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Summary: Description – The third message in the 2010 Lenten series and communion meditation for March 7, 2010

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Today I begin with a confession. (Sorry, nothing juicy.)

Last week I gave you this set of questions to prepare for today’s sermon.

(Slide 1)

1. How do times of distress affect my prayer life?

2. How fervent am I in prayer when life is going well?

3. How does distress re-orient my thinking toward God?

4. Is the power of prayer found in my sincerity, my persistence, or God’s grace?

(Source: Dr. Reed Lessing. © 2010 by Creative Communications for the Parish.)

Well… it was the wrong set of questions!

(Slide 2) Here is the correct set for today.

1. How is the power of God’s word exhibited in the action of the fish?

2. Why does God stick with Jonah?

3. From your knowledge of the entire book, can you recall the three other times when God provides for Jonah?

4. What do God’s provisions for this prodigal prophet tell you?

(Source: Dr. Reed Lessing. © 2010 by Creative Communications for the Parish. www. creativecommunications.com )

(Slide 2a) Out of those four questions, these two caught my attention

2. Why does God stick with Jonah?

4. What do God’s provisions for this prodigal prophet tell you?

Now I am going to outline some responses to these two questions for a few moments as we prepare for communion and I begin with this first question, “Why does God stick with Jonah?”

We read in Proverbs 18:24, “There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” (NLT)

How many here can recall a childhood friend that, either verbally or just by that inner sense between close friends, vowed that you would be friends forever?

For how many of us is that person still a part of our lives today?

When I was in seminary, I heard an illustration that has stuck with me over the years. It began with a question, “Whose holding your trampoline?”

The image there is of a group a people stationed around the sides of the trampoline to keep you from falling off.

The purpose of the question was to have you think about your support network and it went like this: (my memory is a bit fuzzy on the details)

Suppose you ended up in the emergency room or a crisis situation. What 8 to 10 people would you want there with you or you would want to know of your situation?

Write them down. Family included.

(For some of us extroverts, the hospital or wherever we were, would probably not be big enough to hold everybody. For some of us introverts, two may be two, too many!)

Let me ask it this way, which friend or friends would you want at your side in a crisis?

Well do I remember when two members of a church that I had served showed up at my dad’s funeral. It was a six hour drive one way and was totally unexpected.

One of the things that I pray for people who are about to receive visitors at a funeral home visitation is that they would experience God’s grace in the faces and voices of those who come to pay their respects.

Why should God stick with Jonah after he failed to obey God? Why did he not find another prophet to do His work?

Jonah, in his complaint in Jonah 4, gives us a hint: “I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”

Over in Lamentations chapter 3 we read these wonderful words: “The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day…For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.”

This past Wednesday I delivered the Lenten meditation at the community Lenten service and I spoke from Luke 22:47-48 where Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss as a mob comes to arrest Jesus.

Betrayal is a very, very painful thing, isn’t it?

In a sense Jonah betrayed God with his disobedient jaunt toward Tarshish. God had called him to go to Nineveh and he did the exact opposite.

But the Lord did not give up on Jonah. Our main text makes that point in a unique way:

Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17 (NLT)

Sometimes I have wrestled with the question of, “How can God still love me, even want me, after all I have done and said that is wrong and just plain sinful?” I often have trouble believing Romans 8:38-39:

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