Musings from the Manse

There are many of us longing for the time when restrictions will be eased and we can meet back in our building and worship together without fear. But I wonder what your favourite memory of being in church is – maybe there was a special occasion, or a particular service of the year that you enjoy, maybe a favourite hymn that you love to sing, or a particular memory from years ago. Take a moment, and just enjoy picturing that favourite scene… There are so many things we love and treasure about our shared life of faith; yet if you asked people outside the Church about what goes on, many would say that we are miserable; that we’re always telling people off, or putting them down; that we seek to spoil people’s fun – and sadly we have sometimes contributed to that image, but that is not how it should be.

Whether you think the Book of Jonah is an historical account, or a cracking good yarn, or somewhere in the middle, its truth can speak to you. Jonah’s name means ‘dove’, but there’s nothing overly peaceful about his character. After finally succumbing to God’s call to go to Nineveh, he marches through the city proclaiming the supposed message of God – 40 days and the city will be overthrown. This might not exactly strike you as a message from the God of love we worship week by week!

Interestingly, the word we translate ‘destroy’ or ‘overthrow’ can also mean ‘change’, ‘turn around’ or ‘transform.’ It is possible that the call was rather seeking that change of heart and life, rather than promising imminent destruction. If you read Chapter 4 of the Book of Jonah, it is quite clear that Jonah was clearly hoping God would obliterate the people of Nineveh, and was rather grumpy when God did not fulfil this desire. 

The message Jonah proclaimed stands in stark contrast to the message Jesus proclaimed as he began his earthly ministry. Mark narrates how Jesus came to Galilee making known the good news, and inviting people to see that the kingdom of God had come near. There was no destruction, no warnings to behave or else! The message of Jesus is good news – and good news for everybody. Whilst the message of Jesus and Jonah seem so at odds, the God they proclaim is the same. God is always the God of mercy, the God who seeks to forgive, the God who desires that we all discover life in all its fulness. We see that in God’s response to the people of Nineveh, regardless of Jonah’s threats, and we see it most clearly in the person of Jesus throughout the Gospel accounts.  

This shows why we should never take a random verse out of context and make it the whole truth – imagine if our only message was Jonah’s ’40 days more and destruction.’ Tragically this has become the message of too many Christians – judgement on those who do not live up to their ideals, ostracising those who dare to think differently, proclaiming a god of punishment and anger. As we continue to think about our calling to be light to the nations and invite others to come and encounter Jesus for themselves, may we always remember that our relationship with God is good news; our vision of the kingdom of God is good news; the image of God we seek to nurture in ourselves and one another is good news

In this week to come, may we continue to be reminded that we are all called by God. In doing that may we seek to be good news in our community. Jonah, the dove, may not have been that peaceable, but may we seek to bring peace and wholeness to all we encounter or communicate with. And may we never forget that with God there is always mercy, always forgiveness, always life, and always love – and that is good news! Amen.

Rev Nik Wooller

31st January 2021

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.