Reflection for Sunday – January 21, 2024
Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20
Preacher: Ruth Marchetti
Today’s readings present us with perfect examples of the prophetic voice and a quick, affirmative response to God’s call. God calls Jonah and he immediately gets to work saving the people of Nineveh, who immediately shed their sinful ways. Similarly, Jesus proclaims the gospel and calls for repentance; the fisherman drop their nets and become his disciples. Wait, is that how it happened?
Of course we know there’s always a back story. God called Jonah. He, hating Ninevah, got on the next boat in the opposite direction, whereupon God sent a storm, Jonah gets tossed into the sea and swallowed by a whale. Only after much forced introspection did the story start over again as we see in today’s first reading.
I wonder if there was a similar back story for those fishermen-turned-disciples. Had they been hearing about this wondrous preacher? Had they caught bits and pieces of his preaching and run back to their work, all while God was prodding? Had they already been talking among themselves? In both of these situations, what finally matters is that in the end, they answered, “Yes.” What about us? Are we ready to listen?
Jonah is so very human; he struggles with all the same things we do and only the silence, isolation and perhaps hopelessness of the belly of the whale force him to be present and open to where God is calling him.
What was it about that moment and that call that allowed the fishermen to drop everything and become followers of Jesus? Fishing, as opposed to catching, opens up time for quiet, especially in the vastness of a sea.
I’m sure, like Jonah, we’ve all been in that place we didn’t choose, thrown into the abyss by trauma or loss, helpless to do anything but exist. Chances are the outcomes were not what we would have chosen for ourselves. Can you recall that moment when all your pain and suffering became peace? It may have taken years, but at some point our resistance to our painful reality is transformed by acceptance into the ability to go on, to find joy again, to find God in the maelstrom. To be able to say not, “Why me?” But “Why not me?”
There is so much that is troubling about the state of our world right now: the escalating violence of war, frightening extreme weather events that are becoming the norm in our changing climate, relentless poverty and unrest that often forces people from their homes, political instability… God doesn’t let any of us off the hook—there is work in there somewhere for all of us.
I invite you to join Jonah in that warm, dark, silent place deep within where we are quiet enough to know God. When Jonah was finally forced to be simply present to God deep within the fish, he turned back to God and prayed as one who believes in a merciful God. Where is God calling you? What is tugging at your heart, disturbing your sleep?
This world is in great need of prophets. What injustice is waiting for you to respond?
Because I believe that it is the most urgent issue of our time, with the potential to create great suffering for all on earth, I devote most of my activist energy to climate change. With a group of fellow activists, I recently completed a program called “The Week,”which is intended to open people’s eyes to the reality of the situation, then empower and inspire participants, all covered in three sessions in one week’s time. The program was created by ordinary, very engaging people who love their children and want to leave a world that is livable for everybody’s children. They paid attention to that nagging voice and became prophets.
Whether in your backyard, your city, state, nation, or world there is more than enough injustice to keep us all busy. We can choose to be like the very human Jonah, cover our ears, avert our eyes and run, but that won’t really save us. Injustice impacts all of our lives, ignoring an issue won’t make it go away.
So isn’t it better if we choose the qualities that Jonah lacked—insight (through reflection and awareness), foresight (through deepening our understanding), courage and compassion? We honestly don’t know where we’re headed, but we can choose to work with God and save ourselves a lot of trouble.