Saving the world—One Gourd plant at a time?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

We’ve been hearing the story of Jonah, the pouty prophet, having accomplished a great work for God, yet complaining about a withered gourd plant, sounding like a 4-year-old, “angry enough to die.”

We also have heard the disciples ask Jesus how to pray. Jesus calls God “Father.” It is a name for the love they have for each other, and for the unity they share. It is about God’s daily care, Gods everyday attentiveness to the needs of human beings and God’s goodness on and in the earth. It is about mercy, forgiveness. It is about protection, and hope.

Interestingly, Jonah knows more about God than we initially think. He doesn’t want to deal with God, or be God’s messenger—and why?  Because Jonah already knows–not at the depth of Jesus, exactly– that God (not Father, but Big Boss) is merciful and forgiving, and cares about Nineveh enough to offer a warning to its people  and a chance to repent.

 But Jonah does not want to save Nineveh.  He would like to see Nineveh, that pagan den of vice, be crushed. And he wants that more than God does. So why should he be the prophet to save them? So he runs away—sort of a triathlon of avoidance, running, sailing, swimming–causing all manner of trouble for others, and goes overboard so that God will quell that storm. An even more extreme form of draft-dodging. And then there’s the huge fish, and his three day stay in its guest-room.

Finally unable to run or swim or hide, Jonah becomes the prophet he does not want to be, and travels to and through that city. And much to hs disgust, in one day of walking  and proclaiming destruction, the ruler and the people ( and the cattle) put on sackcloth and observe a fast, and thereby call down God’s mercy..

Jonah is peeved. He pouts. He tells God he’s angry enough to die. Why? Because he’s done God’s work !?  Yes, he’s done God’s work—a mammoth conversion–and it is he who is unconverted. Probably Job’s name for God is “The Big Boss.”

But for Jesus, God is Father, Abba, deeply in love, dwelling as One, working together in bringing the holiness, the bounty, the daily bread of life, forgiveness and hope for a world reborn.  .

My guess is that you and I are somewhere between. God we say, is gracious and merciful, sweet energy, beauty, goodness, Truth. We’re half-converted, anyway. Our,  naming and our imaging have evolved over time, as we grow deeper into Gospel understanding, though on occasion we’re not entirely sure God should expend so much effort in saving the world through our labors.There are plenty of Ninevehs out there we hardly approve of, although maybe we’d settle for being assigned a gourd plant. We  butt heads with what we suspect God is asking, and we often follow our own wills and desires, sure that they are God’s, in agreement with us.

Hearing and responding to God’s voice, God’s Spirit,  often involves a name-change, an image-adjustment, a surrender. We are quite aware that saving the world is much more than God is asking us in our weakness and our hesitancy.   It’s all so enormous. So God asks from us our todays, our small acts of faithfulness, our belief in a mercy far greater than ours.And maybe a name-change or an image-alteration. Of God and of ourselves.

So from all eternity God is not the Boss, or the Judge.  He  is Love and Mercy and is calling our name. :Jesus repeats it to us in human flesh, Beloved; and the Spirit is busy bringing it from our heart to our lips. Beloved.  And we learn—over time– that our name is the same.

Posted in Weekly Word

12 responses to “Saving the world—One Gourd plant at a time?

  1. Thank you, Jan. Your words touch the fullness of being human. Thanks for your insights, wonderful use of words, and your constant reminder of Gods’ ever-present unconditional love and mercy.

  2. Jan,
    I am forever grateful for the gift of your preaching. I am challenged and invited to listen even when I know I can give Jonah a run for his money! Thank you!


  3. Jan, your imagery and phrases are wonderful. “The fish’s guest room. But remembering God is not asking the impossible, just what we can do today. Peace, Carol

  4. Jan, your words needed and inspiriting. You have such talent reflecting on scripture and making it reality. Your insights are thought provoking. Thank you for

  5. I love the description of Jonah’s staying in the big fish’s guest room. Thanks for your clever description. It brought a smile and another angle to the story.

  6. WOW! Janet, you know how to speak a message almost beyond what I want to hear. I do wish I could absorb all that you say because the truth is, it is the truth. Thanks for sharing what I needed to hear.

  7. Thank you Sister Janet for your unique and thought- provoking message . . .. very interesting and challenging.

    Blessings to you.
    Jan Wilson, OPA

  8. “A triathlon of avoidance”? “Extreme draft-dodging?” I love it! A beautiful reflection…again! Thank you so much!

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