Today’s readings include Jonah chapter 3, Psalm 51 and Luke 11:29-32. As we looked at
Psalm 51 last Wednesday and Luke 11:29-32 refers to the sign of Jonah, let’s look at Jonah.
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne,
removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
One of the things I occasionally wonder is, ‘What do people actually do with what I say?’ By
that I mean, do they hear and obey what I think God is saying? Or do they think, ‘That’s nice,
thoughtful, or even helpful?’ Or even on rare occasions, ‘I’d never realised that,’ or, ‘I hadn’t
thought it applied to me,’ and, ‘I had forgotten that…’ A preacher’s life can be perilously
uncertain. However well crafted our words, once they leave our mouths, it is up to the
listener to hear..
The reason I mention this is that few people must have felt this more than Jonah. He is sent
to a faraway and hostile place. If he isn’t frightened, he is not that fond of the people and
was even disappointed with the outcome. But he did deliver the message. A lone voice. You
may be a lone voice, and it might feel inadequate, but be encouraged, for God’s voice
comes quietly to the listener and can open the heart.
Jonah Chapter 3 pays far more attention to the response than the message.. Though
Jonah’s message is likely to have been longer than presented here, the Hebrew uses just
five words, putting the emphasis on the response. Which definitely makes an impression.
We simply see four things which mark his repentance.
- He arose from his throne – giving up his right to rule.
- He removed his robe, giving up the finery of self aggrandizement.
- He covered himself with sackcloth, rejecting earthly comfort and pleasure.
- He sat in ashes, expressing his grief over his sin.
Clearly the king took God at his word. When the message God gave Jonah to give to
Nineveh was received, he can’t have known what to do with himself….
So I wonder if reading God’s words, what happens when I read something striking home,
that reminds us of our need to change. The reality is that God’s word brings light and mercy
into darkness and deviance, [Powlison]. The chaos of our sinful selves will be well exposed
and explained to us when we meet the Lord, but let’s not put off change until then, let’s allow
God’s word to change us now.
If Lent is a time of reflection, then which thrones do I need to give up? What self promotion
fools me into thinking that I am more than a mere person? What sorrows can I give to God?
Which griefs can he turn to joy?
Reading prayerfully, quietly and honestly, we can learn to accept that God loves us enough
to change us, rather than destroy us. Perhaps it is time to revisit Psalm 51 after all….
Be still, take time to remind yourself that he is God and that he loves you. Give thanks that
Jesus came to rescue you and not to condemn you. And pray. Pray honestly, pray about
your need, pray in light of God’s character, pray to build that relationship.
Perhaps you could start like this…..
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
A prayer for a global pandemic
‘Love…bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.’
(1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
strengthen our innermost being
with your love that bears all things
even the weight of this global pandemic
even the long haul of watching for symptoms
of patiently waiting for this to pass
watching and waiting,
keeping our gaze fixed on you,
and looking out for our neighbours
near and far.
Instil in our shaken souls
the belief and hope that all things
are possible with your creative love
for strangers to become friends
for science to source solutions
for resources to be generously shared
so everyone, everywhere, may have what they need
for your perfect love that knows no borders
may cast out any fear and selfishness that divides.
May your love that never ends
be our comfort, strength and guide
for the wellbeing of all and
the glory of God.
From Christian Aid
Tomorrow’s readings – Isa 55:6-9, Ps 138 & Matt 7:7-12