Archive for the 'Family' Category

Ruth: The Rest of the Story

Ruth: The Rest of the Story Sermon Audio Here

Ruth 4:9-12

Ever wonder what the point is of the “Biblical Begats”? What do all those lists of ancestors teach us? The main lesson I see in them is that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things… and there’s always a story behind what God is doing in those lives.

Scriptural Story Shapes Us

As We Share With Our Community ~ Ruth 4:1-12

  • 1-8 Boaz negotiates on Ruth’s behalf; he is granted right of redemption for Ruth
  • 9-10 Boaz shares his commitment with the community
  • 11-12 Community blesses Boaz for his commitment
    • SO WHAT? Untold Stories don’t change anyone; there is power in shared story to change lives

As We Carry Out Our Commitment ~ Ruth 4:13-22

  • 13-16 God blesses the family; Naomi is provided for
  • 17-22 commitment has long term consequences: Boaz becomes great-grandfather of King David
    • SO WHAT? Undone Commitment is merely intention; intention alone doesn’t change anything; we must choose (again and again) to put our commitments into action

Luke 1:67-75: reference that Jesus was the answer to the promise for the House of David – which came through Ruth. Jesus is the Point of the Story of God, the reason which gives meaning to our lives. God committed Jesus for our sake; we respond to His call for God’s glory.

Ruth: Sudden Redemption

Ruth: Sudden Redemption Sermon Audio Here

Ruth 3:7-13

Have you ever found yourself In over your head, with no idea how you’re going to get help? Ruth did, and shows us a great example of what we can do…

How Can God’s People Navigate Their Need?

Ruth Takes a Risk ~ Ruth 3:1-8

  • v1-6 summary: Naomi knows Boaz is extended family; he might be persuaded to care for Ruth
  • v7 teaching: uncovered his feet (legs);
  • Ruth puts herself in a situation to demonstrate her need
  • v8 he wakes up; legs are cold? Boaz responds to situation

Ruth Dares to Request ~ Ruth 3:9-11

  • v9 “your servant” (‘AMAH’, Jewish, instead of ‘foreigner’ 2:10);
  • ~ “spread your garment” (in 2:12 for God’s refuge);
  • ~ “kinsman-redeemer” (re: transfer of LAND, to keep in family)
  • Ruth boldly asks to be protected and cared for
  • v10/11 Boaz sees her request to be “covered” as a kindness;
  • she’s asking on behalf of Naomi as well as herself;
    Ruth’s request reflects her unselfish motives

Boaz Bargains for Ruth’s Benefit ~ Ruth 3:12-13

  • v12 Boaz knows there’s someone with a closer claim on Naomi’s husband’s land; Boaz doesn’t take advantage
  • v13 I’ll make sure you’re covered, one way or another; Boaz promises Ruth she’ll be cared for

SO WHAT? When we find ourselves in difficulty, what can we do? Like Ruth, we can take a risk by showing we’re in need. Like Ruth, we can dare to ask for help instead of trying to go it alone. And when faced with a needy situation, like Boaz, we can step up and work to find solutions… and sometimes, we ARE the solution ourselves.

Ruth: Rewarded in Refuge

Ruth: Rewarded in Refuge ~ no Sermon Audio available

Ruth 2:8-16

How is Ruth rewarded in the midst of dire circumstances? Through the actions of a kinsman-redeemer, she is supported and sustained. Learning how Ruth receives these rewards can help us be better receivers ourselves.

To Receive from a Redeemer,

Recognize His Right To Support – Ruth 2:8-11

  • summary of 1-7: introduction of Boaz, relative of Naomi’s husband – “a man of standing”
  • v8 Boaz offers protection
  • v9 Boaz offers provision
  • v10/11 When Ruth asks why, Boaz offers understanding

Believe in His Ability To Bless – Ruth 2:12-16

  • v12 Boaz offers blessing (“May the Lord…” )
  • v13 Boaz offers comfort
  • v14 Boaz offers sustenance
  • v15/16 Boaz offers a covering (for her inexperience)

The challenge when reading narrative is to assume that God is bound to do the same things for us that He has done for others in the text. Our goal: not to focus on our circumstances, which always change; rather,to focus on God’s faithfulness, which does not change.

Think of what Jesus, our Redeemer has done for us: He protects us from a lost eternity; He provides everything we need for spiritual growth; He understands our weakness and doesn’t hold it against us; He blesses us with His Word; He comforts us with the Holy Spirit; He sustains us by His loving will; and He covers us with His own blood to mark us as His own.

