Readings: Jonah, Mark 1:14-20
In the deeply satirical story of Jonah, even the miserable effort to proclaim God turned a whole city to repentance.
In the Gospels, the first disciples drop everything and follow, when Jesus Christ the Word of God made flesh, calls.
In Genesis, God calls “let there be light” and there was!
When God calls, something happens.
The story of Jonah is one of my favorites. In it, this character Jonah, God’s mouthpiece and proclaimer (kind of like Christians are called to be) is expected to bring God’s word to the last place on earth that God’s people would want to go or expect to see God’s mercy.
And Jonah does everything in his power to prevent God’s word from coming to them.
First he runs the other way.
Then, when God gets him there anyway, he preaches to only 1/3 of the city. Probably only 1/3 of the Word he was supposed to give also. He does the most abysmal preaching job he can, trying to prevent the Word of God from reaching his enemies.
And in the end…even though Jonah did all he could to prevent God’s work from being accomplished, the Word of God did its job. Something happened.
What we end up seeing in the story of Jonah is that our ideas of whom God loves, whom God calls us to befriend and find Jesus’ presence among, is not whom we might expect. And we find that God uses us in showing love to the world in unexpected ways.
God’s mercy and love is for all.
God’s Word came into this world and showed us what the love of God looks like. Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, “God-among-us”. He is the restorer and savior of the world. And the way he restores the world is through relationship.
Jesus came to be with us. To be God with us. To know us, love us, and never leave us. And in a way that we, too, can know him and know God.
In baptism, we take on a discipleship under Jesus Christ. We enter a life of following him. Following Jesus is a journey that involves getting to know him, know God, better and better.
On this journey we know Christ more clearly, love Christ more dearly, and follow Christ more nearly, day by day, because he holds us to himself.
Baptism is not our work, but it is God’s sign to us that we are loved and called to be children of God in the body of Christ.
The call to be part of the body of Christ, part of Christ’s work in the world takes many forms.
For Jonah, doing God’s work was like being drug kicking and screaming to people whom God loved but he didn’t. For Simon, Andrew, James, and John, it meant leaving their fishing careers for what Jesus called “fishing for people.”
As followers of Christ, we are called to go where he goes. We hear in the scriptures that God has a special concern for people who are vulnerable, for people who need help but are neglected. We are part of Christ’s presence for our neighbors—especially those in need.
From Jonah, we find that there is no nation, people, or person that is external to God’s love. God is the creator of all the heavens and the earth, all its creatures, and every person. God’s mercy and love is for all.
So it is that God has concern for all nations’ people—vast empires like America or small lands like Haiti. God has concern for people in cold countries like Canada or the hotter sunnier countries of the African continent.
No one is external to God’s love, and Christ came to be that love for all.
This following Christ is a journey. Sometimes we run, as Jonah did, and God uses us anyway. Sometimes we drop our nets and willingly follow Jesus. Most of the time it’s somewhere in between. God’s work through your life shows folks around you that same love that God has for you.
God is working in your life. Every day Christ is there offering a reminder that you are forgiven and loved. Every day Christ is there with the strength and renewal you need to live out your Christian freedom for the sake of your neighbor. Every day Jesus is there, bidding you each day “follow me.”
To Simon and Andrew he said, “follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” To you he says, “follow me”…do what you do freed for your neighbor, renewed by Christ, journeying with him: “follow me.”