A long time parishioner and a newcomer were discussing the new priest at coffee hour just after his first sermon.Jonah would have been happy if the Ninevites were going to hell. He hated them.
"Oh, thank God the last one is gone!" the veteran parishioner went on. "He always preached that if we didn't mend our ways and reform our lives we would all go straight to hell."
"But isn't that just what the new reverend said today?" the newcomer observed.
"Yes but our old pastor seemed happy about it."
The Ninevites, a neighbour to the north, were an enemy of Israel. God was looking for a prophet to send to them to have them repent of their evil ways.
God called Jonah. Twice! When God first sent him to the Ninevites, Jonah ran the other way as fast as he could go.
Eventually a big fish brought Jonah back and as we heard this morning, God called Jonah a second time and sent him to the Ninevites. He proclaimed what God asked of him and the people of Nineveh listened.
God did not destroy them because they repented of their evil ways. Jonah, though, was angry. He knew God might forgive. And now the hated Ninevites were saved.
God said to Jonah the reluctant prophet, "can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:11 CEB)
Jonah could only see the hated enemy, but God saw his creation, a people who have erred and strayed like lost sheep.
And yet God called Jonah anyway…
Jesus called his first disciples... Nathaniel who doubted anything good came from Nazareth, and this week, the fisherman, Simon and Andrew, James and John. He called them to fish for people. He called the doubters, he called the zealots, and…
It is Jesus who calls each of us even in the rush of our lives today he calls us to come follow him.
And how we follow could be as simple as how we love, and a mom learns about the power of a mother’s kiss:
“My youngest daughter always had me kissing her boo-boos. I did it because, as every mother knows, it makes it feel better. What I never understood was the thought process behind the action.
"One day my daughter asked me to kiss her boo-boo when I was pressed for time, so I hurriedly obliged. She cried, telling me it wasn’t any good because my kiss didn’t have any love in it. I realized that kissing boo-boos was really about loving the pain away.
“This simple truth, along with the value of mindfulness my daughter taught me, has encouraged me to slow down, to become more aware and present in the moment. Slowing down is a conscious decision to live at a gentler pace and to make the most of the time I have.
“When my own mother passed away, I did not forget the love she gave me; it will live on in my heart forever. She gave me life, but beyond that, she gave me love . . .
“With that errant kiss, I realized it was my responsibility as a mother to watch over my child’s spiritual growth . . . By simply showing my child kindness through listening, I believe I have satisfied my child’s earliest spiritual needs. By being genuine — that is, personally connected and physically present — I have satisfied my child’s developing spirit.” [Mary Ann Rollano, writing in Spirituality & Health, November/December 2005.]
As God is present to us in the person of Jesus, we are called to be present to one another in our love and care. To be the “fishers” that Christ calls us to become and to “cast the net” of God’s love that we have experienced upon the waters of our time and place, to reach out and grasp the hand of those who struggle and stumble, to “love” away the hurt and pain and fear in ourselves and others.
Jesus calls you and me, today, to come follow him, will you answer or will you run the other way? Amen.