“From the Belly of a Whale”

Have you ever been caught in the belly of a whale? To answer that question accurately, you’ll need to know the context of the story. And this week we will attempt to do just that as continue our “Foundations of Scripture” series that began last week with Matthew 25, and continues this week with The Book of Jonah. 

But before you move on to Jonah’s great biblical escapade, let’s not leave Matthew 25 too quickly. Here are some suggestions for the rest of this week: 

  • Write down or copy the text from Matthew 25: 37-40 (it was printed in last Sunday’s bulletin)  and tape it to your refrigerator – so that every time you go fetching for food, you will have another opportunity to read and think about this great lesson from Jesus; 
  • Write down of copy the text from Matthew 25:40 (it was on the cover of last week’s bulletin) and stick it to your bathroom mirror so that this verse becomes your “memorization verse” for the week – as you stand in front of your mirror you can literally recite it over and over and commit it to memory; 
  • Grab your “Kind Like Christ” checklist from last Sunday (special thanks to Karaline, Annabelle, McKenna & Ally!) and get to work … for a kinder world. We will have more ‘Kind Like Christ” checklists available this Sunday at church!

 Now, let’s get back to that question I started with: Have you ever been caught in the belly of a whale? Literally … almost for sure, NOT! But what about figuratively … metaphorically … almost for sure, YES. Whether you call it “the belly of a whale,” or “between a rock and a hard place,” or “up the river without a paddle” or “rock-bottom,” or, as it was frequently in the Bible, in the fasting in the wilderness or exiled in the desert – we ALL know the experience of Jonah being caught in the belly of a whale. 

This Sunday I’m going to the Old Testament for our “Foundations of Scripture” to teach the “simple, but not easy” story of Jonah, God, and Nineveh from the Book of Jonah. The Book of Jonah is only 4 chapters long, but for its size it probably gets more attention than most books of the Bible that are much larger. The main reason: It’s a simple yet entertaining story. if you know anything about the Book of Jonah, you probably know it’s about Jonah in the Belly of the Whale – which makes for a great kid’s story at church (and a really good trunk-or-treat decoration!). It’s also very prevalent in VBS curricula, so almost everyone first learned of this story when they were youngsters.

But even with its simplistic characters and entertaining theme, the story of Jonah makes for strong and hard teaching about who God is and how God shows mercy to all peoples — and also about who we are (Jonah) and how we struggle mightily with the idea that God could care about even the most despicable humans on earth. 

Ultimately, this story teaches us that God pursues every single person, and welcomes home any repenting sinner … even you and me … and our worst enemies! As we learn from Jonah, coming to terms with the truth about who God really is, and then putting that into action in our daily life is a most insurmountable challenge … especially without God’s help. On the other hand, with God’s help … anything is possible!

So, we’re not off the hook because it seems so hard! This little “simple, but not easy” story will help us come to terms with what it means to be a servant of God in a world of other masters. And you won’t be surprised to learn — it’s much harder than you might think. Just ask Jonah, who’s famous “last words” are, “I do well to be angry … even unto death!”

That is NOT God’s plan. God’s plan for you is just like it was for Jonah: God wants (needs) you to go to the hard places in order to spread the “Good News” about the redeeming love of God and how, according to God’s plan, we can all live in harmony together, if we’re only willing to trust God. 

It’s worth asking, isn’t it?

  • “How am I being called by God today to apply the story of Jonah to my life?”
  • “What does the story of Jonah teach us about how we as followers of Christ should be responding to our current national and global situations?”
  • “Where do the ‘people of God’ stand AND act on issues of oppression, discrimination, and war?” 
  • “What is justice in the eyes of God?”
  • “What does it mean to be a ‘patriot’ and a ‘follower of Christ’? — And is that even possible?”

I’ll meet you in the belly – God’s got some work for us …                                                                                                                         Pastor <>< Bob