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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jonah 3:10—4:11

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “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. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (NRSV)

Reflection
Ah, dear whiny Jonah.

“See, God, I knew you would do this. I knew you would put me out there, and once I stood up and said something, you’d cut my legs out from underneath me and make me look foolish. That’s why I ran, and that’s what you did. I wish I was dead.”

Jonah, the emo teenager, full of drama. Can’t you just hear the exasperated sighs and stomping feet?

“Don’t you think you might be overreacting just a bit?”

God, the long-suffering parent. You can probably fill in the rest of the conversation yourself.

“I’m going to my room”

“OK, but no Internet.”

“I WISH I WAS DEAD!!!!”

Kids. Right, Lord?

Sometimes the image of God as the parent and us as the children isn’t always gentle and comforting. Sometimes God’s children can be really, well, childish. Like when we think that God’s calling is somehow about us, like the universe and all that’s in it revolves around us, around what we want and what we do and what we think we’re supposed to get after we do things.

I mean, Jonah doesn’t really want to be dead. He wants God to make it up to him. Give him the keys to the car. Buy him tickets to Lollapalooza. He wants to be the center of God’s attention, not those Nineveh jerks.

“Listen, kid. It’s not all about you. You don’t get a prize for everything. You do the right thing because it makes a better world, and if the world gets better, then that’s your reward.”

Here’s hoping we grow up enough to learn that.

Prayer
Lord, so often we think it’s all about us and forget that your love is for everyone—even those whom we may dislike. Help us to remember that the kingdom of God is for all people. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts


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