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Relating to Jonah's reluctance
For a body like ours that is serious about the incarnation of Jesus, we love Advent. Not just because we love the tradition, but because we are ready to reveal Jesus again to the world. Jesus is alive and well among us—He is here and ready to be known. But we are the vessels that hold him. Rather than just thinking that Mary, the bearer of God, holds Jesus in her womb, I want us to all think that we hold Jesus in with us. You are pregnant with Christ, and you bear Him as much as Mary did. He won’t pass through your birth canal, necessarily—and some of you don’t even have those—but you do reveal Him to the world as tangibly as Mary did.
The 100 percent human nature of Jesus and his 100 percent divinity is a complex idea. We are created in God’s image—so we can find God radiating from us. But you can also see us radiating from God. All of things we experience—both joyous and sorrowful—the Lord of All also felt.
And so this year, as we venture through the four Sundays of Advent, let us worship and experience the birth of Jesus in the vein. Seeing Him in us, and seeing us in Him.
Let’s start with the prophets. We'll visit three of them this week. Our goal is to find their humanity and relate to it. And then it’s to find their holiness and relate to that. We’re finding their humanity that’s in them, and the Jesus that’s in them.
The first one is Jonah. You may have heard his story before.
The first chapter starts with the Lord telling Jonah to go to Ninevah—which is one of the biggest cities in the world. The scripture says it is three days journey in breadth. The Lord wanted Jonah to go to Ninevah to warn its residents of its coming destruction. He essentially sends Jonah as a missionary to the town and Jonah resists.
Jonah is reluctant.
He’s worried or concerned that what God calls him to won’t work. I think you can relate to his reticence, just like Jesus can. You can sense your own reluctance in your life. Reluctance to follow God. You might be worried that follow God might lead you to relationships that will disappoint you. Or places you don’t want to serve. Or to have conversations you don’t want to have. Or to self-sacrifice in a way that you are resisting.
God can relate to Jonah’s reticence, to his fear, and He is gracious with him.
Jonah gets a ride to Tarshish with a bunch of sailors and of course the Lord disrupts it. A storm erupts, and the sailors are frightened by this. They cast lots to decide who to blame—it ends up being Jonah and they learn more about him, they learn that he is a follower of God, and they assume he is fleeing God’s will.
Jonah prays and offers himself as a sacrifice. He tells them if they throw him overboard, the sea around them will be calmed. Jonah prays for the men that he’s endangered and asks God to liberate them.
The Lord does and in some ways “saves” Jonah too by having him swallowed up by a great fish. Our Lord is a persistent one, and gracious.
Jonah is a lover too. Even though he was quick to serve himself when their wasn’t actually people he was relating to involved, once he realized that his actions were self-serving, he quickly denied himself to save his new friends.
God honors his self-denial, by giving him a great fish that saves him from the near certain death of the ocean.
And of course, the story goes on. The great fish, which was a refuge for Jonah in his distress, vomits him up when his attitude changes.
He goes to visit Ninevah and declares that the Lord will destroy them if they don’t repent. Jonah’s serious about it mainly because the exact same thing just happened to him. They fast and repent, from all classes, and the Lord spares them.