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Where You Go I Will Go (Ruth Koenig Memorial)

Oct 15, 2016

Passage: Ruth 1:16-17

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Other


The Text: “16But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’” This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And may our Heavenly Father pour out an extra measure of the Holy Spirit’s comfort and peace in Christ upon you, Kristen (and all of your family), and upon you Jefrey (and all of your family), and to all of Ruth’s loved ones in the Lord – who grieve, but not as those who have no hope – but as those who have the glorious promise of the resurrection in Jesus. Amen.

Our sister in the Lord that we knew and loved, Ruth Marie Koenig, framed the words from the Ruth of Holy Scripture. Ruth quoted Ruth in her life. As our Ruth traveled from place to place with her dear husband, Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod Pastor Wayne Koenig, this Scripture served as a fitting descriptor of their life together. To be led by the Holy Spirit for life in these words represents a plea against separation – Ruth loved Wayne; they were husband and wife for 54 years – and the words from Ruth 1 are also a promise of family loyalty (which Kristen and Jefrey can attest to), and finally these words from Ruth are a confession of faith. Our Ruth loved these words that also described her heart. They were once again:

  1. A Plea against separation.
  2. A Promise of family loyalty.
  3. And a Confession of faith. (see TLSB, p. 425)

Our Ruth Marie knew the plea against separation, but not only in relation to her dear Wayne, but in respect to all those she loved, and in respect to the family of God – the Holy Church – and most importantly in respect to the Lord Jesus Christ. The week before Ruth fell asleep in Christ, she was already getting very tired, but she sat on her sofa (the perfect hostess), having a wonderful conversation with one of her pastors. She wanted to talk the Holy Scriptures. She wanted to try to reconcile the tension in her soul: She loved her family, was absolutely devoted to her children and grandchildren (far more concerned about all of you after her departure than she was about her departure); loved to travel to see her sisters.

That is, she knew the plea to never be separated. I still have the image in my mind’s eye of Ruth reporting with great love for you Jefrey about her talks with you, her faithful son; and the image of you Kristen her loving daughter by her side in bed comforting her with your love on the day she went to heaven. She knew the plea against separation. She quite simply never wanted to leave her family. Wayne knew her devotion and it must have made him joyful and strong; you all knew it, and it filled your hearts with love and thanksgiving for her.

But that tension I mentioned was there because while she never wanted to be separated from us here, she also knew that to live here was Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21a). That is, she was very eager to always be with the Lord. Her faith in Christ was radiant. The Lord did that. She was filled with the Word of Christ and just two days before her falling asleep she received the Holy Sacrament with great joy. Jesus was really with her! The Sacrament guaranteed it! Her plea against separation was more than anything to remain in Christ. She took so much comfort in the promises of the Lord. “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).” “I give them eternal life [said Jesus], and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28).”

But the tension is very understandable and represents our limitations. We want to go to heaven and we want to stay here. The tension is greatly solved with the rest of God’s Word in Ruth 1. The words are also about family loyalty. The family is always family. Being built upon the rock, the Church’s One Foundation Jesus Christ Her Lord, means that we are also made to be the body of Christ, a living temple, the very people of God. This family cannot dissipate. This family cannot be destroyed. That is beyond our senses here on earth, this family remains. Ruth’s prayer – referring to both Ruth’s – is a prayer that includes family loyalty.

Ruth was convinced about the eternal unity depicted in the Church’s prayer in the Divine Service as the Church prays with “angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.” When is the Church separated and divided? Never! She never lost Wayne, and we have not lost her. Family loyalty is forged in Jesus Christ. He has made us His family by His blood…we are blood family…all covered by His blood, filled with His life, forgiven brothers and sisters in Christ who pray “Our Father” and who confess “our” Lord Jesus Christ. She knew of this loyalty, because Jesus was always loyal to her. In Holy Communion, this family loyalty continues. As you continue to receive the body and blood of Jesus, you continue a family reunion, because to receive Christ is to remain in His body and His body is here and in glory. Thus, all the saints in heaven and on earth are one in Christ!

In Christ, we continue to be the family of God. It is Christ’s loyalty that makes it so. This Ruth knew. She looked forward to seeing Wayne in glory. She looks forward to seeing us if we remain faithful. Thank God Jesus has promised to remain faithful to us. We are His loyal blood family – that will be kept in faith -- through His loyalty and faithfulness to us! What drove Him to the cross to pay for our sins; is what drives Him today to intercede for us and to keep us in His Word. We remain His family; we remain with Him and so we remain with Ruth.

Which leads us to the confession of faith: the basis for all of this is that your God is THE God, the Only Wise God, Ruth’s God, the God of the Church, the God who sent Jesus, the Creator of heaven and the earth and the Creator of your faith in Christ! I was astounded by Ruth. She was extraordinarily gifted. A counselor, a musician, faithful in vocation as wife, as mother, as grandmother, as daughter, as sister, as friend, as disciple of Jesus Christ. And she knew from whence these gifts came: from God, especially the gift of her faith in Christ.

This is our true comfort as we miss Ruth and this is why we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1st Thessalonians 4:13). What keeps us from separation? What keeps us as the family of God, those who truly experience eternal loyalty? It is that God is our God. Ruth’s God, your God, THE God, the ONLY God. We pray to Him crying, “Abba, Father,” and we know Him and bow as Thomas did saying to Jesus: “my Lord and my God (John 20:28).” And we are kept in the true faith by our Creator of Faith God, the Holy Spirit. The One God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – was and is Ruth’s God and is your God. This is why we will always be together as the family of God.

As the family of God we are just passing through. We are getting closer to the great resurrection which means we will be giving Ruth a big hug very soon and she right back to us. Her heart’s desire has been kept secure: no separation, a loyal family, and the confession of faith; the confession of what is true and the source of our joy. Our God, our Savior, our Lord, our life, our resurrection, our sure and certain hope…so that we can say that we will never separate, we will always be together, and we will always confess the saving faith!