Sermon for January 21, 2018 3rd After Epiphany
This was Jonah’s second trip in so many days to Nineveh and Jonah was as convinced this time as last that these people did not or would not hear or heed the word of God. As Jonah mumbled along the roads and crescents, the strangest thing started to happen. The word proclaimed by Jonah became clear. Perhaps it was the perceived persistence of Jonah or that God does have the capacity to open ears and hearts to hear and receive we may never know. To Jonah’s surprise the people heard, they joined him in the streets, they changed their ways and Jonah, yes Jonah was changed as well.
It is always interesting to me how the same collection of words can be understood in so many ways. How the same literature can move some to tears and disgust others. Perhaps that is why communication is always our biggest challenge. In the Gospel, Mark accounts for us the call of the first disciples. Why is it that the call of Jesus was so motivating for Simon and Andrew that they left home and followed Jesus? Why is it that the call of Jesus did not resonate with Zebedee and the hired helpers and yet was so powerful to James and John?
I think the answer is quite simple. Then as now, we cannot all be and do the same thing. We cannot all be teachers or lawyers, nurses or doctors, mayors or police. We each hear the call to be something, someone different. Not everyone needed to be a disciple and Jesus knew that. So this ragtag group of folks were essential to the Good News being proclaimed, they were the ones who gathered folks from the towns and villages to hear Jesus. They, along with many others, looked after the needs of Jesus and sustained him along the way.
It is also, why Zebedee and so many others stayed behind. They heard the call differently and chose to live out that call right where they are.
As I step back and view the story of Jonah and the call of disciples, it becomes clear to me that we are strategically placed right where we are with the right skills, the right temperament, and the right attitude to accomplish the work of Jesus. Not any one is more important for it takes us all. That is both exciting and scary at the same time.
Jonah did not think Nineveh deserved to hear the word of God, God thought different. We may wonder why that person is here, God does not, for we are all essential for the work and witness in our day. Anne Lamont from Mindful Christianity says: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do”. With all ranting these days about who is allowed in and who is not, who is worthy and who is not; it behooves us to stop, step back, be silent…and wait on the word of God. Each person that comes before us carries a huge sign that says: I am God’s. It is not our task to argue with God but to be followers of God. To live out the ancient and new mission of feeding, housing, tending to, welcoming, visiting, and then we will be participants in and witness the acceptable year of God.