Binding Broken Hearts

https://www.stmarksbemidji.org

https://gracelutheransc.wordpress.com

Jonah Ch 4 (NIV)

1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

God’s Abounding Grace

↓ Download Service Folder

8th Sunday after Pentecost
Jonah 4:5-11

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Ptolemy was a second century Egyptian astronomer who worked out a systematic presentation of the universe in which the earth was the fixed center, with the sun and all stars revolving around it. For about 1400 years this was the accepted understanding. That is, until in the 16th century, a Polish astronomer named Copernicus, argued the contrary, that the earth actually revolves around the sun. This was a total paradigm shift for people, a total reversal of the way that people thought about the earth and the universe.

There’s such a paradigm shift that goes on when God brings someone to faith and it’s such a paradigm shift that it has to keep occurring with in us. But it has nothing to do with the sun or the earth, rather it has to do with what you revolve your life around. You see, each of us has this struggle where we find ourselves becoming the center of our own little universe and expect everything to revolve around us, we subtly or not-so-subtly expect that events, circumstances, situations should happen the way that we want them to. And when they don’t, we fill ourselves with self-pity, with anger, with despair. And that’s one of the major lessons we see in the prophet Jonah.

Jonah was likely a very honored and respected prophet in the 700s BC. He was a prophet from the Northern Kingdom of Israel before it was destroyed. And it could be that the time when this whole account happened was about the middle of the 700s. God came to Jonah and said, “Go to the great city Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Now, what happens next is crazy. Instead of listening to God, Jonah boards a ship and plans to sail to farthest city in the opposite direction. Why didn’t Jonah want to go to Nineveh? Nineveh was a huge city located in the nation of Assyria. The people in the city were wicked, violent, and cruel. Jonah probably knew the signs that Assyria was growing in power and God had prophesied that he would use them as a scourge to call the Israelites to repentance. The people of Nineveh were enemies of the Israelites. Perhaps it would be somewhat like God telling you or me to go to this huge city in the Middle East that supports, funds, and protects horribly cruel and violent terrorists and warn them so I don’t reign destruction down upon them. Jonah goes in the opposite direction.

But while he’s sailing on this ship, the Lord sends a violent storm that almost causes the ship to sink. The sailors are terrified- each are crying out to their gods- they finally cast lots and discover that the storm is because of Jonah. They ask Jonah what they should do, Jonah tells them to throw him overboard, the sailors try everything in order not to do this but the storm gets even wilder and finally they throw him in asking the Lord not to hold them accountable. Jonah is thrown in and probably figures he would rather die than go and preach to the Ninevites. But the Lord then sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah and save his life. For 3 days Jonah sat in the belly of this huge fish and finally repented, turned to the Lord and the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah on dry ground.

The Lord comes to Jonah again: Go to Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you. Jonah obeyed the Lord this time. Proclaimed in Nineveh “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” And we’re told the Ninevites believed God, they repented, declared a fast, everyone from the greatest to the least -even animals- were dressed in sack cloth, the king sat in ashes, they gave up their evil ways and their violence, and prayed that God would turn from his fierce anger and have compassion on them. And when God saw their reaction He did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Now, we would expect that the next verse would read: “Jonah rejoiced and went home happy for they repented of their sin and believed God.” God’s Word worked! But what are we told? Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. When a doctor performs a successful surgery, does he go home angry? No, he’s happy! When a police officer finally catches the criminal, is he upset? No, he’s happy! When a pastor uses law and gospel and someone repents and trusts in their Savior, they’re happy! But Jonah? He’s angry! And he prays to the Lord and says, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” In other words he’s saying, “I knew that this what was going happen. I knew you going to let them off the hook. I knew that you were a God who relents from sending calamity. I knew you had this bad habit of forgiving people. I wanted these dirty Assyrians to be wiped off the map, and I was afraid of this. I knew you were compassionate, that’s the reason I got so upset the first time.”

