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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

 

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Kindness: The Ripple Effect

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

July 15, 2018

Ruth – Selected Passages

 

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness… As we think about Fruits of the Spirit this summer, today’s fruit brings us to kindness.

 

Kindness is love lived out in action. Kindness shows itself in thoughtful deeds for others. Kindness shows itself by noticing what others might need and providing it for them, often without their asking. As you show kindness you aren’t doing it to be repaid, but out of the goodness of your heart. Kindness can be costly. It can mean giving of your time or your money for the sake of someone else.

 

As Willie told of his goal to build a training center to help those whose who are trying to recover from the Liberian Civil War, it is a shining example of kindness. Living in a refugee camp, like Willie did, was tough. But since then, Willie has had the good fortune to come to the United States and build a better life for himself. Out of gratitude, he wants to help others who have faced such hardships to have a chance at a better life. So, he is giving of his time and energy to build this training center for refugees. This is not something he is doing for personal gain or reward. In fact, it is costing him of his own time and money. In January he spent his time and money to travel to Liberia to be there for the ground breaking and to personally oversee the start of this center. It is his way of helping to make the world a better place. In so doing, he is living out his faith as he is demonstrating the fruit of kindness.

 

Our scripture for today tells another story of kindness – actually 3 stories of kindness: the kindness of Ruth for Naomi, the kindness of Boaz for Ruth and Naomi, and the kindness of God for all three of them.

 

The story of Ruth starts with real hardship. A famine leads to the death of Ruth’s husband, and his brother and his father. As a result, Ruth, her sister-in-law, Orpha, and her mother-in-law, Naomi, are all widowed. In an era when the man was the bread winner, it left the 3 women with no one to provide for them. They were in a very vulnerable place. Naomi decided to return to her homeland to be with her relatives, and she encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpha did, but Ruth begged to go with Naomi. Her convincing argument has been retold many times over through the ages as an outstanding example of love and devotion: “Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17).

 

As Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem, Ruth immediately went to work gleaning grain in the fields to feed the two of them. Boaz noticed Ruth’s kindness toward her mother-in-law and welcomed her into his fields with kindness. He treated her with respect. He protected her. He saw to it that she had plenty of grain to gather. He took his responsibilities as a kinsman to Naomi seriously. Eventually, he married Ruth, thereby providing a home for Ruth and Naomi.  Boaz felt that Ruth was being kind to him, since he was an older man, and Ruth could have had her pick of younger men, but she chose him. It was kindness all around.

 

God rewarded their kindness with kindness. God blessed them. Ultimately, Ruth and Boaz had a child together who was the grandfather of King David.

 

It is nice to hear about kindness leading to more kindness. There is so much selfishness, cruelty and hardship in the world it is good to be reminded of the ripple effect that kindness has to inspire more kindness.

 

Like the other Fruits of the Spirit we have talked about this summer, kindness is central to the character of God. In the book of Jeremiah, God tells about himself. God explains his own nature and who he is:

 

“This is what the LORD says:

‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom

    or the strong boast of their strength

    or the rich boast of their riches,

but let the one who boasts boast about this:

    that they have the understanding to know me,

that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,

    justice and righteousness on earth,

    for in these I delight,’

declares the LORD.”

(Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)

 

God delights in kindness! If we know God, we know his kindness. Kindness is central to who God is. One of the ways God demonstrates kindness is by giving us everything we need for life now and to eternity.

 

As the apostle, Paul, was describing God to the gentiles he said: “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17 NIV). All that we have comes to us as gifts from God – given in kindness!

 

Since God demonstrates such kindness, God expects kindness from us as well. As God’s people made in God’s image we are also to demonstrate kindness.

     The prophet Micah tells us:

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

    and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:8 NRSV)

 

God requires us live out kindness in our interactions with others. We are to be vessels through which God’s kindness flows to other people.

 

Jesus provides a powerful example of kindness. Jesus had important work to do, and limited time to do it. He just had 3 years on earth to do his ministry. He was a busy guy! But busy as he was, Jesus took the time to be kind to people. When you think about all the healings Jesus did, they always seemed to come as interruptions. He was on his way someplace and people presented him with a need – blindness, leprosy, demon possession, a dying child… the list goes on. There was no shortage of human need. And when that need presented itself, Jesus stopped what he was doing. He took time with the person to understand what they needed. He kindly did what he could to meet their needs, even when it was hard for him.

 

Think about the story of the feeding of the 5000. That happened just after Jesus got the news that his cousin, John the Baptist, has been brutally killed. Following the gruesome news of John’s beheading, Jesus wanted some time away to grieve and to pray and to process what had happened. So, he went off into the wilderness, but the people followed him. A great crowd gathered. Matthew tells us that when he saw the crowd he “had compassion for them” (Matthew 14:14).  So, he preached and taught and healed the sick and at the end of the day he fed them – in body as well as in soul. Jesus’ compassion showed itself in kindness – kindness that came at time that wasn’t convenient, but Jesus put forth the effort to be kind nonetheless. Jesus put other’s needs in front of his own.

 

No place is that more evident than on the cross where Jesus gave his life for our sin. “Greater love as no one but that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Giving his life for our sins is the ultimate show of kindness. While Jesus hung on that cross suffering and dying he also attended to the needs of his mother.  He arranged for the apostle, John, to care for her following his death. Jesus showed compassion and kindness to the very end.

 

We tend to be busy. We have plans, commitments and responsibilities. It seems there could always be a good excuse not to take that extra time to be kind. We don’t always have extra time to stop and notice what people need and respond to it. But that’s what God calls us to do.

 

We may not be able to heal people like Jesus did or raise the dead or feed a crowd of 5000 people. But we can show kindness. We can we make a difference.

 

Sometimes it doesn’t have to take long at all. Kindness can show itself in a smile, a sincere compliment, an encouraging email, a simple thank you. You never know what burdens someone may be carrying. A kind word may be just what they need to lighten their load and not feel so alone.

 

Sometimes kindness calls for more intentional action – making a meal for someone who is sick, or knitting them a prayer shawl, shipping them a care package or sending a card with a hand-written note.

 

Sometimes kindness can be done for a stranger – leaving a generous tip for a server at a restaurant. Giving a backpack of supplies to a child in need or to a homeless person. Walking to raise money for the American Cancer Society as nine of our members did yesterday at Relay for Life. Donating to the food shelf for neighbors nearby, or writing a check to help fund a refugee training center for neighbors half-way around the world.  

 

Sometimes it can be a big commitment – like taking someone into your home, or harvesting their crop when they’re in the hospital, or befriending a child who has a hard home life. But the little kindnesses make a difference too!

 

Kindness takes many forms, but as Christians, we’re called to be kind. So, take the time to look around, to notice the needs of people near and far and do what you can to respond with kindness. And when needs come to you as interruptions, which they inevitably will, look at them as opportunities to do as Jesus did and respond with kindness.

 

As you do, you’ll cultivate a habit of kindness. The more often you take the time to be kind, the more natural it will become. Before you know it, your kindness will inspire kindness in others, which will inspire kindness in others, and like a ripple effect, it will spread. Who knows? Kindness may even come back to you!

 

May God fill you with kindness, and may you share God’s kindness with others. Amen!