SER # 4Xa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
SUNDAY JANUARY 24TH, 2021
TEXTS: JONAH 3: 1 – 5; 10
THEME: CHANGE OF WAYS:
Human beings most times seem to have an inbuilt taste of things on life. People have the capacity to like or to dis-like. They have the capacity to love or to hate. The capacity to love or hate can be influenced by the environment we find ourselves in or growing up. White People who lived in the south or grew up during the time of slavery grew in an environment where black people were treated as though they were less human may be influenced by that perception. This can be passed on to their children. In places where tribes and clans are used to divide and define people can influence one’s decisions in their everyday practice. We still have some residue of racism today even when we have had black president in the white house and now, we have a black woman as the vice-president. People have their own bias stemming from different sources for different reason. Sometimes we allow politics to take the best of us and miss the goodness in each individual person. When God finished the creation, he said it was good.
In our bible reading this morning shows some of this learned capacity of hatred as expressed by Jonah action not to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to the people. Jonah wanted them punished. He represented this hate mentality among the Israelites to the Assyrian that existed in those days. Jonah was a prophet yet who could not understand why God would forgive these people. You can say wait a minute what kind of prophet was Jonah? But today we live in a world where we find people that are hard to relate with leave alone the idea of forgiving and going to work with them: We have children molesters, rapist, serial killers, sexual predator, terrorists, and let not forget what happened to our capital a few week ago as violent mob broke into the capital building (Jan 6th , 2021). To Jonah in those days the Assyrians were bad people who never deserved God mercy that is why Jonah takes off in a different direction. (Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me’ But Jonah rose and flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD (Jonah 1: 1 – 3).” Our lesson today then focuses on what happens to the people in Nineveh after they heard the words from Jonah. What lesson can we learn from this story in our lives today?
- God Gives People a Second Chance: – “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time , saying arise go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you” Jonah 3:1-2) Our first example of God giving his people a second chance was the story of Jonah himself. When he was first called he took off on a different direction and almost causing people to die in a shipwreck, as God was trying to get Jonah’s attention. The wrath of God end when Jonah is throned in the sea and he finds himself in the tummy of a whale. I may not know the biology of how he survived inside the stomach of a whale, but this teaches me another lesson about our God. That he has power over nature. He calms the sea and makes the tummy of the fish a nice place to stay and breath for three days. Therefore, when Jonah finds himself on the shore of Nineveh the same place he did not want to go, God call him again (second time) and gives him the same message to tell people of Nineveh to repent. In other words, God gives Jonah a second chance to do what was right. In the story we also see another act of second chance and that is where God forgives the people of Nineveh and gives them a second chance. On this we need to see that people of Nineveh had to turn their hearts to God by fasting starting from the king even the animals. It’s therefore up to us to turn to God and ask for a second chance. Sometimes God has to call us a second time like Jonah to have a second chance. We might feel disqualified because of our past mistakes but God service is not earned position for he always has a place for us even when it is a second chance. Some of us have received more chances than we deserve but that who God is. He is a God of second chance that his nature. I also believe when it comes to being a grandparent is a second chance to try a better parenting based on love not rules. A story is told od this young girl who loved all kind of insects and would never kill even a mosquito. One day she and her brother were walking along a small creek when she saw a scorpion which was struggling to save itself from drowning. The little girl kneeled and tried to rescue it but every time she tried the scorpion would sting her but she never gave up. Then her brother was getting impatient and asked to let it die because it was stinging her. But the girl looked at her brother and said, “it is the nature of a scorpion to sting.” I believe in the same way it is the nature of God to give us a second chance even when we do not deserve.
- God of Mercy and Grace: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” Jonah 3:10a) When we read the book of Jonah, we have to realize that it is more than a big fish swallowing Jonah story. It is a story of repentance, forgiveness, mercy, and We have to see that God though he had all the rights to destroy the people of Nineveh he was merciful enough to send a prophet to warn them. Jonah had his own opinion of what should happen to the people of Nineveh like many may have today about other people we don’t like. You know that God never write off his people as the world does. I have met people in life who have felt the world has judged them and condemned them to hell. It is very easy for this to happen because people have not met this loving Jesus. But God is reminding us through the story of Jonah that he is full of mercy and grace. When people proclaim vengeance on you God is proclaiming mercy. He is a God of compassion and love. No one is beyond God’s redemption. Rather than run away from God: Let us trust him with your past, present and future. Saying no to God leads to disaster Jonah got this very quickly.
- God Can Change his Mind: “God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” Jonah 3:10) Have you done things in life that makes you feel like you want to run away or hide? God is saying through this story don’t run because you have nowhere to run or hide. He can see you wherever you go. Psalm 139:7-12 God is not only willing to give us a second chance, but he is willing to change his mind. This is a big thing; God change his mind? Yes, he did for the people of Nineveh and he can do it again for you and me. God’s message to us today is that “I love you; I forgive you; I love you even when you fail.” I love all people regardless of their race, gender sexual orientation, country of origin, social status, economic ability, academic achievement and even political affiliations. God knows that every human has a common need: need for God, for without God our heart will not rest and will feel the emptiness. We have the capacity or ability to repent.