Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Whale's Tale

The lectionary for this Sunday, Epiphany 3, has Jonah as the Old Testament Lesson. Jonah has to be one of the most humorous books in all of the Bible. A reluctant prophet, you remember, is sitting about the house when a voice calls. He isn't sure but thinks it might be God. The voice calls him to go to Ninevah and preach. Ninevah, that huge city in Assyria,that people who were so brutal to Israel, that people so hated by the Jews.

And, rightly so. Hate is always one of those things that we think we have a right to, isn't it? I have a right to hate you if you do me wrong. Hate is also just an emotional response to hurt and pain. The hurt may be minimal or it may be terrific. Hate is that destructive wish for ill.

This text is used in the Jewish lectionary for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This is the day in Judaism when the people of God confess and expect to be forgiven. One Jewish writer said that she was not happy with this. She says that every time she hears anything about forgiveness and mercy she thinks of the Holocaust.

I certainly cannot understand the depths of sorrow and suffering that were visited on the Jewish people and others during WWII. That is an evil that is beyond my imagination.

The call on Yom Kippur is to enter into this kind of pact of mercy. And, we Christians hear it later from Jesus: "Love your enemies." It is this remarkable revelation that God is merciful. And, as an old teacher of mine used to say: My enemies are not God's enemies.

That's a tough word for anybody who has been hurt by someone or some people who have been abused. So, Jonah after a brief stint in the belly of a fish, preaches and Ninevah, in the tale, turns around and accepts God's terms. Jonah is angry at God. For what? He says: "I knew you were a God of love and mercy, steadfast love. And, it makes me sick."

Is there someone or someones who have done you wrong? And...I told you it was humorous, didn't I?
Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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