A message from Jonah

Standard

An interesting point about Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh Jon 3:1-10 is that they listened to him. Jonah was not a polished speaker, and he was not enthusiastic. He did not want to deliver the message, and he had nothings but contempt for the people who were to receive it. They were his enemy. Jonah was belligerent, cantankerous, and carried a grudge. He was uncooperative and did not want to be there. In spite of that he delivered the Lords message anyway. Why did those people listen to Jonah? They did not. They did not listen to the messenger, but heard that message and knew exactly who it was from. They recognized Gods voice in a grumpy belligerent man. Jonah was not the one they listened to. When Jesus preached Lk 11:29-32 who did people hear?

(I can add a bit here. Jesus disciples heard first a prophet, and then the messiah, and finally the Son of God. To simplify things, they heard the word of God. The people of Nineveh recognized the same word when Jonah said repent, even though they did not sing any praise to Jonah. The LORD does work in mysterious ways. Think of where Moses heard the voice of God. It was a burning bush. Think of Elijah at the cave feeling the LORDS presence in a passing breeze. Did those people see God in Jonah? No. Did they recognize Gods message through Jonah? They did heed the Word and repent.)

 

 

Third Sunday of Ordinary time

Standard

Oh, I don’t know how much there is to add to this Sundays entry since I have written nearly everyday this week. Todays readings focus on Jesus calling his Apostles to become fishermen of men and declaring the Kingdom of God to be at hand. To start with that Kingdom of God, I think one has to look at what Jesus had just departed from. What he departed from after his confrontations was clearly not the Kingdom of God. What I should point out is that though his conversations with those Pharisees was confrontational, they were likely the most civil of conversations He had. The Romans were occupiers of the land and lorded over them, King Herod was paranoid regarding anyone ascending to the throne of David. The Pharisees at least carried on a discussion.In looking at the Kingdom of God, one can start at looking at what the Kingdom of God is not. It is not any of those Kingdoms where man has declared himself God, it is not where man has declared himself King. The Kingdom of God is Gods creation obedient to their God. It is the Kingdom where God is King and man a servant obedient to Gods laws. The Kingdom of God is at hand. When thinking of this Kingdom , one might be wise to think justice and wisdom over politics and leaders.

For the Apostles mission of becoming fishers of men, one can take a look at the first reading which is from the book of  the prophet Jonah. That book is likely the most comedic of any of the books in the bible. It tells the story of Jonah, an arrogant and disobedient servant of God. He is given the assignment of warning the Ninevites to repent for their sins or face the wrath of God. Being the enemies of Jonah and the Israelites, Jonah does not wish to deliver this message. He rebels against God so much that while travelling on a boat a storm at sea frightens his shipmates to the point that they throw the arrogant Jonah overboard. What is a fisher of men? Someone that fishes the likes of Jonah from the seas of sin and disobedience and arrogance and ignorance and anything else that goes against God. In contrast to the way Jonah behaved when being called by God, Jesus disciples are obedient. Their mission as Apostles is to learn and carry the message of Jesus to the world.

What now is the difference between those first century apostles, and a twenty first century apostle? In that first century they had the Christ of the Nativity, and the Christ of the Passion. We have the Christ of the Ascension. Our mission also calls to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. It also calls to make Christ visible to the world, and making Christ visible is the best way to bring lost souls to the Lord. It means not simply preaching Christianity, but truly living it and setting ourselves apart from the world as disciples of Christ. That is not simply doing all that is permitted in society, but doing what Christ has demanded we do. It is lighting a path to that Kingdom he preached by both word and action so that others might follow.It is keeping ones eyes on the prize that is the Kingdom of God. Being a twenty first century apostle requires being Christ like in our actions. We still live n the Kingdom of man, but have our sights on Gods Kingdom. We still have the disobedient Jonah’s in this world, but we also have Christ’s message to fish them out of the sea. We have all it takes to be those fishers of men, Apostles of Christ.

The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.” PART 2

Standard

 

“ …..While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds”

weed: “A herbaceous plant not valued for use or beauty, growing wild and rank, and regarded as cumbering the ground or hindering the growth of superior vegetation… Applied to a shrub or tree, especially to a large tree, on account of its abundance in a district… An unprofitable, troublesome, or noxious growth.”

