Last week, I preached about Samuel, Eli and the courage it takes to follow your calling. We all are called by God to be part of the on-going project of spreading the good news of Jesus. This takes different forms: volunteering as a Sunday School teacher, being a parent, working a job you find meaningful or being the best neighbor you know how. All people can serve God wherever they are. To paraphrase Martin Luther, if you're a plumber, be a plumber for God.
The difficulty is that sometimes when start to see our lives as part of God's calling, it leads us into unknown and scary territory. We can feel quite alone. Think of how a lone dancer at an outdoor concert becomes the leader of an all-out dance party. One person starts, but then a few people have to follow and pull others in. When we step out in courage, we are tempted to think of ourselves as the lone dancers, but really, we're always followers. The followers are essential - otherwise there's no party! - but the followers aren't the ones who start it. Jesus precedes us as the first dancer, giving us the courage to get on up and follow to where we hear, deep down, God is calling.
Listen to the sermon here.
This week the texts are also about calling. I'll preach about Jonah, that prophet who tried to flee from God's call only to find himself in the belly of a big fish. You probably know that God rescued Jonah from that fish but you might not know the second half of the story. "God's word came to Jonah a second time." He went where God had originally instructed and told the people they needed to change, to repent.
This is a story about second chances. God gives Jonah a second chance but it's not as if Jonah can now just do whatever he wants. The second chance is another chance to follow God's will. That means Jonah has to accept that other people - people who were his enemies - can change just like he has and receive God's mercy. It's too much for Jonah. The people repent but instead of rejoicing Jonah becomes angry. His anger seems ridiculous, until I consider how often I hold onto grudges and refuse to let others change. Jonah's example challenges us to consider why we get angry when someone else gets a second chance and invites us to ask what we do with the second chances God offers.
- Have you ever been angry when someone you didn't think deserved it got a second chance?
- Have you ever gotten a second chance? How did it change you?
- In Jonah, God is portrayed as angry at people's evil behavior. What do you think God is angry about now?