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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 28, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jonah 1:1–2; 4:6–11

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” 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)

I remember learning this story in Sunday School growing up. I often thought Jonah was a little silly for questioning God and I also tended to imagine Jonah a little like Pinocchio, because they are both eaten by whales. I thought that if I had God talking to me who would I be to question the call? As a kid, I knew I had a lot to learn and I trusted adults knew better than I did, why wouldn’t adults have the same perspective about God?

Well, I am a little older now, and while I do still often think of Pinocchio when I hear this passage, I am a lot more understanding of Jonah. While I am a big believer in God’s love and mercy, I’ll admit there are times when I would prefer that mercy be shared exclusively with me and the people I deem appropriate. Still, I am more willing to trust that God knows something I don’t know when it comes to good things happening to bad people. I can tell myself that God knows their heart better than I do, who am I to judge?

As an adult, I spend more time thinking about the bush. I think about the things and people in my life that God has blessed me with, that I form strong attachments to, but I have no real ownership of. Like Jonah is blessed with the bush but has no ownership of it. I have a lot more empathy for Jonah’s reaction when God allows to let them get “chewed up and withered.” As an adult I have more hubris, thinking I know the way things should be. Feeling like I have ownership over people and things on this earth.

The silly fish story isn’t so silly anymore.

God, help me to have child like faith in you. To trust your mercy and judgment is greater than my own. Grant me the understanding that sometimes I won’t understand. Amen.

Written by Katie Patterson, Director of Urban Youth Mission

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