Sunday 21st January

Recall the story of Jonah then read Jonah 3: 1 – 5, 10 (or the whole story – it’s not very long!)

Jonah Speaks

You just wouldn’t credit it! You couldn’t make it up! Nineveh, that good for nothing city, with its wicked ways! Honestly, what was the Lord thinking?

What on earth has ‘the Lord’, our God, got to do with them anyway? The Lord is our God! Not theirs, they are our enemy. Let their god sort them out. Find one of their own to do the donkey work.

They have different gods, and their ways aren’t like ours at all. They are very strange sinful people.

And anyway Lord’, I thought ‘why send me to tell them that you are going to give them what for, on account of their wickedness. It’s got nothing to do with me Lord’ I said, ‘sorry and all that but no!’ And I ran away, as far away as I could get, to make sure that the Lord got the message, wouldn’t find me and stopped bothering me.  I thought maybe the Lord wouldn’t notice for a while that I’d gone and would just ask someone else instead. Plenty of people better able to sort out a dodgy city than me.

Well! What did I know? It seems the Lord doesn’t stay in one place after all. He followed me. Caused chaos out at sea! Pandemonium in the boat. And someone had to be to blame for the great storm, someone must have angered their god. So I got the blame for disobeying my God, and they chucked me overboard. Told me they were sorry and all that, but my presence was trouble and I had to go.

I saw my life flash before me as I sank into the sea. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Well, at least the waves soon calmed down with sacrificial me done away with I suppose.

But then, as if being thrown into the sea wasn’t bad enough, along came an enormous fish, and swallowed me up, whole. I saw my life flash before me again. I really thought I was going to die, so my goodness how I prayed! An impressive prayer, even if I say so myself – a bit like a Psalm, I think.

Anyway, at death’s door, I found myself washed up on the beach. Seems the Lord had decided to give me a second chance – to do what he’d asked me to do.

Houray!!!  Well, I hardly think so, I really wasn’t relishing doing what the Lord asked of me at all.

Talk about ‘out of the whale’s belly and into the Lion’s den!’ I felt as vulnerable as a leaf in a whirlwind utterly unstable and unsafe. Terrified I was, in this strange, hazardous place with its dodgy people. People who were nothing to do with and nothing like us Hebrews and our right thinking and God-fearing ways at all.

But for some strange reason the Lord wanted me to walk the streets of that godforsaken place, at the mercy of the most wicked people, and tell them just how ‘wicked’ they were. Yeah right, I thought, that’s going to go down like a lead budgie – as my mother used to say! Goodness only knows what they’re going do to me’ I thought.

‘Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Nineveh, it’s a massive metropolis of a place. But I set off, as ordered, and eventually, quaking in my boots every step of the way, I found a place where I thought I might have a go at telling people what the Lord had asked me to tell them.

“In forty days’ I shouted ‘Nineveh will be destroyed’.

And what do you know, something must have clicked for them, and they repented! Changed their ways – just like that. Right down to the last sheep they fasted and wore sack-cloth (that was a sight I can tell you – sheep in sack-cloth!)

I wasn’t amused, not one bit. Their lives were turned upside down, make no mistake, but not in the way I’d hoped. I wanted them destroyed, but instead of being brought to their knees by the Lord’s destructive power, they were brought to their knees in prayer. It seems, that the Lord heard how sorry they were, saw that they could turn from their evil ways and “changed his mind”. The Lord didn’t destroy the Ninevites after all, but gave them a second chance. Why? I thought, they were beyond redemption! But apparently not.

‘What did I tell you Lord’, I said ‘I knew you’d let them off. They get to have all the fun and get away with their evil ways and you just let them off! Meanwhile, we Hebrews live by your Law. Careful as careful can be we are so as not to displease you. It’s just not fair!

I wanted you to punish them for their evil ways’ I said. ‘But no, in your love, mercy, patience and kindness, always willing to change your mind about folks, you let them off – because they changed’.

So, they got a second chance. After all the Lord put me through to tell them they’d be destroyed, they were let off the hook. And I was not impressed.  I hated that God gave the wicked a second chance – just as I thought God would.

The Lord sends the reluctant runaway Israelite preacher to his most hated and vicious enemies – the Ninevites. The fate of Ninevah is in God’s, not Jonah’s hands. Jonah’s misadventures show us that God loves all of his creations equally, and gives everyone a chance to change their ways and become better.

I expect that, like me, you have been glad of second chances. Think of a time when you were given a second chance… and give thanks.

When did you resent the second chance someone else was given?  And repent!

Perhaps, like Jonah, you have had a second chance to listen to and respond to God. What might you do with your second chance? And rejoice in the opportunity you have been given!

No matter what you did in the past, when you know better, do better!

Revd Janine