Yesterday I took a very rare sick day. I woke up not feeling very well. I expected it might pass in time for me to preach, but I have an excellent intern from Perkins School of Theology, so I called him in, with 1 1/2 hours notice, to preach for me.
All reports are that he did very well. I am not surprised. He has proved himself more than competent from the day he started here. I only wish now that I could have been there to ehar him.
We were finishing Jonah Sunday. Jonah 3: 1-5, 10 was the OT lectionary last Sunday, but we had decided that this story had to be finished. Here’s how I was going to finish it (in summary):
God would rather we argue than run away.
Abraham, upon hearing what God was going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah, talked God down: Genesis 18 ends with God agreeing that if 10 good people are found, the cities will be spared.
Moses argues with God over the golden calf incident: God says He wants to destroy the people and start over. Moses talks Him out of it.
Job famously says, “See, he will kill me; I have no hope;* but I will defend my ways to his face.” (Job 13:15)
My favorite is Jacob, after wrestling with God (or an angel) all night and refusing to give in, receives a new name, Israel. Israel means “To struggle with God and men and prevail.”
God seems to enjoy a good argument/debate/wrestling match.
Yet what do we tend to offer God today?
God wants to argue/debate/struggle with us, and we grovel and avert our eyes. Or, like Jonah, we run away.
Sadly, Jonah explains, in chpater 4, why he ran away from God:
‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.
Jonah ran less out of fear for his own life than out of not wanting to be part of God’s merciful outreach to people who are different than himself.
Don’t run away. Don’t grovel. Don’t avert your eyes. God wants a full-contact relationship.