road trip? Find a total downer, and go with them to a hostile place?

                -Pick out the dullest person you know and plan a hiking adventure in North Korea?

                -Ruth had family in Moab, and Naomi tried to get her to go back to them.

                        -But Ruth knew that she was all that Naomi had left.

                                -Naomi had abandoned her homeland, and might not be welcomed back.

                                -And despite all the catastrophe, she saw the power of the one true God in Naomi’s life.

-I don’t have a lot of point-for-point lessons for you here.

        -I just know that a lot of us struggle with dysfunctional families. Either in the past, or ongoing.

        -And it’s a huge part of your life. Maybe you lose sleep; maybe you wrestle with God over it.

                -Maybe you’ve prayed a thousand prayers that a father would get free from addictions

                        Or that a sister or brother would stop running away and come home again.

                -But you just keep wrestling with God, and never get anywhere, just like Jacob did.

                -Or you might be in Naomi’s shoes… life just feels absolutely over for you.

                        -It seems as though you’ve abandoned your home, and lost everyone you care about

                -It’s moments like this that we can’t underestimate the power of flesh and blood relationships.

                        -If I’ve lost everything, but just one person has bound themselves to me, committed to me, then I’m not lost.

                        -And if I can be that person for you, why would I fail you?

-One of the most powerful experiences you could ever have is to be with someone when they die.

        -In some cases it’s unbearably traumatic; we can suffer for years after witnessing a fatal accident.

        -In other cases it can be uplifting. But it’s always life-changing.

        -Christina and I were able to be there for her uncle’s last moments, at a hospice in Kansas City.

[Excerpt from “To Be Part of the Ocean” by Ryan Wiksell, The Core Blog, 04.26.08]

When he was diagnosed, there was no doubt things would progress quickly, so there were few surprises that led us to this place… Christina and I together at Andy’s side, or a fraction of Andy, anyway. The man we knew as a tall, robust individual was now a wisp of a man, with pure white hair and cheeks sunken severely beneath the oxygen tubes.

By many standards, I live a pretty colorful life. But it’s also been fairly sheltered. In other words, until this point I’d never really witnessed death. Never really been there in the moment. And honestly, I could not have asked for a more precious introduction to humanity’s greatest fear.

Andy had been mostly comatose during his short visit to the hospice, punctuated with short periods of looking around, or eking out a word or two. But in his final day, there was little to speak of. Christina and I stayed nearby, talking to him, holding his hands, and sharing warm conversations with friends and family who stopped in to visit.

The hospice nurse was nothing short of astounding. She was one of the most compassionate, encouraging and informative people I’ve ever encountered in the health care field. She told us how it would end. And we watched as it all unfolded.

His breathing became slower and slower, degenerating into intermittent gasps. And several other symptoms of passing matched the predictions perfectly.

But one blessing came to us that we didn’t expect. Despite Andy’s steady and unresponsive descent into darkness, his soul found the strength right before the end to open his eyes, and his mouth, as if he were witnessing something truly amazing. We held his hands a little tighter and smiled sadly to be part of such a breath-taking moment.

Then he closed his eyes again, to finish his breathing. The gasps got more and more sparse, and began to lift his chest as the effort became more and more intense. Then his chest would collapse, his chin would rise, the air would rush in sharply, and his body would rest for five seconds before it happened again. Then it was ten seconds. Despite their intensity, the breaths were thinning, and finally one gasp stopped midway, before Andrew Myers’ body descended heavily into his bed. Christina and I squeezed his hands and looked at each other with emotions that don’t fit into categories.

        -All in one moment we knew that his body changed from a person into a shell, and that his Spirit was with God.

                -And we felt that we’d been able to personally drop him off at the gate.

                -It brings so much depth to Ruth’s words: “Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."

        -Do you have any commitments like that? If so… do they know it?

        -It is a beautiful thing when a man and woman commit themselves till death: a picture of Jesus and the Church

                -But in some ways it’s even more beautiful, and purer, when there’s no romance involved

                        -and no sexual tension or attraction to dramatize it.

                        -When two people can simply resolve themselves to give their lives for each other’s well-being.

                -This was exactly the case with Ruth and Naomi. At first, Naomi had nothing to give.

                        -But after Ruth had given up her life for Naomi, Naomi was able to return the favor.

                        -Because she found Ruth a Redeemer. A man named Boaz, who fell in love with her and provided for her.

                -We know that Naomi would have never rested till she could give Ruth new life, the way she’d received it.

                        -And that new life was in the form of a baby boy, who became the grandfather of King David


        -I think God wants us to see this happening in Scripture, so that we know how to treat fellow believers.

                -Hundreds of times, Paul calls other Christ-followers his “brothers” and “sisters”

                -Read 1 Thessalonians 3:7-12

                -He longs for his “Brothers”, for his “Sisters” and his heart bleeds for them.

                        -When they’re unified, he dances for joy, and when they’re divided, he grieves and cries out for them.

                -Assign Scripture: Psalm 133 – Entire Psalm 1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

-So I guess it’s time to re-visit the estranged brothers Jacob & Esau

        -Jacob has divided his entourage in half, because he’s so afraid that Esau will kill everyone he finds.

        -He’s shaking with fear when it’s time to meet, but things turn out so differently than he’d feared:

-Read Genesis 33:4-10

        -All those years of dread, of fear, and of division… all gone in a moment.

Read Matthew 5:23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

-Jacob and Esau had to be in Jesus’ mind at this moment…

        -Jacob made numerous offerings during the time of his estrangement from his brother.

        -But look at the fear he had to live with his whole life.

        -Jesus doesn’t want us to let that happen. He wants to see our unity restored, and our collective life redeemed.