This Sunday

Repent, and believe the Good News

Repent, and believe the Good News

The story of Jonah is full of wonderful images. We all know that he spent time inside the belly of the whale (actually the Bible doesn't say it was a whale) and this was because he fled God's call to go to Nineveh to preach repentance. After the 'whale' vomited him onto a beach God again called him to preach to the Ninevites.

Why was Jonah so reluctant? It cannot have been simply laziness; he spent a great deal of effort running away. The Bible is silent on this but one can wonder whether it is because he is afraid that his preaching will be rejected or that he might be made to suffer for speaking out.

Having cleaned himself up after being in the whale Jonah gives in to God's call and goes to Nineveh. Perhaps to emphasise the scale of his task we are told that the city was huge, beyond compare. Jonah’s preaching is described as simple and to the point; in forty days the city will be destroyed.

Instead of mockery and ridicule there is an immediate response. The people believe and repent. It is as if they were waiting for someone to call them to repentance and they get on with it without delay.

This is a message for us when it comes to changing our lives. We might be tempted to justify ourselves and find excuses why we can’t or don’t need to change. Worse still we often resent being told and look for examples of hypocrisy in those who challenge us. The Ninevites could easily have pointed out that Jonah was far from perfect as a prophet.

There is another idea which echoes the call Jesus makes to those fishermen by the Sea of Galilee in this Sunday’s Gospel. It was a moment of grace in which those new disciples listened and immediately left everything. We might fear ridicule for expressing our faith and saying what we believe but we should not be surprised that these might be special moments too when God uses us to move the hearts of others. Might it be possible there are many people a great deal more open God than we think? All that it might take is a nudge.

This passage encourages us to invite others to get to know God. A simple expression of what is important to us without feeling superior about it can produce wonderful effects. We might also save on dry cleaning bills when it comes to whales.

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