Tuesday, January 20, 2009


This week's scriptures are Jonah 3:1-5, 3:10-4:11 and Mark 1:14-20.

This week's passages offer a lot of places to jump off and think about our relationship to God and to the gospel and its calls to us. Enough that it would probably take months to unwrap them all and examine them. (This, by the way, is one of the things that draws me to scripture: it is not a simple, straight line, but a deep and complex, multi-layered thing. Much like our lives in God.)

Having said that, let me touch on some of the places that I can see these passages possibly taking us this week. Obviously I will wind up at one of them for Sunday's sermon (not sure which one yet), but I'd also like to invite you-as fellow Christians involved in the 'priesthood of all believers'-to follow some of them out yourself in your own prayer and study.

One of the first thinks that we notice in the Markan passage is that Jesus calls the disciples-and us-in the middle of our normal, daily activity. If we're waiting for Jesus to speak to us; if we're praying and listening; we are most likely to hear His voice in the middle of the ordinary.

Second, I'd like to say something about the part of the Jonah story that isn't in the passages for Sunday (but which will, undoubtedly be mentioned); Jonah's being swallowed by the whale.

This Hebrew parable (which is what I think the story of Jonah is) is, at least partially, about how we respond to God's call to us. That call includes an embracing of the fact that God's love is inclusive of all humankind. This is what Jonah was running from when he headed off in the opposite direction from Nineveh where he had been called to speak a prophetic word. Jonah's rejection of that inclusiveness and his pouting in Jonah 4 at God's grace, reflect the attitude which landed him in the belly of the fish. God's will is going to be done. We (and Jonah) can be part of that completion or we can stay in the belly of the fish until we decide to get on board.

And finally, we might want to look at the comparison between the responses of the disciples in Mark and that of Jonah. Jonah hears the call and runs. He wants no part of an inclusive God-doesn't even want to warn them-and throws a pout when God spares Nineveh. The disciples, we are told by Mark, immediately dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. They didn't know where the road would lead, they only knew that they had been called; and they followed.

So what about us? What is our response to God's inclusive love; a love that includes our enemies as well as our friends? What about our response to God's love for us-warts and all? We do not know where that love and that call will take us, and it's a scary moment when we look into the depths of that great love. Will we run...and land in the 'belly of the fish'; or will we drop everything and follow Jesus?

Let's talk about it more on Sunday. I hope to see you there.



Anonymous said...

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."

Joann made an interesting observation recently about this passage as she was studying it this week, I thought it important to share in light of your multi-layered point.

Joann noted that some translations read "fishers for men" or "fishers for people." Okay...so what? Then she explained that she read it also as fishers on behalf of people and related it to servanthood. Wow. Interesting.

The Jonah passage (as well as the Mark passage, of course) makes me think of the physical discipline you mentioned last week. The inhabitants of Ninevah put a very symbolic and dramatic physical action into play to represent their spiritual turmoil. Whether we are fishing for or on behalf of people, it is still a physical action to display and shape an inward idea.

The practice you discussed is not nearly so dramatic physically at first. But perhaps if we think in terms of our life pace, stopping to listen and pray for a moment from a dead "run" can be quite a change! As someone who cooks quite a bit, feeding someone is pretty darn fun and dramatic for me on a physical level. But maybe these things are just as dramatic spiritually for most of us, too.

And of course, all of things are a choice! Or rather, hundreds of small choices (something I've said and heard before).

Maybe we need to explore the physical here in relation to choice. Was there choice here for Jonah? Is sitting in a whale's belly much of a choice? Or was it what it represented that made it a choice for Jonah. Or maybe he just needed some serious exfoliation...

Anonymous said...

I like what you've said this week and last week about listening for God. Obviously, it takes a conscience effort to make time for our relationship with God. But I think it's easier to make time to talk to God than to listen to God, because of the discipline required to quiet our own thoughts.

Perhaps it's those thoughts that convince us that the belly of the beast is a better place to be for now.

On an unrelated note, check out http://www.biblegateway.com/ You might be able to use it to make links to the weekly Bible passages. Of course, there's something to be said for the initiative of looking up on the verse on our own. But if you want to take advantage of all the lazy-enabling the internet has to offer, those verses could be just a click away.