Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Asleep at the wheel

Jonah asleep
Jonah makes it to the port of Joppa, finds a ship getting ready to sail to Spain; pays the fare, gets into the bottom of the ship, finds a comfortable spot and falls asleep. All seems to be going well so far. Not so fast!

          For [God] commanded and raised the stormy wind,
            which lifted up the waves of the sea.
            They mounted up to heaven; they went down to 
            the depths;       
            their courage melted away in their evil plight;
            they reeled and staggered like drunken men
            and were at their wits' end.
          (Psalm 107:25-27)

The sailors try to figure out why the gods are angry with them (Jonah 1:7). Eventually, they determine that Jonah is the culprit. When they questioned him, this is what he said:

I am a Hebrew, and I reverence the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land. He is God above all gods. He controls the sea and the dry land (Jonah 1:9).

When the mariners heard this, fear grabbed their hearts. Jonah had done something to provoke this powerful God. "What have you done?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them (Jonah 1:10).

Jonah’s confession is theologically sound. He talks about God in a way that the mariners cannot; but unlike the sailors, he does not talk to God. He quotes theology, but he does not pray. He references God, but does not obey God. He is religious but only in a dead, lifeless way.

Jonah represents you and me. Jonah is the religious, church person. He’s the Methodist, the Presbyterian, Pentecostal, the church attendee. But he doesn’t come across well in this scene. He sleeps while people in the world are drowning. They are seeking after God; he is running away from God.

Cities like Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow are teeming with millions of people seeking help, caught in a storm, drowning, calling out for help. Where is Jonah Christian? Sleeping. What is our responsibility for the people with whom we rub shoulders? Where in this story are we like Jonah?