Over the Labor Day weekend, our family traveled back to Ohio. I was invited to preach at my former church, who have been celebrating their 150th anniversary. During my message, I reflected on a passage from the book of Ruth.
“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to 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.” Ruth 1:16-17
Ruth was responding to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi had given Ruth and her sister the opportunity to remain in the region of Moab, after the deaths of Ruth and her sister’s husbands. Remaining in Moab, finding a new husband, and holding onto the familiar, would have made a lot of sense for Ruth. However, Ruth loved her mother-in-law Naomi, who was also grieving the loss of her husband, Elimelek. Therefore, Ruth makes a declaration that she is willing to travel west (to Bethlehem), and into the unknown.
As I prepared to preach at my former church, I was reminded that you don’t arrive at 150 years of ministry without journeying through many seasons of the unknown. However, they did not journey alone, they had the community and they had the Holy Spirit. In that community people have come and gone overtime, faithful pillars of the church have passed away, and people who were once new to the community have become the backbone of the church. Over 150 years, and through seasons and events that were not always clear, they remained faithful.
Faith, that is our story too. Indeed, when you said “yes” to new ideas, and reimagined new possibilities, you couldn’t have fully known the outcome of those decisions and visions. In seasons that were hard, and that felt like the end, you persevered. You have been faithful. You have been creative. You have needed the love of community, and the guidance of the Spirit. We, like Ruth, can say “yes” as we journey into unknown seasons and moments. We, like my former church, have a faithful legacy of love and service.
Whatever lies before us, we journey together, friends.