Pastor Ralph J. Mineo, St. Luke's Lutheran Church
Jonah was swallowed by a big fish! You know why? Because he refused to do what God wanted him to do. So Jonah spent three days in darkness. Finally, the big fish vomited Jonah back up to the shore! Time to go do what God asked! So Jonah got another chance to be obedient, to go to Nineveh and preach repentance of sin.
Nineveh represents society, a place of sin and violence. After Jonah preaches in Nineveh, EVERYONE repents! But Jonah wasn't all too happy about the conversions. God was merciful. But Jonah was expecting to see some fire and brimstone, "wrath of God" stuff.
Wouldn't it be terrific if EVERYBODY repented of their sins? Maybe you've heard the song, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." We could paraphrase that: "Let there be repentance on earth, and let it begin with me."
Here's a simple 4-step plan to repent:
First, express sorrow for your sin and disobedience. Express this to God (who promises you forgiveness). Express sorrow to the people who need to hear it.
Second, set your mind, heart and soul to "determined mode" to not fall back into sin and wrong-doing. Let's be determined to NOT sin! Let's be determined to be kinder and more loving. Let's all repent! No one is exempt from needing this!
Third, care about and participate in the work of God in the world. When Jonah was running away from God, he was sleeping in the boat during a terrible storm. He wasn't afraid because he didn't care what was happening around him. He didn't care that he was disobeying God. When Jesus was sleeping in the boat during a storm, he definitely cared, but he wasn't afraid because he trusted God. We need to be like Jesus, trusting God and caring about what is happening around us. This is a simple idea: trust God, care about people!
Fourth, find practical ways to fulfill God's call. God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. What is God calling you to do? To attend worship? To pray more often? To read your Bible more often? To go to Bible Study? To volunteer for a particular ministry? To visit someone who is sick or homebound? Our calling is to put our faith into action in loving, practical ways.
Don't get swallowed in the darkness of sin and apathy, and a need for fire and brimstone. Instead, let there be God's work being done on earth, and let it begin with me.