Jonah fled…Jonah sunk…Jonah calls out…Jonah goes…
Jonah, probably one of the most reluctant characters we run into with regard to spreading God’s Word. Certainly he was a great prophet in Israel but when God pushes him outside his comfort zone and asks him to reach out to Nineveh, nothing doing. He ran as fast and as far as he could. The funny thing is, even in his reluctance or rather his disobedience, God made His will and work known. First to Jonah and his shipmates, later to the people of Nineveh themselves. Not much was said, only “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Yet in these few words God works repentance and faith in the heart of the villainous people of Nineveh and things change.
How Jonahesque we often are. We gather together and we share in the joy of knowing Christ our King and His salvation for us. Yet, when we see those outside of our “family” we are reluctant to share the wealth. Oh, we may necessarily do this consciously or physically run away and try to hide like Jonah. But, we cloak our hearts and minds in worldly pursuits for fear we might let something uncomfortable slip…like our faith in Jesus. Or we “stick to our own” because it is just too difficult to reach out to those we don’t know or understand.
In a footnote on this text in The Lutheran Study Bible (Concordia Publishing House, 2009) we read, “God is concerned for all people, even those we might write off. The people of Nineveh hardly seem like “good prospects.” However, the message they hear is from God, and God makes sure that it bear s the fruit of repentance. Do you assume some people are unable or unwilling to respond to the Gospel? Leave conversion in God’s hands and faithfully fulfill your role as His witness. He has promised that His Word will bear fruit, and He is concerned that all people have the opportunity to be saved. Thank God, His Word bore the fruit of repentance in Nineveh and also in your life.”
What a way to consider our calling as citizens of His kingdom…to “faithfully fulfill your role as His witness” wherever and whenever He sends us. Knowing that we are alive in Christ, through His death and resurrection by God’s grace, we are free to live without Jonah-like fear and anger but to proclaim in word and deed the hope we have. Whether in our own backyard or somewhere far reaching, in the springtime of our life or in late mid-winter what a phenomenal joy it is to know that we can serve the Lord.
This is the motivation behind our emphasis at LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission to engage our communities, develop strong congregational leadership as well as assist struggling congregations with resources to help them do those things God has called them to do. Whether tiny or larger, isolated or “in town” we have multitudes around us to whom we can reach out with the love of Christ. They may not look like us, act like us or come from the same founding families but they are all “good prospects” since Christ died for them just as He did for us.
For more information on engaging your community or resources offered by LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission, please check out our website at www.lcms.org/rstm or contact our office 888-463-5127.