Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
How well do you know the story of Jonah? You can read through all four of its brief chapters in under ten minutes. Take a break from this message and do that, then come back when you’re done.
There are some things I find surprising when I read it. God gives Jonah the direction to go to Nineveh and tell the city it needs to change their ways. How does one even do that: cry out against a city? We also read it would take three days to walk across Nineveh. That’s a whole lot of people to hear any kind of message, let alone an unpleasant one.
Not that the logistics mattered, because Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh anyway. He hopped on a boat headed the opposite direction and took a nap. But God reached out, rescued him, set him back on dry land, and repeated his mission to him.
Still, Jonah’s heart was hardly in it. He preached the laziest, shortest sermon in all of scripture: “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” Yet this tossed-off message, delivered by a prophet who didn’t want to be there, somehow carried sufficient force to bring about extreme acts of repentance for all the people (even the animals!) of Nineveh. It worked! As for Jonah?
Oh, he’s still mad.
He prayed again, angrily, telling God he knew God was merciful, and those Ninevites certainly didn’t deserve mercy (read Nahum 2-3 for more). Jonah would rather be dead than have to think about the part he played in averting destruction of the city which deserved any hard thing that came its way.
Yet here, at the last, is a reminder of God’s nature. “Can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people?” (Jonah 4:11) If we trust that God is actually as loving as forgiving as Jesus taught and demonstrated, well, it means a whole lot of people are going to get forgiven.
The temptation to think ill of people from other places, experiences, opinions, or just generally in any way different from ourselves is always great. The challenge is that the God we follow and in whose image we pray to be remade sees things differently. All those people you can’t stand? God loves them. Those people you – admit it – hope come to harm? God doesn’t want that at all.
Does remembering that God is merciful to people who don’t deserve it frustrate you? If so, take a breath, and realize the flip side of that. You? Even you at your worst? Just maybe you can be forgiven and loved, too. Sometimes we have to run ourselves ragged like Jonah trying to get away from this simple truth, but in the end, love wins. It always does.
Grace and Peace,
Continuing Coffee Hour Over Zoom
Laura Newton will host a weekly time of conversation and connection at 11:30 am after our worship service each week. Login available at 11:15am or conclusion of worship, whichever is later.
Here is a link to that time –
If you have questions or need help, you can ask Pastor Ben or Laura. Don’t be shy, you are missed and a part of this church family, too!
Offering Envelopes and Upper Rooms are Available in the Church Office
If you received a box of envelopes last year, we have one for you again this year. Your name is even already on it. If you would rather not receive envelopes anymore, please let us know so we can repurpose them for someone or something else.
The Upper Room Daily Devotionals are also available now. If you’d like to pick yours up, Gretchen is in the church office from 9am-noon Tuesday – Friday each week. Please call ahead so she can set whatever you are picking up out for you.
You will find every newsletter, worship service, devotional, and additional material posted to our Facebook page:
Even if you don’t use Facebook, you can access everything we have there. If you do have a Facebook account, “like” to follow our page and be notified when new things are posted or when videos are about to go live so you don’t miss anything.
Coffee Hour is a time of sharing after Sunday morning worship hosted by Laura Newton at approximately 11:30am. All are welcome!
If you have any difficulties accessing any of those links, please reply to this message or call the church office at (908)782-1070 and we will get you connected right away.