One Whale of a Tale.4

by admin on August 16, 2012

Jonah 4
Reflections for 12 August 2012

Only in America. Added now to what side of the abortion issue or gay marriage you stand as determining your Christian faith is whether or not you buy a chicken sandwich. How long will be allow ourselves to be sidetracked and detoured from the real task of the Jesus community? That task? Proclaim Jesus Christ—the living encounter with God and to create his redemptive community. Does one get saved? Or are you constantly in the process of being saved?

We just don’t get it. Speaking of not getting it Jonah didn’t get it, either. He gave all the right answers, but none of the depth of the questions

Story of Jonah. Ran from God, ran to God, and ran for God. Now today PLOM (Poor Little Old Me). PLOM It’s never me, it’s always them; injustice collectors; why can’t someone solve my problems? More fun to complain than to do something.

Jonah: I knew you would do this
Yahweh: What’s your problem? Jonah exits stage right.
J: I’m better dead.
Y: Wait a minute; you can change your mind over a silly plant but I can’t over thousands of souls, including animals?

Anyone familiar with this dialogue?

Jonah story: doesn’t end on very happy note. Ends on all kinds of questions. BIG???

Will I allow myself to be defined by my
Personal preferences???? OR
Will I be defined by God’s imperative of mercy/forgiveness and justice/peace—the ongoing work of redemption?

PLOM is rooted in our inability to grab hold of situation and guide, control, run with it. In a word, it is the complete opposite of being an adult. Anxious times. “worst since 1930s”
God’s imperative is not hard to understand religious double talk, but down to earth.

Two moves

1. Lessen reactivity to anxiety. Eg. Wall St. Blame them?

When society’s anxiety becomes elevated, fundamentalism—seeking certainty through simple, sound bite answers—increases. Edwin Freidman (rabbi in anxious DC) “Curious connection between the tendency to think in all-or-nothing categories and lack of resiliency of response in relationships.” Much of the problems in government have little to do with political persuasion, and a lot to do with childish behavior.

Jonah, the anxious prophet speaks to, for, against another anxious society—not Nineveh!—but his own territory of ancient Israel. Yahweh’s plan to minimize anxiety Jonah, go and preach; let me handle the details. Can God be trusted with details?

2. Maximize objectivity—get a bigger picture of reality. PLOM is too confining.

You get objectivity by knowing the resources:
• Jonah is situated in real life, in a big city, nitty-gritty, hard scrapple, and no escape, messy. He gets shoved into that. Bigger venue then PLOM.
• God’s appointment: fish, bush, worm, hot wind barreling in his face. All natural ingredients to get his to wake up and smell the coffee. God wants to get our attention.
• Questions. This whole story is one big question. What kind of God is this? What kind of people would worship this kind of God?
—expansion, large, inclusive, second chancer.
—daring, movers, pioneers, trailblazers

If Jonah teaches us anything it’s the importance of asking questions—prophetic questions. Couple of years ago Karen and I sat in the Crown Financial course. The big question—how is God pleased by the way you handle money? What business is it of his? Why bring that in? Am I not perfectly capable of doing this myself? Let’s just say that my answers to those questions don’t settle the case, and that even to ask that question has caused a wrestling match and grown an awareness that wasn’t there before.

These two “Jonah moves” invite us past that good dose of the PLOM disease we all have.
Lessen our anxious reactivity—will I allow someone else’s emotionality to control mine?

Maximize objectivity—defining ourselves by a vision greater than ourselves, both individually and as a Body.

Jonah is not a singular man ; he’s God’s messenger and message to an anxious people. This little Old Testament book has given me pause to think about our faith community —not the building—but us as a community. We are more than a collection of various people who show up from time to time. There is actually a climate, an atmosphere, an environment that either settles in and hangs over, or raises up. Which one is it? I prefer to think in terms of raising up.

Nova is a resilient church . Resilient—having gone through tremendous adversity that strengthens, not breaks. I’m a big fan of resiliency My prayer is that we would be a more resilient church and people. I continuously get an answer. These are tough times, not just financially, but emotionally, professionally, physically. This is a test of our character how well can we deal with society’s anxiety?

Jonah didn’t get it. IT=redemption crafted in God’s heart. Church’s real task proclaim Jesus Christ and build a community of redemption. Will Nova have an alternative message that is resilient against the pervading one of our times? I believe we do.

I think that among Nova’s mighty gifts and assets are brains, money, connections. There is also a deepened sense of spiritual vitality; an actual formation of a resilient faith and not just pious slogans or knee jerk approval of political positions regardless of what side of the spectrum.

Now having said that, let me say this—this kind of church, Body of Jesus followers, is not for everybody. That sure wasn’t for Jonah. Nova isn’t a faith community for everybody . If you want a resilient faith, if you want to find a way out of the PLOM disease, if you want to learn how to finally grow up and become an adult, if you want the abundant life that Jesus gives…….well then….we can give you that. If you’d rather stay stuck in the PLOM disease and surrounded with your toys….well….there are probably better places to play.

If you want what we have, and will go to any lengths to get it….then there are a couple of steps to follow. Jonah didn’t get them…….can we?

Step One: come to admit that life is messy and largely out of my control. We all have a Nineveh.
Two: surrender to God.
Three: survey the moral landscape of your life—yours, not your neighbor’s.
Four: surrender to God.
Five: embrace adulthood: give up childish ways.
Six: surrender to God.

Surrender to God, the IT Jonah didn’t get and hence his plunge into PLOM is simply the white flag: praying only for the knowledge of God’s will and the power to do it. That will is always in community with others.

We have preached for three weeks on this short Bible book to bring to our attention that God is bigger than our institutionalized forms of religion; and that to read the Bible raises a lot more questions about ourselves.

The Chinese word for “crisis” is two characters: danger and opportunity. Will I allow myself to be defined and determined by my crises or opportunities? May the God of the fish, the bush, the worm give us all that resilient life.

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