“The Power of Kindness” – Sermon June 25

“The Power of Kindness”       

By Rev. Karen Bash

Ruth 2: 1 – 13

The Book of Ruth is one of my favorite books in the Bible and Boaz is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. He was said to be a man of “standing” in the community of Bethlehem. The same word is used of David’s “mighty men” the group of warriors who were loyal, valiant and brave. In addition to those admirable qualities, Boaz was kind. Notice the way he greets his workers, “God be with you!” and their response “God bless you!” Boaz’s kindness extended to shirttail relatives who he did not even know, a relative like Ruth the woman from Moab. Moabites were not generally favored by the people of Bethlehem as they were enemies who fought many battles with Israel. They were Canaanites who worshiped gods foreign and abhorrent to Israel. Yet here was Boaz offering Ruth the right to work in his fields, food, drink, and protection from harassment by the men working alongside her.

Kindness has the power to build families, the power to build congregations, and the power to build community. In chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Ruth, we learn how Boaz eventually married Ruth and had a child whose name was Obed who became the father of Jesse who was the father of King David, who was the ancestor of Jesus.

I have personally been the recipient of many kindnesses — the sort of kindness that builds families. In 1973 I moved from my home town of Denver, Colorado to Houston, Texas. I worked at the Methodist Hospital of the Texas medical Center as secretary in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab. I had been in Houston for 6 or 7 months when I realized something was missing from my life. I knew my co-workers and neighbors all of whom were very nice people but I didn’t know anyone who was living for something beyond themselves and their immediate circumstances. I was interested in social justice and helping others.

Because I had been raised in the church, I knew where to find those kind of people. I started attending Bellaire Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where I met the pastor of the church, Roemer Hudler and his wife Mary and their three daughters. The Hudler family took me in and treated me like one of their own. Along the way I heard stories about a man who had been Roemer’s associate pastor in Greenville, Texas. Mary even suggested that if I ever had the chance, I should “grab him.” This man had been recruited to teach a class in “Transactional Analysis” at the church and I signed up for the class. The first evening that the class met I walked into the church, saw Allan Bash and immediately knew that this was the man I was going to marry! It took me a little while longer to get him to realize that he was going to marry me! Because of the kindness of the Hudler’s and the activities of the congregation, I found a husband.

Allan and I got married and moved along with our life together. We decided that we would like to have a child. We tried on our own, we tried with the help of physicians, but we were unable to conceive. In the meantime, I ended up going to seminary. After graduation we were called to the Altoona, Iowa Christian Church as co-pastors. It was there that I was diagnosed with an early stage cancer which necessitated a hysterectomy. It was the end of our hopes for a child. As preparation for my surgery we sat down and made a list of at least 50 reasons it was fine not have children.

After my surgery I was at home recuperating when the phone rang. It was a friend from Cedar Rapids who told us of an unmarried couple who were having a baby and they wanted to find an adoptive family for this unborn child. Would we be interested? We talked about it ourselves and with our lawyer and decided to go for it. All the paper work was done, but our lawyer advised us not to take the child home immediately. The baby boy was born the week of Thanksgiving and my best friend from seminary took him home for the few days it would take to finish the legalities. The weekend after Thanksgiving the parents changed their minds. We were devastated. As you probably know, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is often the first Sunday of Advent — a time in the church where often is heard the words, “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” I was an emotional mess, but we were also the unknowing recipients of another kindness. One of our colleagues knew of our situation. He was the pastor of a church in a neighboring small town. That Sunday he told his congregation about us and asked for prayers on our behalf.

Sitting in church that day was a woman whose 32 year old daughter, the single mom of a two year old child was terminally ill with breast cancer. Her daughter, Judy, died in February. Months later, knowing she was incapable of raising her grandson, she asked her minister about “that couple he had mentioned back in December”. She wanted to meet us.  We met Helen and her grandson, and that is how we came to adopt our son, Keenan. It was the church and the kindness of that pastor and Keenan’s grandmother that gave us our first child.

Years passed and the three of us moved to Rock Port, Missouri in the far northwest corner of that state. I became the pastor of the Shenandoah, Iowa Christian Church, 30 miles north of Rock Port. One day, Lois, a saint of that congregation came into the church office to show me information about her niece and husband who had just returned from China where they adopted a five year old girl. There was a picture of a beautiful little girl whom they had named Karen. That got my attention, as did the letter they wrote about their trip to China and the orphanage Karen had lived in. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I made copies of everything Lois had shown me and took them home with me that evening.

I explained to Allan and Keenan that I had an interesting day at work and explained to them about this little girl who had been adopted from China. Keenan wanted to know why there were kids in orphanages. I tried to explain China’s “one child policy” but he wasn’t interested in the details. He said “Let’s just send for one!” (Allan rolled his eyes.) a couple of weeks later I burst into the kitchen where Allan was working on the computer and I said, “This is so stupid — we can’t stop thinking about little girls in China and we are too old and too poor to do anything about it.” Allan responded,, “Well, we won’t know if we don’t try.”

I immediately called the adoption agency and asked if they had a policy about parent’s ages. “How old are you Mrs. Bash?” I explained that I was 48 and Allan was 51. “Oh, no problem she said.” I wondered if I should tell her that we didn’t have any money, either! She sent us the paperwork and we were off on a process that took two years. Along the way we prayed, “If this is really your plan for us God, make it happen.” We eventually found a credit union that loaned us the money we needed and we got matched with baby who became our daughter, Kerrie. Before we went to China to get her, Allan’s church held a Vacation Bible School who helped raise money for our trip. My congregation gave us a baby shower complete with a money tree. It was the kindness of Lois and the kindness of our congregations that made our adoption possible.

Kindness builds families, but it also build congregations. There is a couple who are now an active and vital part of our ministry in this church. They first found COGS on line and then visited one Sunday morning. After the service that day they were invited to lunch by two of member couples. Because of the kindness of these 4 people, we are now a stronger congregation.

People talk about “random acts of kindness” but while random is fine, kindness should be a Christian lifestyle. In our scripture story we learn of Ruth’s kindness to Naomi and Boaz’s kindness to Ruth. There is a blueprint of how we should live our lives in faith!