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Beloved, Love. All In (Or…Beloved, RUN the Other Way!)

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You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Beloved, Love: All In, HERE.

Reading and rereading Jonah’s responses, I can’t seem to shake a feeling that I am… Tired. Of. All. The Stuff. Just like Jonah, I am tired of the getting up. The going. The proclaiming. The walking. I just want to sit down in the ashes and cry.

And then what? GOD CHANGES HER MIND???

It seems to me there are 2 ways we can go with this Bible reading:

  • Either we can go ALL IN, as the people in Nineveh do
  • Or, we can follow Jonah’s example (in all CAPS)… and RUN THE OTHER WAY!

People of God, which choice will we make? For throughout our lives there are moments when we are Jonah, and times when we are the people of Nineveh.

As someone who ran as far away from God’s call in my life for years, I can understand Jonah’s first choice. It would have been much easier to stay in my Monday-Friday professional clinical job. Much more predictable.

But God called on me to go all in. Get up—and go…

In hindsight I have no regrets, but in the beginning when I turned to my own Nineveh there were days of sitting in ashes. There was even weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Part of our human condition is that we do not want to go there. Places which unsettle us. Into conversations, real, listening, hearing, conversations with the Other—people with drastically different perspectives.

What did Jonah see as he walked that day’s journey into the city? People going about their lives? Shopping at markets, kids running past, street musicians, people going to work… and coming home at the end of the day? What was his experience? For the people of Nineveh were part of what for Jonah would have been the evil empire. The downfall and destruction of the people of Israel and the Temple in Jerusalem. They killed his people. And this is where God was sending him to proclaim… what? Doom and destruction?

“Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4b)

But wait. There is an interesting twist in Jonah’s micro-sermon. It is the word “overthrown.” To over throw paints a scenario of taking someone down, defeating one’s opponent. And in a tense situation, this can sound pretty good, right? I am right, you are wrong. Just wait. You’ll see.

However, in the original text the Hebrew word for “overthrown” can also be translated as “to turn, turn-about, turn around. To change. Transform.”[1] This is exactly what happens, right? Jonah, who is looking for the destruction of his enemies (read on to chapter 4!) instead causes them to make time to pause (don’t know how long… but let’s say 40 days) and everything is transformed.

It is so very human, and all too easy, for us to go about our day-to-day lives avoiding uncomfortable situations. Those places where voices of anger, discord, and anxiety lurk.

Yet here we are. No matter who you are—or how you voted—as results come in we are sitting in the ashes of the election. We want to move beyond any potential unsettling. But, maybe that is just it. Maybe… we are being called to sit in it. Maybe, if we make time to sit in the discomfort and tears, it will keep us from rushing too quickly away from all the systemic problems in our country, our communities, of covering our eyes and our ears and getting back to a normal that oppresses and harms.

Could there be, if we sit in the muck, an opportunity for transformation?

Opportunities for us to connect, deeply, with the humanity of others?

For remember, when Jonah finally gives in to God’s Word and goes to Nineveh, the Other side, the “why-would-God-send-me-there” place change begins… where? With the people. Something changed them. And not just one person, but the whole city. The people showed up. They voted. A great turning around began. “Rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers” (Jonah 3:5b, The Message). They put on the very uncomfortable sack cloth of headline news which blared in the streets for days. They sat in the ashes of social media, refreshing their screens over and over.

And the news spread.

On Thursday, “Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church” spoke on a national news program. When asked what we need to do as a country to start to heal he said, “It starts with a decision that we are going to do this together.” He went on to describe the Great Seal of the United States saying:

“You know, the one with the eagle and… the arrows in one… claw and then the palm branches in the other. And above that eagle (are) written the words ‘E pluribus unum.’ Those words, E pluribus unum, ‘(Out) of Many, One,’ that’s the motto of the United States. From many diverse peoples, one nation…

That Latin phrase comes from the writings of Cicero in the Roman Republic. And Cicero, in his writing said and I quote, ‘When each person loves the other as much as he loves himself, then one out of many becomes possible.’ We can find common ground when we make the decision that I care about you as much as I care about myself… when we do that, we can disagree without being disagreeable. We can find common ground, and we can heal…”[2]

So, it is OK to sit here in the ashes. Together. With our political foes. With our need to collectively find a way to respond to all of the challenges we face… together… in light of the coronavirus pandemic. And it is OK to feel uncomfortable. Maybe God is calling us to “sit in it” for a bit so change can occur.

For fear and mistrust to be overthrown.  

For people to be transformed.

For a word of hope to come.

For God’ great overturning to arise out of the midst of ruin.

And in finding that common ground, humanity can heal.

Believe, People of God, in the rising up of God’s beloved community. As we sit in the discomfort of what is left of 2020, may we come to terms with our own sack cloth and ashes as a country. May God’s justice and extravagant mercy always prevail.

~ Pastor Kris

Reflection on Jonah 3:1-10 offered Sunday, November 8, 2020

[1] “H2015 – Haphak – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV),” Blue Letter Bible, accessed November 7, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2015.

[2] Today Show, “Bishop Michael Curry Calls for Divided Americans to Find Common Ground,” TODAY.com, accessed November 5, 2020, https://www.today.com/video/bishop-michael-curry-calls-for-divided-americans-to-find-common-ground-95373893672.