Waynedale United Methodist Church
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July 19, 2015 Sermon

“Jonah and His Fish Story”
Jonah 3, 4
Ted Jansen  July 19, 2015  Waynedale UMC
 
1.)        When I was a boy we would often go to Morse Lakes in New Jersey and visit my grandparents.  One of the memories of Morse Lakes was going fishing.  Fishing consisted of some small fishing poles, hooks, bobbers and dough balls.  Do any of you know what a dough ball is?  It is bread that you put some spit on and put between your fingers and make a small ball that you would put on the hook as bait.  That is what we fished with.  Sometimes we would we dig in my grandparents yard and find some worms.  We mainly used dough balls.    
            What would we catch?   We were seeking to catch sunnies.  I believe sometimes we caught bluegills.  Childhood fishing at Morse Lakes was about dough balls and sunnies.  
            About ten years ago Kevin was fishing in a retaining pond across the street from where we lived.  It was a pond full of frogs, blue gills and some bass.  I decided to join him at the pond one evening.  I brought some bread over and made some dough balls, like I did when I was a little boy. 
I caught a few bluegills and then I hooked one and thought this is a really big bluegill.  I was surprised when I brought the fish in and it was a bass, a pretty decent size bass.  I had caught a bass with a dough ball.  I told Kevin to go get a camera and a tape measure.  Here is the picture of the bass that I caught.  I think it was at least 24 inches!   No, perhaps 14.        
            This, if you believe, is not a made up story, but a true one.  This bass caught with bread! 
 
2.)        Can you imagine what the first person that Jonah told his fish story to was thinking?   Perhaps that person thought Jonah is crazy, or a great story teller, or under some type of influence.  What would you think if Jonah had told you? 
Well, Jonah told someone about his fish story and then the rest of what happened to him.  We are going to look at the rest of the story as I share 3 insights.    
Jonah is back on dry land after running away from God and being swallowed by a great fish.  He prays and after three days and night the fish spits him up.  Jonah heads to Nineveh to tell the people of Nineveh that God is not happy, that God is mad at their wickedness and violence.     
            The people hear Jonah’s message and declare a fast so that people can pray.  The people are in mourning and the king declares that all people must give up their evil ways and acts of violence and pray to God.  The people do this and God has compassion on the people and chooses not to destroy them.                I want to offer several insights from the 3rd and 4th chapter of Jonah. 
 
3.)        The first insight is that God is a compassionate God.   God is always wanting to express compassion.  But at times we see, especially in the Old Testament that God can be angry and destroy life when people are wicked, violent or profaning the name of the Lord. 
            Compassion is an expression of God’s Holiness that God most wants to communicate.   
Jonah spoke these words to express what he knew about God.  “You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love…” (Jonah 4:2)
 
4.)        How have you seen God’s compassion expressed?  Linda Kolb shared a video on Facebook about a young man paying for the groceries of others and saying “God is good!”  This young man quickly leaves and people respond in different ways.  Some are shocked, one woman cried, some tell the clerk their story.  Most are not prepared for unexpected compassion. 
What are other examples of compassion we have seen?  
 
5.)        You would think that Jonah would be excited and glad for the people.   God was planning on destroying them and now God not going to do this.  Jonah has just received compassion from this amazing God when his life was spared when he ran away from God.    
Jonah is not excited or glad.  How does Jonah respond?   Jonah is angry.  What?  Why would that be?  We see that Jonah did not want God to have compassion on the people of Nineveh. Listen to these words.  “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.”  (Jonah 4:1)
           
6.)        The second insight is that people are judgmental.     
            People find it easy to judge others.  It is easier to get the speck out of someone else’s eyes than the log out of our own eyes.  We see the sin and problems of others, yet, choose to look away at the problems that we have.      
 
7.)        What makes you angry and judgmental?     Are there certain people that irritate you?  Are there people whose problems make you upset?  Are there situations, actions, attitudes that bother you?  Do you have a sense that life need to be “fair?”  When life isn’t fair that causes you to be angry.  We all have something that causes us irritation. 
            Is it true that some ex-smokers are very intolerant of those who continue to smoke?  Perhaps that can be true in any number of habits, attitudes and actions?     
 
8.)        We read in Jonah 4 that God provides a vine to grow for shelter for Jonah.  The vine that grew up and provided shade was God’s plan and provision.  Then the next day God caused a worm to eat the vine and made the vine die.  Jonah was not protected but felt the full hot energy of the sun because he had no vine to protect him.  Jonah felt faint and was angry about the vine and the hot sunshine.  Jonah wanted to die.  God continued to show compassion on Jonah and talks and teaches Jonah.    “God said to Jonah, do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”  (Jonah 4:9)
 
9.)        The third insight is that God continues to teach us.  God was teaching Jonah with each incident in this book.  Time and time again God is teaching Jonah. 
You would think Jonah would be teachable and grace filled ever since he was spit out of the fish.  You would think that Jonah would be compassionate to others as he was given compassion.  You would think Jonah would be thankful for how God was caring for him.  You would think Jonah would not be angry anymore.  You would think that Jonah would be glad to see other people receive a second chance, just like he received a second chance.     
 
10.)      What is God having to continue to teach you on your faith journey?  Are you learning, growing and receiving or are you closed up, stubborn, and not really caring about God.   Do you have to keep learning the same things over and over again?  Oftentimes we learn the hard way.  Corrie Ten Boom shares a story on Forgiving.  This describes God’s working in her heart.    
 
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’
“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]
“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’
“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.
“‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’
“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’
“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”   
(“I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom. Reprinted from Guideposts Magazine. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts, Carmel, New York 10512).
 
11.)      Jonah’s story can remind us of ourselves as humans and how we need God.  It can also remind us of the one who was dead for three days until God’s power brought Him back to life.
 
Closing Prayer             Lord, we thank you for your compassion, we ask forgiveness for our judgmental attitudes and actions, we appreciate that you continue to teach us and guide us in our lives.  We desire to serve you with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.  Amen.