Where The Roses Never Fade – Marion Laib funeral sermon

For those of you who don’t live in Warden, our church’s choir director and organist, Marion Laib, passed away last week, and today was her funeral.

Writing her funeral sermon was one of the more challenging tasks I’ve done in pastoral ministry; Jami reminded me that from here on out, it will only get tougher because I love these people so much.

I’m posting this sermon/meditation because some might have missed being able to attend… or some might want to read it… or some musicians might appreciate the merger of hymn and remembrance. At any rate, here’s Marion’s funeral meditation: Where The Roses Never Fade.

One of the greatest honors I have as a pastor is to remind people just how close Jesus is at times of crisis. As we move through this life, we experience heartaches and struggle, frustrations and pain; this is a part of the human condition. And in the midst of it all, God is present. We may not always see Him at work, focused as we often become on our own matters and concerns. Yet, God is right there, right beside us, as close as our own heartbeat, steadily calling for us to hear His whispered voice. This is the promise of faith – that we are never left alone; that we can always hear the call of God.

Many of us hear that call from the Lord through the means of music. It has been shown that music lights up our minds, causes us to be more alive, more aware of the nature of reality than when we ignore melody and harmony. Marion was one of these souls for whom music spoke in a powerful way; and she shared what she learned with others. She had a special fondness for the hymn “Where The Roses Never Fade”. Marion’s life reflected the values in this song; it’s no wonder it was so powerful to her.

Marion Laib merged her life and her faith. She had set her heart on receiving the promise of God, that she would be “going to a city Where the streets with gold are laid; Where the tree of life is blooming And the roses never fade.” She lived her life in such a way that her eventual destination shaped how she lived day to day. The music with which she filled her life also impacted the lives of many others; she played the organ and directed the choir in this congregation for many years. She poured music into the lives of children (and adults who sometimes acted like children) and they were made better for it.

Let us face an unpleasant truth: this world, and the things in it, wind down. Nothing on this physical realm lasts forever; we understand that there is a season to every activity under heaven. The Bible reminds us that there is a time to live, and a time to die; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. All we need do is look around and we can see the truth of this: the flowers that bloomed so beautifully last week are already fading, and yet farmers are out in their fields, planting and preparing for the harvest. Marion’s hymn reminds us that what we value so much in this life “blooms but for a season, and Soon their beauty is decayed; I am going to a city Where the roses never fade.”

What a stunning promise of faith: that we will leave behind the old, and inherit the new. We will leave behind the decay, and enter into the realm where Death itself is no more. We will be free: from the difficulties of sin, from the injustices that are often experienced, from the fear of the unknown. For those who have trusted God, as Marion had, will move from death to life, from woe to wonder. We understand now that “In this world we have our troubles, and Satan’s snares we must evade” as the hymn says. That requires a recognition that we aren’t guaranteed a perfect life down here; we all just do the best we can with what we experience. But as we lean on Jesus, and step into His wonderful embrace, “We’ll be free from all temptations Where the roses never fade.”

If Marion could speak to you right now, I’m sure she’d tell you how wonderful Heaven is. She might describe what it looks like to her; the Bible uses terms like “streets of gold” or “jeweled foundations” or “gates of pearl”. But the point of Heaven isn’t eternal fancy accommodations, or how amazing everything looks. The point of Heaven, indeed the point of all of existence… is Jesus. The reason we rejoice when one of our loved ones steps into eternity is because they get to finally see Jesus face to face. They receive the promise that they’ve hoped for all their life long. This is true for Marion: she no longer has faith; she no longer has doubts or concerns. The Bible says that she no longer peers through a dim glass, but instead sees the Lord face to face; now she knows, even as she is fully known.

And this promise is extended to all who will trust Christ for their salvation. The last line of the hymn reminds us that “Loved ones gone to be with Jesus, In their robes of white arrayed, Now are waiting for my coming Where the roses never fade.”

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [like Marion, and Royal and Elsa, and Pastor Lindsay, and so many others], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Gospel Challenge ~ Get Your House In Order

The Gospel Challenge ~ Get Your House In Order Sermon Audio Here


Mark 3:20-35

There is a Greek word often associated with the Gospel: kergyma – it means “to proclaim”. It has come to stand for the core or the foundation of the Gospel. This sermon begins a new series looking at the core components of the Gospel, as Jesus demonstrated in the book of Mark.

