Summary: First sermon in the 2010 Lenten Series
(Note: This series is based on and using materials from the Lenten series, The Sign of Jonah written by Dr. Reed Lessing and published by Creative Communication for the Parish. Copyright of the material is noted and respected.)
(Sermon began with a short portion of homily from the series The Sign of Jonah: God Is Calling! that was used as off-stage dramatic reading)
(Slide 1) How many of us here do not like to answer the phone? How many of us here can’t wait to answer it to hear who it is? How many of you say, “It depends?”
(Slide 2) We live in a world of overwhelming access via phone, e-mail, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and the like. More than once I have heard someone say, “I got x number of e-mails at once with the expectation I would send an instant response to each one!”
I readily admit to you that it is easy to be overwhelmed with all of the “social media” and electronic gadgets that constantly call for our attention, even during the worship service!
There are articles and conversations about the state of conversation these days which suggest we are losing the art of conversation because we are not using face to face communication like we used. We would rather text about a problem than to discuss it face to face. We would rather tweet about an important issue than meet in person to settle it.
The Old Testament prophet Jonah was not overwhelmed with all of this electronic communication in his day.
He heard God clearly when God called on him. But, his response became an issue for God. And it is an illustration for us of many things regarding our relationship to God.
Let’s turn to the latter part of the Old Testament and the book of Jonah, chapter 1 and verses 1 through 3:
(Slide 3) The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh! Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
(Slide 4) But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the Lord. He went down to the seacoast, to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping that by going away to the west he could escape from the Lord. (NLT)
“…hoping…he could escape from the Lord!” Imagine that! How did that work for you Jonah?
We begin this Lenten season, and we will spend time this Lenten season, with Jonah. The most notable part of Jonah’s story is being swallowed by a great fish as he tries to escape from the Lord.
But there is more to Jonah’s story that being fish bait.
Jonah’s story is about being obedient to God’s call and follow Him where He leads.
Who was Jonah? The book that bears his name and tells his story (at least part of it) is found in what is called the Minor Prophets section of the Old (or as some call it) Hebrew Testament.
Our text tells he is the son of Amittai but not much else.
So let’s go to 2 Kings 14:23 and following to find out a little more about Jonah:
“Jeroboam II, the son of Jehoash, began to rule over Israel in the fifteenth year of King Amaziah’s reign in Judah. Jeroboam reigned in Samaria forty-one years. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. He refused to turn from the sins of idolatry that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit. Jeroboam II recovered the territories of Israel between Lebo-hamath and the Dead Sea, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had promised through Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath-hepher.”
(Slide 5) Quickly, we are reminded here that Israel is split into two kingdoms at this point: Israel, the northern kingdom with its capital at Samaria by this time and Judah, the southern kingdom with its capital at Jerusalem. The time frame for these men and this setting is around 800 before Jesus was born, 30 years before the northern kingdom was conquered, nearly 200 years before the exile to Babylonia, and around 220 years after David became king. The town mentioned in 2 Kings as Jonah’s home is located somewhere in north central Israel.
Nineveh was about 500 miles northeast of Israel in what today is northern Iraq. It was becoming a major city of influence and power and would serve as the capital of the growing Assyrian empire. It is not a good city to live in.
So God, as we have read this morning, tells Jonah, “Go announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”