Almost Saved

Almost Saved

October 31, 2021*

By Pastor John Partridge

Ruth 1:1-18                 Mark 12:28-34            Hebrews 9:11-14

I know some of you don’t watch football, but this past week there was a play that is worth talking about because it tells us a story that makes sense of a spiritual theme that we read in today’s scripture passages.  During a game between Troy and South Carolina, Jahmar Brown recovered a fumble, ran fifty yards toward the end zone and, one yard before he crossed the goal line, stated celebrating and threw the ball into the air.  The referees ruled that it was not a touchdown because he did not have possession of the ball when he crossed into the end zone.

He had the ball.  There was no one nearby that could stop him, success was certain, but he became overconfident and started his celebration before he actually crossed the goal line.  When our children ran track, we saw the something similar happen more than once.  A winning runner would start easing off just before they crossed the finish line and, at the last moment, the second-place runner passed them and won the race.  These stories remind us that it isn’t a touchdown until you cross the goal line, and you haven’t actually won the race until you cross the finish line.  The difference between winning and losing often depends upon whether you commit the effort to finish what you started. 

A spiritual lesson with the same theme can be found in scripture.  We begin this morning with the story of Ruth.  Ruth was a daughter-in-law of Naomi and, and both women were widowed while they were living in Moab.  Naomi, her husband, and her sons, were citizens of Bethlehem, but moved to Moab during a time of famine.  We join the story in Ruth 1:1-18.

1:1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So, a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye, and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”

14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 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. 17 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.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

Naomi and her family move to Moab, her sons both marry local girls, and then both Naomi’s husband and sons all die leaving her a widow with two dependent children widow children.  Since the famine in Israel is over, and since she has no job, no family, and no support system in Moab, she decides to return to Israel where she at least has some family from whom she can ask for help.  But as they begin their journey, Naomi recognizes that, as much as she could use the help, her return to Israel won’t do any favors for her daughters-in-law.  In Israel, they will have the same problem that she has in Moab.  They will be far from home, separated from everything they know, and have no family or support system upon which they can depend.  And so, out of compassion, Naomi sacrifices her own needs and tells her daughters to return to their families where they have a better chance to be cared for, or to find new husbands and families for themselves.

Orpah resists and initially rejects Naomi’s offer, but ultimately agrees and returns to her family, but Ruth does the same thing that Naomi had modeled for her.  Instead of returning to her family and doing what was best for herself, Ruth sacrifices her own needs for the good of Naomi because of her loyalty and love for her mother-in-law.  And the sacrifice that we see in the story of Naomi and Ruth is a foreshadowing of an even greater sacrifice that Jesus would make in order to offer a path of rescue, reconciliation, and restoration to the entire world.  But knowing about the sacrifice of Jesus isn’t enough, just as knowing about God, memorizing, and even following, the commandments isn’t.  And that’s what Jesus is talking about with one of the teachers of the Law in Mark 12:28-34 where we hear this:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Jesus says that it’s good that this teacher of the law understands the law and the commandments.  It is good that he follows the law and the commandments.  Understanding and following the law and commandments is almost enough because Jesus says that in doing so the teacher is “not far from the kingdom of God.”  Because he knows, understands, and follows the law and the commandments, the man is almost saved.  But something is still missing.  Jesus has hinted at it, but in Hebrews 9:11-14, Paul explains it more clearly.

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtainingeternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

There are several things here that we, as well as the original recipients and readers of Hebrews, already know.  We know that Jesus is our high priest who intercedes between God and humanity.  We know that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sin and willingly offered himself as our sacrifice so that we could be redeemed in the eyes of God forever.  We know that because Jesus sacrificed himself for us, we are forgiven of all our sin, can stand before God, and can live with a clear conscience. 

But after Paul repeats these things that we already know, he concludes by saying why God did these things.  He says that God did these things so that we may serve the living God.”  The reason that God has offered us salvation and rescue is so that we can offer him a life of service.  We were purified for service.  We were saved for service.  The reason for Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and the reason for our rescue, is so that we can serve God. 

