We've just started a series at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church focusing on the “Call” to discipleship. Last week our focus was Samuel and we had a message titled “The Call and the Tingling.” This coming Sunday we'll be taking a look at the prophet Jonah.
From Sunday School days we probably recall Jonah as the one who was swallowed by the whale because he didn't want to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. And who can blame him? They didn't have the best reputation when it came to relationships with the people of Israel.
Sharing the gospel message has never been an easy task. The gospel really does challenge us to dig deep into our hearts and consider what really matters in life. People really don't want to learn that the things they are building their whole lives on might not be such great things after all.
We are very comfortable with our assumptions and misapprehensions. And like Jonah, we really don't want to have to be the ones who point out to people where their lives may be going wrong. Well... maybe only behind closed doors, but certainly not face to face with those we fear or disagree with.
The story of Jonah is a challenge to our complacency and ability to put others down without taking any actions that might help them move to a better place in their lives. Like Jonah, we may prefer that God simply dealt with them so we didn't have to be concerned about them any more.
If you recall the story, when Jonah does reluctantly go and tell them about God being about to judge them, the Ninevites turn their lives around. Is Jonah pleased? No. Not in the least. On the contrary he sits beneath a tree on the outside of town and sulks because God didn't go through with judging them after all!
The thing about grace is that it is very unfair and indiscriminate. How dare God forgive people when we believe they deserve judgment? Here we are, doing our best to live decent and responsible lives, and they get to receive the love of God just as much as we do. Lord have mercy!
Maybe that's our problem. Our God is a merciful God. Our God calls all people, of all nations, of all faiths, of all kinds, to be known as God's children. He welcomes every lost sheep and returning prodigal with open arms of welcome and acceptance.
And the challenge for us is that, part of our calling as disciples, is to let others know they are welcome. Even if we find the concept of grace difficult, personally inconvenient and downright scandalous, our commission is to go into all the world and create opportunities for discipleship.
Hopefully it won't take for us to be swallowed by a big fish before we embrace our calling! For some music... Chris Tomlin sings “I Will Follow.”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.