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Book of Jonah 3:1-10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up,
go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I
tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the
word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a
three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a
day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall
be overthrown!”
And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast,
and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news
reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his
robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had
a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his
nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste
anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human
beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall
cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the
violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and
change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do
not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from
their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he
had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Gospel of Mark 1:14-20
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming
the good news of God,  15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good
news.”  16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon
and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were
fishermen.  17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you
fish for people.”  18 And immediately they left their nets and followed
him.  19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and
his brother John, who were in their boat mending the
nets.  20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father
Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

The theme of God calling people to action continues in our
scripture readings this morning.

The story of Jonah is well known.
In fact, we’ve made it into a cutesy children’s story, Jonah and
the Whale. But this story is not for children, it’s for adults.

Jonah is given instructions by God to speak to the people of
Nineveh. Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city of Upper
Mesopotamia, located on the outskirts of Mosul in modern-day
northern Iraq. It was located along the eastern bank of the Tigris
River, and was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. (From
Wikipedia)

The Hebrew Bible refers to Jonah as a prophet from the northern
kingdom of Israel. He lived during the 8th century BCE. His task
was to tell the people of Nineveh to repent from their evil ways
and turn to the God of Abraham. If they didn’t heed the warning,
God would destroy Nineveh, and all its inhabitants and all
animals.

Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He held prejudice against
the people. They were not Israelites. Their lifestyle was different
from that of Jonah’s people. He had no love for the people of
Nineveh and couldn’t care less if they were destroyed.

But God would have none of that. After terrible personal
calamity, Jonah changed his mind about doing as God requested
of him.

But when the people of Nineveh responded positively to Jonah’s
prophetic warning, Jonah was enraged. His prejudice blinded his
eyes and his heart. So, God had a serious talk with Jonah.

The LORD replied to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Jonah answered, “It is; and I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

The last words of the book are these: God said to Jonah, “And
should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which
there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who
cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many
animals?” (From Jonah 4:4-11)

The Book of Jonah leaves us pondering God’s gracious and
inclusive love. Also, we are left with the stark reality that many
people don’t like it and will never accept and even work against
the grace-filled, inclusivity of God’s love.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ message gives us a clue about the
tasks which God calls us to do. “The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good
news.”

We must recall that the word believe refers not to a cerebral
agreement, but a motivating conviction put into action.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;
repent, and believe in the good news.”

As we continue exploring the teachings and examples saturating
Jesus’ life and ministry, we better grasp the rebellious actions to
which God called Jesus and now calls us.

In the words of Richard Rohr: “Jesus announced, lived, and
inaugurated a new social order, an alternative to violence,
exclusion, and separation. It is no fantastical utopia, but a very
real and achievable peace—by the grace of God.” (Richard Rohr’s
Daily Meditation, From the Center for Action and Contemplation, Thursday,
January 18, 2018)

What is it that is capturing our attention and our passion?
To what actions are you and I being called by God to do?

I cannot answer for you. I can only keep exploring for me.

On January 12 th (of this year, 2018), a woman in Chicago riding
the subway home, witnessed an act of kindness that brought
tears to her eyes, and so she put the story on Facebook.

“I’m headed home on the CTA Redline and there’s a homeless
man sitting across from me. He’s older, weathered, minding his
own business. His feet are so swollen he’s wearing the tattered
gym shoes he has on with the back folded down, like slip-ons.
I don’t know how many pairs of socks he’s wearing in an attempt
to keep his feet warm, but there is blood seeping through,”
Jessical Bell wrote.

“There’s another man on the other side of the doors; he’s
younger, carrying a satchel and a suitcase, also minding his own
business. He’s wearing a pair of big black snow boots. They look new; they
look expensive; they’re built for a Chicago winter. Quietly, in a blink…, the younger man takes off the boots he’s wearing and passes them to the old man. He opens his suitcase
and gives him a pair of socks as well. The young man puts on a spare pair of shoes from the suitcase.  These shoes are nice too, but not as nice as the boots.
They would have fit the old man just as well, but they were not
what this old man needed. He tells the old man to try and clean his feet and to make sure he
changes into the new socks as soon as he can, and then the
young man gets off at 87 th street. Those of us who are close enough to see and hear the exchange are floored.”

Jessical Bell ends her Facebook post with these words:
“I love that in a time and place where hate and apathy are
rampant, quiet compassion appears without warning.
I pray that we all are compelled to do similar.
I pray that we all allow empathy to invoke action.
I pray that we never forget that we have always had the power to
be a blessing.
I’m inspired to continue to try to ‘be the change’; and I pray you
are too”

So, what is it that is capturing your attention and your passion?
To what actions are you and I being called by God to do?

 
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