by Deacon Pat Derry
From Martin Luther to Jonah: What’s the connection?
What do you associate with the name of Martin Luther?
•Grace alone, Faith alone, Word alone? The first Bible in German vernacular? “Here I Stand!”
What do you associate with the name of Jonah?
•Jonah and the Big Fish? Swallowed by a whale? Some say, “Believe it is historical or you are not a true believer!” Others say, “Ridiculous, surviving in a whale for 3 days!”
The Gloria Dei elementary children spent fall 2017 learning about Martin Luther and the Reformation. Now we are moving to study a set of Bible stories, and Jonah is the first lesson. Why Jonah? What do they have in common?
The answer is short and sweet, although sometimes offensive. It was very offensive to Jonah!
•God’s free gift of mercy is for everyone and everything! It’s Grace Alone! (For the good and the evil, people and cattle; no payment required, no behavior gives extra credit!)
God wanted Jonah to bring the message of repentance and forgiveness to the warmongering Ninevites. But Jonah didn’t want those awful people saved! So he ran/sailed the opposite direction; he was on the way to Spain. The part of the story when Jonah is swallowed by a fish is only 3 verses out of 4 chapters. Jonah was grateful to be saved, and recited a pretty and pious prayer, but he still didn’t want God to forgive the people of Nineveh. He did what God told him to do, but was not happy one little bit when the people repented and God forgave them. Jonah’s problem was his image of God! Jonah wanted to set barriers around God’s love and forgiveness – God’s mercy! “You, God, should be for us, not them!” Shouldn’t God be merciful to the good believers when they mess up, and destroy their violent, hateful enemies? If this is not how life works, then it just isn’t fair! Jonah didn’t even want to live in a world like that!
God’s answer is a question – “Is your anger a good thing? Can’t I pity Nineveh”… the people and the cattle?
Here the book of Jonah ends. Perhaps God’s question is for all the Jonah’s of today, believers who want God’s love only for themselves? We have a mission to bring God’s mercy to the world, but our own image of God can stop us in our tracks, or send us running in the opposite direction!
Jonah said to God, “I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy” (Jonah 4:2) That is why Jonah ran the opposite direction!