Archive for January 22nd, 2012

And the people of Nineveh believed God. Jonah 3: 5a

             One of the 10 ten lists for 2011 was Worst Expressions of the previous year.  One of those expressions was “whatever”.

  • “I think it is really important whom we elect as president.”  “Yeah, whatever.”
  • “I am exhausted today. Looking forward to going home and doing nothing, hopefully you’re up for the same?” “Yeah, whatever.”
  • “They bombed a foreign nation without cable TV. Millions died.” “Whatever. They’re making another Temptation Island.” “Sweet.”

It connotes a dismissive attitude, apathy, even contempt.  I can’t imagine telling my daughter when she asks me if she likes what she is wearing: “whatever”…but then again…but when it’s something not right, there is no ‘whatever’!   I can’t imagine telling a friend that there are lies being told about you and him saying:  “whatever”.  I can’t the music teacher telling me I played real well and I respond:  “whatever”.  “Whatever” is a signal of utter moral apathy, that faithfulness and obedience do not matter, but of course ‘whatever’ clearly does not work because it is not true, but a lie.

Many churches teach a “whatever” God when it comes to matters of morality.  Today marks the 39th year of Roe vs. Wade legalizing abortion on demand, pro-death.  “Whatever” is the response of many Christians and denominations  to the death of over 54,000,000 lives.  “Whatever” is sloth writ large.  Note:  We want a “whatever” God for ourselves, but not necessarily for others.

Beloved in the Lord we do not have a ‘whatever’ God. He cared for the people of Ninevah, a city of pagans, not even Jews, with the message of imminent judgment for their wickedness because the Lord does not desire the death of the wicked but they turn from their darkness and live in the light of His mercy. The Lord sent a very reluctant prophet to do so and the Lord had to really hang in with Jonah to even get him into Ninevah to preach!  Jonah turned tail and went on a ship and turned away from the Lord. But the  Lord did not say, whatever.  He got Jonah’s attention with that whale.  When Jonah had heard the Ninevites had repented, he parked himself out side the city waiting and hoping for their destruction and he was angry that the Lord did not wipe them out.  The last verse of Jonah:  “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?  Beloved, we do not have a “whatever” God but a “because” Lord:  Because I pity Ninevah, I sent you Jonah with my Word of Law that they might believe the promise and repent, turning away from their sin, not to burn but to turn to Me and live in My mercy.

And the people of Nineveh believed God.

They took the Lord at His Word, because He sent His prophet to them with His Word, because He had pity on Ninevah.  The Lord sent His judges, prophets, and saints with His Word because He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.  The family members and friends in your life were not “whatever” friends and family members, but “because” saints: because they cared and loved you they did the hard work of saying “no” where and when you had gone astray, or could do so. They said “yes” to help you return and stay the course with their presence, advice, counsel and most of all, prayers.  God’s Word does that and the Ninevites believed God.

In the fullness of time, at the right time, He sent His Son with the message of joyful repentance Repent and believe the Gospel for  kingdom of God is  at hand.

Why?  He, “…desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy)  Because…He cares for us more than we obviously do for ourselves.  He says No to wrong and in that return to Him, we hear the Yes of His forgiveness. the Ninevites believed God, believed the Gospel of His mercy to those who repent.  Repent and forgiven, always in that order.  “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24)  Again, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth in the Gospel are repentance and forgiveness.  We speak much about the programs of ‘our’ church, usually self-made ones.  For instance:  Pot-lucks are great but they ain’t the Gospel.  The program of the Church, Jesus Christ’s Church is His promise, so that Ninevah might believe, fishermen leave their nets and fish for men, that men and women be saved from the depths of sin, death and the devil.  Our program is not ‘whatever’, it is “because”, because he has chosen us upon the cross from the foundations of the world in His mercy.  His Cross is not “whatever’, by no means!  Now in Him there is no death because, because He is risen, He is the life of all the living, the death of death our foe and all live unto Him.  We can not say ‘whatever’ to the wrongs which we see, as in abortion.

He is not only the ‘because’ God but also the ‘whenever’ and ‘wherever’ Lord. Whenever and wherever we are we may turn to Him.  Repentance is not a one time deal but a daily life in Him, turning to Him in prayer. As The Small Catechism correctly teaches regarding this baptismal life in Jesus Christ:

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.  Call upon Him while He is near.  The reign of God is at hand, in His hand, with the mark of the nails.  As we prayed in the Psalm refrain today:

1For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

There is no ‘whatever’ in prayer, but whenever and wherever we are, in faith we repent, turn toward Him, and like coming out of a storm on sea, we are on the solid ground of His daily forgiveness.  And as the Psalmist also prayed:

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

He keeps us steadfast in His Word in the good fight of faith.  I say this in order “to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord”, from today’s Epistle. As the Psalmist prayed that he met resistance and so was shaken.  We think our hearts can be made sure with riches but as our pocketbooks go up and down, so does our faith. Republican and Democratic promise wealth but our hope is not on Capitol Hill but the hill called Golgotha where and when He died and rose for you.   I say this so that we might cast the net of His Word to fish for those who are greatly shaken, as we all can be, have been, and will be, and land upon the rock, salvation and fortress, the mighty fortress who is our God who called us out of the depths in Holy Baptism to live before Him in righteousness and purity forever, His sheer gift of grace through faith by His Cross, as we receive today again, His Body and His Blood.  Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understandings will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: