Jonah and Reengaging the Mission

Jonah 3:1-10; Matthew 12:38-42

"Jonah Cast Forth By the Whale" by Gustave Dore. From StTakla.org

“Jonah Cast Forth By the Whale” by Gustave Dore. From StTakla.org

We have arrived at the third chapter of the Book of Jonah, and when we last left our dubious hero he had been barfed out on to the beach by the fish—this after his self-justifying prayer in chapter 2 and his flight from God’s presence and his mission in chapter 1. Here Jonah sits on the beach, his skin likely bleached white from the stomach acid in the fish’s belly, seaweed wrapped around his head, smelling like—well, you might imagine what he smelled like. Likely you would have smelled him before you saw him.

But there on the beach, the writer tells us that, “The Lord’s word came to Jonah a second time.” As we learned in the first sermon, you really can’t run away from God’s call and as we discussed last week, neither God nor his creatures can stomach self-righteousness. If you’re going to make an impact as an exile in the prevailing culture, you have to engage and you have to get real about who you are and who God is.

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Jonah and the Need for Real Repentance

Jonah 1:17-2:10; Luke 18:9-14

Jonah barfedSo, let’s catch up on the story of Jonah. Last week we talked about Jonah as an advice tale for people in exile, living in a foreign culture and we learned that Jonah has a lot to say to us about how we Christians should live in a post-Christendom world. We looked at the first of four potential responses to being in exile—the first one being to run away. But we learned that you really can’t run away from God or God’s mission. Sooner or later, we have to go to Nineveh.

When we left Jonah, he was undergoing the involuntary baptism of being thrown in the sea by his shipmates. It’s hard to imagine a more frightening and lonely thing than to be taking your last breaths before going under the water in a raging storm. But at the end of chapter 1 we learn that even there in the chaos of a heavy sea, God provided for Jonah—he “provided a great fish to swallow Jonah” and, amazingly, Jonah lived in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights.

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Jonah and the Perils of Running Away

Jonah 1:1-10; Matthew 28:16-20

17_Weigel_Jonah Overboard Jon 1 PDF Version   Book Title:  Biblia ectypa : Bildnussen auss Heiliger Schrifft Alt und Neuen Testaments  Author: Weigel, Christoph. Image Title: Jonah Overboard Scripture Reference: Jonah 1 Description: During a storm the sailors throw Jonah overboard where he is swallowed by a big fish. Click here for additional images available from this book.

17_Weigel_Jonah Overboard Jon 1

A lot of people have asked what the Kaylors do on vacation. The answer is, not much. Some people go to exotic locales. We usually go to Pittsburgh. The upside of that, however, is that you do have a lot of time to read on the long flight and this year it was particularly long because, to get to Pittsburgh from Denver I had a layover in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (because, you know, that’s the quickest way to get to Pittsburgh). So, I stocked up on some books for the flight and one in particular intrigued me: The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom. It’s by a Canadian seminary prof named Lee Beach.

I picked up this book because I thought the title was appropriate for the times we live in. It’s no secret that our culture has gone through a sea change in the few decades and the influence of the church on the surrounding culture has retreated significantly. Most scholars are announcing the end of Christendom in the West—that period of history beginning in about the fourth century and lasting up until the late twentieth century.

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Getting Out of the Wedding Business

weddingAsk most pastors which they’d rather do—a wedding or a funeral—and most will tell you they’d take the funeral every time. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I like to explain it terms of focus. At a funeral, everyone is focused on their own mortality, so their attentiveness to spiritual things is heightened. There is anxiety, but it is a focused, real, tangible anxiety—an anxiousness to hear a word from the Lord.

Weddings, on the other hand, often have a different kind of anxiety—a disproportionally whacko brand of anxiety. It’s amazing to see what people will be wrapped around the axle about as so much pressure is put into a day full of too many expectations. What is supposed to be a joyous occasion often winds up as a Maalox moment, not only for the wedding party but for the pastor, too.

Every pastor has stories about whacked out weddings and I’ve got more than my share. There was the outdoor wedding I officiated where the fog was so thick that you couldn’t see past the first row of guests (I wound up doing play by play). Or the one where I showed up only to discover that the whole wedding party were dressed in 3 Musketeers outfits, puffing on cigarettes and threatening to start a swashbuckling brawl with their fake swords. Or the one where I walked into the rehearsal to find the mother of the bride and male wedding coordinator (think “Franc” from Father of the Bride) screaming at each other and the bride in convulsive tears. Or the couple who insisted on writing their own wedding vows—she wrote two pages, he wrote three sentences, each of which began with, “I will try…” I quoted the eternal words of Yoda to him: “Do or do not, there is no try.”

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A Family on Mission

Lessons from the Jesus Trail, Part III

Mark 3:31-35

Section of the old Via Maris. The Valley of the Doves and Sea of Galilee are in the distance.

Section of the old Via Maris. The Valley of the Doves and Sea of Galilee are in the distance.

The trail from Nazareth down to the Sea of Galilee winds downward through small villages and gentle valleys dotted with dairy farms and groves of olive and banana trees. We don’t know for sure what route Jesus took when he left his childhood home and went down to Capernaum on the north end of the Sea, but he might have used the Roman road known as the Via Maris (the way to the sea) for at least part of the journey before taking a shortcut through the Valley of the Doves, which cuts below Mount Arbel, one of the tallest peaks of the region.

Though we saw a section of the Via Maris on the second day of the hike, the Jesus Trail doesn’t generally follow the easiest route. In fact, it skirts the Valley of the Doves and goes over Mount Arbel which the founders of the trail no doubt included for its beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee. From the top of the peak you can see virtually all of the area where Jesus conducted most of his ministry over a three year period—a small triangle between the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.

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