This is the same thing that we saw modeled for us in the story of Naomi and Ruth, and the same thing that Jesus was hinting at in Mark.  While it is good to believe in God, to know the law, the commandments, and the rest of the scriptures, and while it is good to follow the instructions of God, that isn’t enough.  The thing that Naomi knew, that Ruth learned, and that Jesus was teaching, is that after we begin to follow the instructions of God, we must also be so filled with compassion and love that we begin to model the sacrificial nature of God, to sacrifice ourselves, to sacrifice our wants, our needs, and our desires, for the good of others and for the good of God’s kingdom.

Knowing, believing, and even following are all good things, and they are almost enough.  Doing those things will bring us to place that is, as Jesus described as “not far from the kingdom of God.” 

But Jahmar Brown started celebrating and dropped the ball before he cross the goal line.  The whole point of football is carrying the football across the goal line.  And Paul says that the whole point of God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ is so that we will live lives of service and sacrifice to God.

Let’s not miss the point and quit before we cross the goal line.


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Quit Talking. Start Walking. Guest Blogger – Aubray Sco

Amid the discussion about the sexuality of the Superbowl halftime show, I read a post from the perspective of someone who understands human trafficking in a way none of us (hopefully) ever will.  It is both powerful and thought provoking.  With her permission, I want to share it with you.  I encourage you to not only read it, but to give it some serious reflection. – Pastor John


 

Aubray ScoMy thoughts on NFL
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The number one thing I think of is how Americans are the biggest keyboard warriors in the world. I imagine people who literally run to grab their phones and start tapping away so they can be the first to give their opinions. So much talk and very little walk.
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The truth is I am so SICK of seeing your words because they have never carried any weight. You sit there, thinking you’re opinion matters but the truth is, it doesn’t. You know why? Because it’s an opinion and there has been no work, no going out to the arena, no going to war, or stepping on the battlefield with you.
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If you believe your keyboard is the battlefield, it’s not. Anyone can sit in the comfort of their own home, wearing their pajamas, and stating their opinions. That costs you NOTHING. So here are some things that need to be read, said, and written. I hope you take something from this.
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Human trafficking is very real. There are currently 20-40 million modern day slaves because of human trafficking. Human trafficking is directly correlated to the Sex Industry. Yep, the industry that has been around since Jesus. The same industry that tells us to “bare it all” but does not tell us what that costs.
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The Sex Industry has leaked into every single outlet in the world. Marketing statistics have proven that women wearing less SELLS. Because sex sells. These are just the facts. But it’s just a cheerleader, she’s just a singer, she’s just this, she’s just that. In the world we live in today, we have been taught that objectification is tolerable. That baring it all is acceptable. And if we don’t, we will somehow get left behind.
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Half of you may be eye-rolling and that’s fine. The truth is I worked in the Sex Industry. I know what it’s like to wear less and less. I know what it’s like to want to cover up, but there’s less money, less influence, less power in those things. That is what we are told. So we hand over our souls on a platter so that we can stand on a stage and receive an applause. But they never tell you the cost.
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This goes far beyond the women at the halftime show. This is for the women who have been trafficked into an industry against their consent. It is for the children who have been taken from their families to be pimped out. This is for the four year old boy who went missing because of a fetish or to the girl who does not know her worth and chose to sell herself. The Super Bowl is one of the number one days of the year for the Sex Industry.
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And you might be ready to say “Oh but many people are working women, it’s consensual.” Let me just repeat. I’ve been here. I have lived this life. I have worked with women from all backgrounds. I worked Super Bowl in 2011 and hung out with many of the women who flew in from all over to make the “big bucks.” Regardless if we chose to be there or not, regardless if we got paid, it still costed us more than we would have ever imagined. Sex is not just sex. It is a mingling of the souls and that will ALWAYS cost you something.
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So… to the keyboard warriors who just want to complain about the half-naked women singing? Go teach women what modesty is. Show women they don’t have to bare it all despite what societal and worldly standards have taught us. Disciple women, show up for women, and love them regardless of the life they’ve lived. And don’t judge every woman who’s wearing a midriff top – *cough Barb cough.* We need more love, not criticism, hate, and condemnation.
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To the keyboard warriors who think there’s no consequence for the halftime show. I hope you tell the women in your life, that they’re beautiful despite what attire they can still fit into. I hope your little girl knows, that she does not have to dress a certain way, dance a certain way, or sell herself in someway, in order to be accepted. And I hope you remember that the little ones are always watching. And they’re constantly looking for someone to look up to. Let’s make sure to be someone who’s worthy of that.
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And to the men. I hope you guard your hearts, protect what you watch, and that you teach the young men in your lives that women are to be treasured, respected, adored, and fought for. Disciple men. Invest in men. Eat at the table with your sons. Speak life into your son. And show him what a real man looks like.
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The very thing that God ordained and created within a covenantal relationship for us to enjoy “SEX” is the very thing that the enemy has worked so intently at perverting. Sex is beautiful. It is supposed to be enjoyed. It was created by God. It was made FOR us. And the enemy will always try to destroy God’s greatest gifts. I hope you realize that.
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And to every keyboard warrior out there. If you really want to make an impact, put your money where your mouth is. Quit talking and start walking. Disciple. Serve. Get your hands dirty. Raise awareness for human-trafficking. Put your phones down and go do some work. Put your boots on, go stand in the arena, and be prepared for war. Oh, and love your neighbor as yourself. Let’s start with that. It’s time to show up!

