Who sets your goals?

Palm Sunday is usually the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem proclaiming peace not vengeance to a lost humanity. It is the story of people who cried out for salvation who didn’t realize just for what they were asking. It is the story of those same people proclaiming the truth of who Jesus was on Sunday and screaming for his death less than a week later. So what does this have to do with Jonah?

In one sense it has everything to do with Jonah because Jonah, like those Jews who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem did not understand what God had planned for them. Jonah, like those, crying hosanna, at the gates of Jerusalem had a view of the world that was truncated, cut off, limited, and static. It was a view of the world very different than the one God has for his creation. And unfortunately, things haven’t changed much since the days of Jonah and Jerusalem, for we too often fail to see God’s larger audience.

Jonah is an unwilling prophet. He didn’t want to go to the Assyrians and he doesn’t want to be there now. He hates the Assyrians. He wants God to destroy them and do the Jews a favor. In fact, that is exactly what Jonah expects God to do when he finally is gulped down by the fish and puked out on the beach.

In Under the Unpredictable Plant Eugene Peterson writes:

Jonah had a child-sized plan that did not pan out; God had a hugely dimensioned destiny that surprised everyone when it was enactedGod has purposes far exceeding anything Jonah imagined. Jonah thought he had come to Nineveh to do a religious job... God had brought Jonah to Nineveh to give him an experience of amazing grace.” (Peterson, 1994, p. 161)

The last command of Jesus to the disciples in the Acts 1:8

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

Take a hard look at the first nine chapters of Acts and you discover that most of what people complain about the church today is already present in those first few months after Easter. They don’t travel much outside of Jerusalem until they start causing problems and one of them are executed by a mob (Acts 6-7). Only then, are the forced into Judea and Samaria. And until Saul is converted and sent off to Tarsus where he can’t upset the peace of the church in Jerusalem it doesn’t spread outward to the rest of the world.

Like Jonah, there was a reluctance to tell others, especially non-Jews, about Jesus. We heard that last week in Peter’s preaching to Cornelius. Way back in 2001 only 32% of all church people believed they had an obligation to tell others about their faith (Siemon-Netto, 2001). How different might the Body of Christ look if only 4 of the Apostles felt it was necessary to share their vision of the risen Christ? During his study leave, John Stott tells of his time at a tiny church in rural England. What struck him was the limited view of the congregation. Preaching was what limited to their village and the prayers for their concerns. He writes, “I came to the conclusion “Stott observed, “that these people worshiped a village God” (Bothwick, 2009).

Jonah worshiped a national God. He did not believe in a God of creation, even though that’s what the scriptures proclaimed. Genesis teaches us God is the creator of the whole cosmos, just not one people. The Psalms tell of his creation giving God praise and Revelation give us a vision of people of every nation and tongue praising God. And this is possible because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).

I’m convinced that we need to become ‘world-aware’ believers of Christ. To do this we need to learn about the world. Don’t trust NPR, Lars Larson, FOX, CNN, and Facebook to teach you about the world.

World-Aware Believers seek first-hand knowledge

We live in one of the truly multicultural cities on the West Coast. North Portland boasts two colleges with international students galore. Cork Erickson’s church had an international outreach to PCC for years. All of us have the chance to come across people from other nations. As we learn who they are we are free to learn their stories and their hearts. It is my hope that we will be able to substantially support individual missionaries in Europe, Africa, and Asia along with the couple we are now supporting in the Middle East. What might it look like if we had missionaries regularly visit with us as they are home or as other churches have done, send a contingent into a new place to learn of their culture?

World-Aware Believers pray with the world in view

We do a good job of that here at Kenton. We are aware of and pray for the world and those issues about which we know. In addition we don’t forget about those things that were in the news and have dropped off the front page. We continue to pray that God would work in mighty ways. Unlike Jonah, we aren’t limited in our vision to seeing God as an America God or a Portland God. We can thank the legacy of the Kurtz family for much of this continued awareness.

Conclusion

We don’t know what ever happens to Jonah. We are not told if he ever gets over his anger at God or his hatred of the Ninevites. We don’t know if he makes it back to Israel or what he tells his friends if he gets back. Like the rich man who walks away from Jesus after he’s told to sell all he has, we just don’t know the answer. We never read any more about the soldier at the cross who declares, “This is the Son of God”. We don’t read of the mission trips of Barnabas and Mark. We don’t have neat movie-like endings for Jesus’ mother, the woman at the well, or even Lazarus who was called back from the dead.

What we do have is a God who loves us even when we, like Jonah, don’t get it. We need to hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will keep us from becoming like Jonah. That we won’t run from God but toward him and that we won’t try to hide from God’s call but embrace it and be embraced by it so we might see the amazing things God is doing in our world through us. Let us pray.

 

 

Works Cited

Bothwick, P. (2009). How To Be A World-Class Christian. IVP Books.

Siemon-Netto, U. (2001, June 28). Barna Poll on U.S. Religoius Belief-- 2001. Retrieved from Adherents.com: http://www.adherents.com/misc/BarnaPoll.html