What’s Jonah’s issue? How do you get to such a bad place? How do you get so full of selfish exclusiveness, so full of prejudice, so narcissistic, so only concerned with yourself? He resents God’s grace and compassion for those he considers are the outsiders. How do you get to that place? He’s Ptolemaic. He sees the world as revolving around him. He is the center of his own universe. He doesn’t care what God wants, he cares about what HE wants. Do we do this? Or perhaps, a better question, how do we identify the same Jonah that lives inside each of us?

God gives us one indication here. Notice where you get angry. Notice where you get upset. Notice what riles you and bugs you and makes you mad. Jonah goes out of the city after the whole city has repented and turned in trust to God and he waits. The forty days aren’t up yet, maybe God will still destroy these dirty Assyrians anyway. He builds a shelter for himself and God provides this nice vine to grow up overnight and provide shade for Jonah. Jonah becomes very happy over this vine that gives him comfort and shade. The next day, God again provides something, a worm to chew the vine and wither it. Then God provides a scorching wind and hot sun and Jonah is growing faint from it and wishes he could die. God then probes him with a question: “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” Jonah responds, “I do! I am angry enough to die.”

How do you identify the Jonah in your own heart? What upsets you? What angers you? What “plants” do you get upset over? What things in life that don’t go your way make you angry? The Irish playwright Bernard Shaw once wrote: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.” Do you think the universe should revolve around you and are upset when it doesn’t?

Notice how God deals with Jonah. The Lord asks him a question: “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many animals as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Jonah resented God’s grace and generosity to others. He was more concerned about this plant than he was about the immortal souls of people. He wrongly assumed that he deserved God’s grace more than others. But grace isn’t for those who deserve, it’s only for those who don’t deserve it.

Are you troubled by the way Jonah ends? This is the end of the book. God wanted it to end here. It kind of leaves us hanging, what happened? Did Jonah repent? But finally, the book really isn’t so much about Jonah as it is about you and I. How are we going to answer God’s penetrating question? We are invited to put ourselves into the shoes of Jonah and confront our own inclination to assume that God’s grace is only for us, that we have a right to it, that others deserve only judgment. What’s our answer going to be?

The reality is, Jonah, you, me, everyone should only receive eternal judgment for our prejudice, selfishness, self-centeredness. But God’s grace is his love particularly for those who don’t deserve it. One greater than Jonah has come. He has given us the answer to God’s abounding grace. Jesus wrote the answer to God’s grace with His blood shed on the cross. Through his life, death, and resurrection we are assured that our salvation is secure, that heaven is indeed our eternal home, that we are recipients of God’s abounding grace and members of God’s kingdom.

So the only question that remains is how will you and I respond to God’s abounding grace? Will we be like Jonah? Will we be selfishly exclusive- thinking we deserve God’s grace and others do not? Will we be more concerned about the “plants” in our lives than we are about immortal souls? Or, will we realize first of all that we need God’s grace. We are lost, helpless, without hope on our own and desperately need God’s grace, compassion, and love. Will we trust that in Jesus Christ we have it. We have a God who so loved the world that gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life- that means you, that means me, that means all. And will we live to share God’s abounding grace with any and with all?

God’s abounding grace: realize you need it, trust that you have it, live to share it. Amen.

Thank you, God, For Working in Mysterious Ways!

Give thanks to God at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day Sermonettes

Jonah 1:17– Thank you, God, for confronting me

How would you have felt?  God asked Jonah to go preach in the capital city of one of Israel’s most powerful enemies… because God wanted to show them compassion and love.  Would you have been jumping up and down to go?  Jonah wasn’t.  So he got on a ship that was sailing as far away as possible.  But God sent a fierce storm, so fierce the ship was about to break up, the sailors figured out that the storm was because of Jonah.  So with Jonah’s permission they threw him overboard…and everything immediately grew calm.  But what happened to Jonah?  “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”  Do you think Jonah got God’s message?  Do you think he had time to think?  Do you think God got his attention?  He did…in a very unusual way.