 

 


Aubray is the storyteller and treasure-hunter behind Table and Tide. Her hope is to help you to turn some of your biggest tragedies into triumph. To create a community that embodies bringing our mess to the table, finding our voices, and as a result, walking into the freedom of who God’s created us to be.

Please visit her website, Table and Tide, at https://tableandtide.com/.

Who Watches the Supplies? – A Football Meditation


    In the books of first and second Samuel we read the story of King David.  Many of us have heard stories about David, but there is at least one that we don’t often remember.  In 1 Samuel 30, we find David and 600 men who had just returned from fighting alongside Achish the king of the Philistines.  As they return home they discover that the Amalekites had raided their town, captured their wives (including two of David’s wives), their children, their livestock, as well as anything of value.  After consulting with their priest to find the will of God, David pursues the Amalekite raiding party.
    As they hurry to catch up to the raiders however, David finds that two hundred of his men are too exhausted to continue and so he leaves them behind with all their gear, supplies and what is left of their town.  David and the four hundred remaining men pursue the Amalekite raiding party and find them celebrating over all the loot that they had plundered.  David and his men attack and fight with the Amalekites from dusk that day, until the end of the following day, defeat them, and recapture every single animal, personal belonging, wife and family member.
    But when they return to their camp, the troublemakers began to stir things up.  They argued with David that the two hundred men who were left behind should not receive any of the plunder because they didn’t fight to get it.  They argued that these men should get their families back, but receive no share of the loot and plunder that they had taken from the Amalekites.
    David fights back.  David makes an argument that is important to every single one of us and one that is important to each of you on the football field.  David said:
“No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.
    It is important to remember that when you win, it isn’t just the superstars and the heroes that win the game.  Every member of your team had a part, Every coach, every water boy, every trainer, every teacher you ever had who helped you to earn the grades you needed to play ball, it took the guy on the sidelines who sprained his ankle before the season started, every football booster, every friend who gave you a ride home from practice, every relative, every parent, and every brother or sister that comes to watch you play.  As David said, these are the people who “watch the supplies” for you. 
    When you win, it isn’t just because of the guy who threw the touchdown pass, or who caught the interception, or who made the big tackle.  Your victory didn’t come because of the superstars; it took every single one of you. 
And that includes the people who just watch the supplies.

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