Sermons
Sunday Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

The Family We Choose - May 28, 2017

Ruth 1:1-11, 14-18

How many have heard the phrase, "blood is thicker than water"? And how many of you were raised to live by that principle? Family comes first. Loyalty to blood over friends or others. You help family before all others. Anybody?
I was raised in a family where the family took priority. It wasn't exactly to that extreme. We wouldn't deny help to someone else, but family was always to rank as a top priority in how you spent your time, and where your loyalties lay. And, I was extremely fortunate to have a healthy family with good communication and strong relationships. We grew up

around our cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We spent holidays together. We played together. And we vacationed together. So, putting family first made a lot of sense. The elders put us first. They loved us and cared for us and took interest in us, so we were naturally inclined to reciprocate. Treating family as a priority is relatively easy when things are going well.
But what about when things don't go so well? Or when your family isn't close? Or when the elders in your family don't prioritize their relationships with the younger generations? What about when there are lies? What about when there are abuses? How do we prioritize family then?
Suffice it to say, it's challenging. Right? And we'll all do it differently. Some of us were taught to be loyal no matter what...regardless of how we are treated or if we're taken advantage of, it's been drilled into us that we will honor our family. Others of us had to get out. We left early. We stayed with friends. Some bucked the family system and got kicked out. There's hardly a perfect way to deal with rocky relationships, especially when they are people we are "stuck" with because they're family.
And if we've walked away, distanced ourselves, or been pushed out, how do we have a family then? For many of us, we start choosing our own family. We "adopt" in sisters or brothers, aunts or uncles, even parents. We choose people who fill the roll that has a void in our life and build on those relationships. We pick people who have shown loyalty, love, and care and decide they'll be our family. We spend holidays with them, call them for regular check-ins, and even vacation together.
Some of us have strong relationships with our families, but feel we can spread the circle wide...we have an extra family because we love them and we can always make room for one more. For me, I have an extra mom and dad, 3 extra brothers from 3 different families (even though I don't necessarily have relationships with any of their siblings), and a few extra sisters from my days in seminary. I've chosen them and they've chosen me. And, Rick and I have adopted family for our kids. Ruth and Steven have extra aunts and uncles and extra grandparents. Not because we're short on supply, but because we love a lot of people and they love our kids.
Ruth and Naomi have an interesting story, one where they are both family by marriage and then chosen family. They show a love that isn't out of obligation, but instead, out of choice. These women have seen a lot of life together. Naomi and her family went to Moab as refugees in a time of famine in their own country. It was in Moab that they made a way for their family and things seemed to be ok. Until, Elimelech died—leaving Naomi a widow to raise her two boys. Not an easy task today in the US...but especially difficult in ancient cultures in the middle east. She couldn't have worked for herself or by herself and really would have had to rely on the generosity of others for her as a widow. Eventually, though, her boys matured and could have worked to support all of them and then when they married, they both would have cared for her. Things seemed to level out a bit, and then, one by one, both of her boys died too. Leaving Naomi and her two daughters in law—all widowed—all without children—all without anyone to care for them. They all suffered immeasurable grief and loss and uncertainty. The future did not look good. So, Naomi told the women to go home to their families...they'd have help and provision there, and hopefully a chance to remarry so they could have children of their own, so their future would be safe and secure.
Both women said they would stay with her, but she insisted. She couldn't provide for them. There were no uncles or brothers to help. They'd be left as beggars, wholly dependent on others. Orpah saw her logic. She wanted security and hope, so she chose to go home. But Ruth wouldn't budge. She insisted on staying with Naomi. Crocodiles, one-eyed monsters, even stinky faces couldn't keep her away. Or rather, immigrant status, unknown future, and even lack of security. Naomi was her chosen family. They had been through so much together and Ruth refused to give up on their relationship.
It wasn't about blood, or law, or need. It was about loyalty, friendship, and love. They didn't give up on each other, even when they could have. And I think that's sort of what it really means to be true family...not giving up. Sure we have a family...by birth, by adoption, and by marriage. And those relationships may or may not be about loyalty and love where we don't give up on each other. But family can be more than those relationships...it can be the friends who don't give up on us either...the ones who stick with us, the ones who don't insist on good times, or extra blessings, or a predictable future, but the ones who will stay with us no matter what comes.
That family can apply to anyone, regardless of immigration status, hometown, family roots, and even religion. It's not about what we are...blood or water...but who we are together...as supporters, encouragers, helpers, and light-bearers. It's about sticking with one another. And not every relationship can sustain that. Not everyone will bring that out in us, but some will, and they become our chosen family.

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