-The New shorter Oxford English dictionary on historical principles

 

It seems that this definition raises a little trouble in Jesus’s Parable 🙂 The plant mentioned as a weed in the story was only a weed to one of the parties. To the owner of the field, the one who sowed wheat, it was a weed; yet to his “enemy” it was the most useful of plants as it served his purpose admirably.The weed was a superior plant to Wheat for the purpose of aggravating the wheat farmer. This paradox is also present in the Book of Jonah. Here is the passage:

Then the LORD God provided a gourd plant. And when it grew up over Jonah’s head, giving shade that relieved him of any discomfort, Jonah was greatly delighted with the plant. But the next morning at dawn God provided a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. And when the sun arose, God provided a scorching east wind; and the sun beat upon Jonah’s head till he became faint. Then he wished for death, saying, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?” Jonah answered, “I have a right to be angry—angry enough to die.” Then the LORD said, “You are concerned over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished.

To Jonah that Gourd plant was beneficial as it provided him with shade from the sun. Jonah placed the same value on that gourd that the Wheat farmer placed on the Wheat! To God though it was most definitely a weed. God sent his field hand, the worm, to destroy it. Not only did that plant serve no purpose, it was a hindrance.The gourd gave Jonah the comfort of rest (that is it allowed him to sleep) when God wanted him to WORK ! ! !

 

-Could it be that the Parable of the Sower contains the same message as the Book of Jonah?

“the sign of Jonah”

Standard
Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 395
Gospel Mt 12:38-42

Again Jesus is confronted  concerning his teachings with the scribes and Pharisees asking for a sign. In asking for a sign, can you help but wonder what the tone of their voices were? What type of sign were they looking for. In old testament writings it was not uncommon for either prophets or leaders to ask YHWH for a sign so that they might be certain they were acting appropriately. When Moses addressed the Pharaoh it was through signs, they followed Moses through the desert by the sign of a cloud and pillar of fire.When the Hebrews doubted Moses, it was the sign of water from a rock that persuaded them to continue their journey. The same is true too for the manna from heaven. It would not be wrong to say that every book in the Old Testament contains a sign as an indicator of Gods approval.There also might have been a hint of sarcasm in their request, perhaps they were hoping for a magic show or some dazzling display?
 
Jesus gives them “the sign of Jonah” as proof of his authority and as justification of his teaching. What is this “sign of Jonah?” In the story God gives Jonah instruction to preach to Nineveh(Israel’s enemy) that they should repent and turn to YHWH. To make a short story shorter, Jonah does not want to and tries to avoid his assignment. While on the boat away from Nineveh, there is a storm which Jonah interprets as Gods wrath for all of his whining ; In fear Jonah’s boat mates toss him overboard. A WHALE swallows him (Jonah is still whining!) and after three days spits him on shore. While in Nineveh Jonah(still complaining!) begrudgingly tells that city to repent. He tells them once and probably none too loud. To Jonah’s surprise(and anger), the people of Nineveh don sackcloth and ashes, and fast as repentance to YHWH. Nineveh lives happily ever after and Jonah remains a curmudgeon. What’s the sign of Jonah? That depends on how you interpret the story.
 
For many later Christians this story parallels Jesus’s death and resurrection; the three days in the whale and then released.Death & Resurrection. In a great sense this is a accurate portrayal, but was it the one Jesus intended? Or was it the way these particular Scribes and Pharisees would have understand it? Probably not as those events had not yet occurred.I think the answer lies is how Jonah preached and what the outcome was. Jonah preached half heartedly and with no conviction what he was doing was right. He did not want Nineveh saved, he wanted them destroyed. It was YHWH that wanted the Ninevehite’s to repent. YHWH wanted them to convert their ways, and YHWH wanted them saved. The sign of Jonah is that no matter what Jonah (man) wants to happen (or in Jonah’s case, not happen), Gods will is done. Jesus sign of Jonah to the Scribes and Pharisees was that no matter what they did to stop Jesus, even putting him to death(three days in a whale); if Jesus was fulfilling the will of God he would be successful. If his work and his teachings were from God, there is nothing any man could do to destroy it. Jesus “sign of Jonah”  is a flourishing post Easter Christianity. .