Have we been in Jonah’s shoes, shoes of rebellion against God? God tells us to forgive those who sin against us, but do we say, “No way!  That’s his problem; after all HE sinned against ME!”  God tells us to put Him first, but do we say, “No!  I have my own wants and needs to take care of first, maybe if I have some leftovers I’ll give something to God.”   We’ve all had times like that.  And what does God do?  He wakes us up.  Probably hasn’t been with a great big fish, but maybe it’s a sudden challenge in our lives which draws our attention heavenward.  Maybe it’s a serious illness that strips us of our “I can make it on my own” attitude.  Maybe it’s a long, hard look at God’s law that shows us how greatly we’ve fallen and how desperately we need a Savior.  Whatever it may be, THANK the Lord for confronting us with our sin and showing us our desperate need for a Savior.  Realizing our sinfulness let us confess our sin to God:

Hosea 3:1 – Thank you, God, for your faithful love

God has taken away your sin.   For as high has the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for you; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed your sin from you.  You are forgiven.  How might you picture that kind of love?  I’ll bet you wouldn’t have guessed this one.  God gave the Israelites and us an object lesson.  God told the prophet Hosea to marry an adulteress, a prostitute.  God wanted Hosea to unconditionally and unselfishly commit his life to a woman who had a terrible history of being faithless and unfaithful in the deepest way.  How would you have felt if you were Hosea?  I think it’s safe to say that no one looks for a spouse who is unfaithful or not-trustworthy.  But what was God’s point?  Look at the verse, “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”  What’s the point?  God still loves the unfaithful.

Although we are the unfaithful ones, unfaithful with the gifts and abilities God’s given us, unfaithful with our devotion to His Word, although that is who we are…guess what…  God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for your unfaithfulness.  God picked you up and united Himself with you.  God still continues to love you. God will not turn away from you, God will never divorce you, God does not leave you.  God loves you unconditionally and His abounding love and forgiveness will never, ever run out for you!  Is that something to be thankful for?  THANK you, Lord, for Your incredibly faithful love!

Jeremiah 32:7-25 – Thank you, God, for reminding me of the big picture!

To understand this next segment, we need to understand the context.  Nebuchadnezzar – the Babylonian king – has come with his army and is besieging Jerusalem.  He’s already overrun the rest of the country, and is about to destroy the capital city, Jerusalem, and will be killing many and taking many more off into exile.

What do you think?  Is that a good time to be buying property?  Not so much, right?  J

And, yet, that’s exactly what God tells Jeremiah to do.  He tells Jeremiah that his cousin is going to come and ask him to buy his field, and that Jeremiah should buy it.  So, sure enough, Jeremiah’s cousin shows up, and Jeremiah dutifully weighs out the silver, and buys the field.

Later, Jeremiah’s praying, and he says to God, and it seems like it’s probably with some degree of frustration, “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. {25} And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign LORD, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'” (Jer 32:24-25 NIV)

What was God teaching Jeremiah, and us?  He’s reminding us that He sees the big picture!  Yes, the army was at the gates at that point.  Yes, the Israelites were in trouble at that point.  Yes, they would be going into exile.

But they would be coming back!  It would be years later, but they would come back!  God knew the big picture, and would guide His people through it!

And so God will do with you and me.  He knows what will happen next month, next year, 50 years from now.  Even now He’s guiding and directing all things for the good of His people, including you.  In fact, even now God’s causing/allowing things in your life which will be a blessing for your great, great, great grand-children!

Thank you, God!  Thank you for knowing the big picture!  And thank you for reminding me of that big picture, that I might approach all of life with confidence and joy!

Exodus 17:10-12 – Thank you, God, for Gifting Me in Unique Ways!

Okay, everyone, I want you to do something a bit different.  Hold up your arms into the air.  Go ahead, hold them up high as you listen to this last sermonette.

The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land after having left Egypt.  Indeed, it wasn’t long after God had begun giving them manna, that the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites.  And God did something, well, strange.