Jesus teaches the Danger and the Demand of the Gospel

The Danger: Misunderstanding of Mission
Mark 3:20-27

  • v20/21 confusion of family
  • v22/23 answer your critics
  • v24/26 look for illogic
  • v27 remind about the mission

The Demand: Membership in the Mission
Mark 3:28-35

  • v28/30 blasphemy=denial of God
  • v31/33 fitness for faith family
  • v34/35 calling eclipses connection

The Cost of the Call is Jesus First, Christ in Command. He is LORD; we don’t get to dictate terms; that’s HIS job.

Taking the opportunity to teach

imageToday is my sister Janet’s birthday. She died a couple years ago, and has joined others in our family who have shuffled off their mortal coil: Mom, Dad, all my grandparents, my father-in-law, my nephew Norman, and I could go on.

indeed, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? To go on; to continue to live life as best you can, knowing that such important people are no longer a part of your living existence.

What brought on this moment of reflection, you ask? A blog post about a Korean cabbage dish called kimchi. You see, a wonderful nam from my congregation asked if I’d like some shredded cabbage – he and his wife are trying their hand at making sauerkraut, and they had some cabbage left over.

As a pastor, I have a personal rule to say “yes” if anyone offers to give my family food. God provides… often more than I could ask or think… because let me tell you, I would never have imagined THIS much cabbage. My friend gave us… oh, I’d guess between 5 and 7 GALLONS of shredded cabbage. A kitchen garbage sack, about half full!

I am *very grateful* for this kind of provision! and blessedly, it happens fairly frequently. But this bounty has gone beyond my knowledge of how to process this volume of cabbage… so I’ve been hunting for recipes and ideas. I’ve already put up 3 quarts of what it hope will turn into sauerkraut (we’ll see), and I’m going to set aside a bunch for tonight’s stir fry dinner. I still have about 2/5ths of a bag left, so I thought of kimchi.

At the end of this blog I’d found was a statement that made me feel as if I’d been punched in the gut: “No matter how many years I’ve been cooking, she still never misses a teachable moment. But, I know I am very blessed that she’s still around to do that.” 

So, let me take this opportunity to say: pour into the lives of those around you. Love them with your heart, of course, but also with your history, your experience, your wisdom, your favorite jokes or treasured memories. Take every opportunity to teach those around you -because as you do, you leave a piece of your heart and mind with them… And you get some of theirs back as well.

NACCC – more like a potluck than a denomination

Celebrate NACCC Omaha banner As I write this, Jami and I have just returned from the 60th Annual Meeting of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. Doesn’t that long name sound like a mouthful? What I found most interesting out of the entire meeting is not the content of the business meetings, but the fellowship.A few weeks ago, I was trying to describe what our National Association was like. It’s technically a denomination (we have a home office in Oak Creek, Wisconsin), but we don’t act like a denomination. We don’t have a college – we ask ministers to take classes in Congregational history and polity.

We don’t have a retirement plan for our ministers – ministers are invited to enroll in the American Baptist retirement fund, the MMBB.

We don’t have our own missionaries – we find others who are doing God’s work, and support them there. We’re a lot more like a National Potluck than a denomination.

And here’s the thing: potlucks only work if everyone contributes. Have you ever been to a potluck where no one brought anything to eat, and maybe just a few cans of soda? I have (ahem, 25 years of youth ministry), and it’s a dismal sight… especially for those who were planning on actually eating something of substance. But if no one is willing to contribute, then the potluck looks pretty bare.

I am so thankful to you all for allowing Jami and I to contribute to the National Association; it definitely recharges my spiritual batteries to hear excellent Bible teaching, to learn about Congregational history, to spend time encouraging others and being encouraged from all over the country. Please look forward with me to the next Pacific Northwest meeting which will be in Anchorage, Alaska from April 30-May 2, 2015 (we’re planning on having some kind of electronic two-way video connection like we did with Ingle Chapel), and for the 61st Annual Meeting of the National Association in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jami and I are planning on driving down, and we’d love to have a convoy!

One of our strengths is that we do not all believe exactly the same thing; there is variety in the NACCC… just like a good potluck should have. As the Word says, in Hebrews 13:16: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Keep Following Jesus,
Pastor Ed


Pastor Ed Backell

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