Summary: This sermon focuses on the complete turnaround of Jonah in Chapter 3 of the Prophet’s story and applies it to our own lives. Are we ready for a complete turnaround?
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." 3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city-- a visit required three days. 4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." 5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
Wouldn’t it be nice… if we could take the one moment of our lives when everything fell into place… where everything was perfect… and let that stand as the shining example of our lives? We wouldn’t have to remember our failures or our mistakes, we would be known for our very best accomplishments. Only the very best of ourselves would be remembered!
If we take Chapter 3 of Jonah, all by itself… that is sort of what is happening with today’s scripture. All the good stuff… none of the bad stuff. We pick up this famous story in chapter three… and if you knew nothing else about Jonah… all you would know was this… [reread the chapter in steps] God calls Jonah… and he immediately answers… he runs into town to proclaim God’s message, and the entire town… even the king… is compelled to repent and follow God. Not too bad.
But there is so much more to this story… so much more going on. In a good news… bad news kind of story… this is the shiny good news in the middle. There is a lot of bad stuff surrounding this passage that can’t be ignored. We can’t just focus on the good, because without the bad surrounding it… this passage makes little sense at all. Without the bad… we can completely misunderstand the good. It’s like a few of these examples from the world of Pastors – the good and the bad:
Good news: You baptized seven people today in the river.
Bad news: You lost two of them in the swift current.
Good news: The PW voted to send you a get-well card.
Bad news: The vote passed 21-20.
Good news: The Session accepted your job description exactly the way you wrote it.
Bad news: They were so inspired by it, they formed a search committee to find somebody capable of filling the position.
Good news: Mrs. Jones is wild about your sermons.
Bad news: Mrs. Jones is also wild about soap operas, the “Gong show” and the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”