He had Moses stand on the top of a hill, holding up the staff of God (the same staff, apparently, which he’d held out over the Red Sea when God divided it).  As long as Moses’ hands were up, the Israelites would be winning the battle; when his hands went down, the Israelites would begin losing.  Strange!  The challenge, of course, was for Moses to keep his hands up there.

By the way, how are your arms doing?  Starting to feel it a little bit?  Well, imagine doing this for hours, and the success of the battle depends on you keeping your hands up!  Would it be nice to have some help?

Well, that’s what happened!  Aaron and a man named Hur stood to Moses’ side, and held his arms up, and so the Israelites won the battle.  Aaron and Hur’s contributions were huge!  Simple, but huge!

And, you know what’s neat?  God uses each of our talents in accomplishing His eternal work!  God uses each of our talents – maybe we’re “Moses,” maybe we’re “Aaron/Hur”, maybe we’re one of the “foot-soldiers” in the trenches – to accomplish His eternal work!

All of which leads us to again say, “Thank you, God!  Thank you for gifting me in a unique way!  Thank you for using me to either hold up my hands, or to help hold up someone else’s hands, or to be blessed by those hands being held up!  It may not be obvious to me how it’s happening.  It may not be obvious to me how I’m a blessing to others.  But You’ve promised that I am.  Hands down!  J

Thank you, God, for confronting me

Thanksgiving

How would you have felt?  God asked Jonah to go preach in the capital city of one of Israel’s most powerful enemies… because God wanted to show them compassion and love.  Would you have been jumping up and down to go?  Jonah wasn’t.  So he got on a ship that was sailing as far away as possible.  But God sent a fierce storm, so fierce the ship was about to break up, the sailors figured out that the storm was because of Jonah.  So with Jonah’s permission they threw him overboard…and everything immediately grew calm.  But what happened to Jonah?  “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”  Do you think Jonah got God’s message?  Do you think he had time to think?  Do you think God got his attention?  He did…in a very unusual way.

Have we been in Jonah’s shoes, shoes of rebellion against God? God tells us to forgive those who sin against us, but do we say, “No way!  That’s his problem; after all HE sinned against ME!”  God tells us to put Him first, but do we say, “No!  I have my own wants and needs to take care of first, maybe if I have some leftovers I’ll give something to God.”   We’ve all had times like that.  And what does God do?  He wakes us up.  Probably hasn’t been with a great big fish, but maybe it’s a sudden challenge in our lives which draws our attention heavenward.  Maybe it’s a serious illness that strips us of our “I can make it on my own” attitude.  Maybe it’s a long, hard look at God’s law that shows us how greatly we’ve fallen and how desperately we need a Savior.  Whatever it may be, THANK the Lord for confronting us with our sin and showing us our need for a Savior.  Realizing our sinfulness let us confess our sin to God:

Hosea 3:1 – Thank you, God, for your faithful love

God has taken away your sin.   For as high has the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for you; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed your sin from you.  You are forgiven.  How might you picture that kind of love?  I’ll bet you wouldn’t have guessed this one.  God gave the Israelites and us an object lesson.  God told the prophet Hosea to marry an adulteress, a prostitute.  God wanted Hosea to unconditionally and unselfishly commit his life to a woman who had a terrible history of being faithless and unfaithful in the deepest way.  How would you have felt if you were Hosea?  I think it’s safe to say that no one looks for a spouse who is unfaithful or not-trustworthy.  But what was God’s point?  Look at the verse, “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”  What’s the point?  God still loves the unfaithful.

Although we are the unfaithful ones, unfaithful with the gifts and abilities God’s given us, unfaithful with our devotion to His Word, although that is who we are…guess what…  God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for your unfaithfulness.  God picked you up and united Himself with you.  God still continues to love you. God will not turn away from you, God will never divorce you, God does not leave you.  God loves you unconditionally and His abounding love and forgiveness will never, ever run out for you!  Is that something to be thankful for?  THANK you, Lord, for Your incredibly faithful love!