Monday, November 9, 2009

The Redeemer . . .

When I say the word “Redeemer,” of what do you think? A few 8:00er’s were scared I was slipping into Appalachian Pentecostal mode when I mentioned it Sunday. After all, it is a word we Episcopalians don’t think that we use very much. I say “think” because we use that word specifically in Rite I and in Rite II, Prayer A, Prayer B, Prayer C, and Prayer D (the words will still be here when you get done looking for yourself). And, naturally, we often describe Christ’s work of redemption of us. So, even for us institutionalists, it is not really a four-letter word.

Our lesson from Ruth, this week, reminds us of the Gospel purpose of the Redeemer and our relationship to Him. How so? First, in Hebrew, the word translated as Redeemer is goel. Literally, it means kinsman redeemer. Leviticus 25:25 might be the quickest and simplest definition of goel, but it often exists in Scripture. In fact, Ruth is full of redemption. In quick terms, one could be in need of a redeemer if one was forced to sell oneself into slavery by force of circumstances (drought, storms, etc). A relative with resources was required to redeem the enslaved relative and family. From that time forward, the redeemer was goel to the family he redeemed. It also existed in times of war. To finance wars, kings and armies would capture hostages. Those hostages were often sold as slaves. A goel could redeem a relative by paying the ransom rather than letting the family member be sold into slavery. In our story of Ruth, both Ruth and Boaz play the role of goel for Naomi. Even the ladies who name Obed understand that.

Think, for a second, of your own extended family. Who would be within that circle that you would redeem without giving it another thought? Who in your family is in that circle of those whom you love that you would make any sacrifice to save them? Your parents? Your grandparent? Your children? Your grandchildren? Your aunts and uncles? Your cousins? How far out would your redemptive love extend? How far out has it extended thus far in your life?

And, yet, think of Jesus. He was goel to each one of us. We might like to think of Him as a figure in history from 2000 years ago, distant in time and space, but He thought enough of and loved us each enough to pay the only price that could redeem each one of us! He was to us that favorite uncle, that grandparent that spoiled us, that cousin with whom we were “thick as thieves”, and He freed us from certain slavery and death when no one else could or would.
Jesus is not just some figure in history who did some dying and rising. Jesus is that One person in all the universe who loved us the way God calls us to love everyone. And when faced with the cost of our redemption, paid it without begrudging us, without grumbling about us and our thankfulness, and without reservation! Brothers and sisters, we often grumble that we wish we were loved. We wish that spouses, children, parents, or others loved us so we could feel wanted and needed. By His work, by His actions, Jesus showed us just how much God loved us and loves us still! The creator of the universe loves you! The creator of the universe has redeemed you and set you free! That is the message to us. And that should be our message to those around us!


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