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.