What a joy it is to connect with one another in this very moment in our story of grace.
I have always steered clear from digging deeper into the story of Jonah. I stumble over the question "did a large fish really snarf up Jonah as he lived inside it for days?" Our lectionary, the passages from the Bible selected for us to hear this week, invites us to read from none other than the Hebrew story of Jonah. It is exactly the story we need to wrestle with today. The Book of Jonah is about looking inside ourselves and our neighbors at the definition of what it means to have a national image and/or set of values. It calls us to discern what it means to be Christians in a time such as this.
Christian theologian, Dr. David Lose (an ELCA pastor), invites us to acknowledge our national crisis as step one. Then we boldly take on the hard work to have confidence that there are solutions to every crisis but that each of us are to personally commit to and respond (not react) with compassion and kindness. I would go a step farther and connect the dots with Jonah to our moment right now. I believe God is calling us, not because we want to take on the hard work of transformation, but because the mission of God invites as well as demands each to join in a God-size message of hope. We are transformed inside so that together, we have the strength to profess to the world that all of creation is loved and forgiven, now and for all times.
During the recent inauguration of our president, I was inspired to hear what I believe is at the core of our understanding of our relationship with God and with one another. Speakers invited each of us to listen to one another’s personal stories as well share our own with a sense of humility and mutuality. It is in the listening, learning, and growing that we are transformed as individuals and transformed as a nation, just like Jonah and the people of Nineveh.
God knew Jonah’s story and God knew the story of the people of Nineveh. God encouraged and nudged Jonah to pause and acknowledge his fear and heartache in both the story of the fish and in the story of the tree. Jonah’s story is God’s story of grace for all people.
What is on your mind, in your story, or part of the here and now that makes you want to run or hide, strike back, or give up? What is stirring your heart to be closer to God and closer to others? Jonah didn’t want to be transformed inside nor did he want to share that message with others. God saw that Jonah was exactly the person who not only could be transformed but would stand up and step into God’s story of grace for all of God’s people.
It begins with the gift in the here and now that you and I confess that we have turned our back away from God. "We have sinned by thought, word, and deed by what we have done and what we have left undone. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves" (ELW Confession, page 95 ). God responds with a forever grace - you are forgiven.
What has you distracted, overwhelmed, or simply stuck and can’t move forward?
God invited Jonah to pray. God invited the people of Nineveh to pray. To spend time with God in the quiet is an opportunity to open our hearts to prayer and reflection. We listen and are still so that we can respond and be God’s hands, feet, and voice to a broken world.
This is indeed the days that the Lord has made. How will you and I live, rejoice, and do the challenge work to speak justice and compassion, to act with mercy for all people throughout the hours of each day of life?
Overwhelmed? Or are you and I, the church, our homes, our communities, or are nation on the edge of inspiration because we are ready? I invite you to begin with prayer. I invite you to step up and step into worship. I invite us to imagine, create, grow, and serve one another with God-size acts of love.
Oh, Lord, we are humbly ready for your holy nudge to engage, encourage, and grow as we love, live, and share Christ in this day and the next. Amen
Blessings to you all,