Sermon – January 25, 2015
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Jonah 3:1-3a
Please be seated.
When I was a child, I perfected the art of whining and complaining. I truly tried the patience of my parents. So, I know I’m good at it. So, I apologize for the whining you’ll hear me do in this sermon today.
I find it hard to be Executive Director of St. Agnes’ House. I really don’t like, almost hate, raising money. And while we ended in the year in much better shape than I ever imagined, it’s a new year and we have to start all over again raising the $107,000 budget. Yes, we have a good start with grants of $21,500, but the one grant for $7,500 ends this year, so we’ll have to replace that amount. The fundraising consultant says we can raise the same amount of money and even more with only two mailings a year, but I’m nervous about that. We mailed to people four times a year last year, but that angered some of my colleagues.
I also don’t like being responsible for buildings. There’s always something in need of repair or painting at St. Agnes’ House. There are a couple of windows that are pulling out of the window frames. Are the frames rotten or has the caulking just dried out? Of course these windows are about the hardest to reach. And it’s a small job, so who can we get to do it?
Seems like it’s just very hard to keep the place open and running well.
In our Old Testament Lesson today we hear a portion of the story of Jonah. We have a great wall hanging of this story in the Godly Play Room. The Book of Jonah is not a true story in its facts. Rather, it is a story designed to communicate to us important understandings about God.
Earlier in the story, God had called Jonah to go to Nineveh and deliver a message to the people there. Nineveh was the last place Jonah wanted to go. Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria and the Assyrians did not believe in the God of the Israelites. The Assyrians were also mean and cruel. They were a huge empire and known at that time for conquering everyone they could and demanding taxes or tribute from them. Nineveh was one of the largest cities at that time with possibly 150,000 people.
We certainly understand Jonah, don’t we? Most of us would not relish the task God has asked Jonah to do. From Jonah’s self-centered point of view, he did not think he really wanted to do what God asked. We know Jonah ended up in the belly of a whale for three days, so guess God convinced Jonah that delivering God’s message to the people of Nineveh was a lot better than the belly of the whale. But I don’t think Jonah was all that thrilled with God’s call to him.
Aren’t we all like Jonah? We get caught up in our own personal view of things. What God asks us to do starts to feel burdensome and personally, we don’t want to do it. Think about those mornings when coming to church on a Sunday just feels so hard to do and we’re not sure we’ll get anything out of it personally.
Now, certainly, there is a balance to all of this. We do need to take care of ourselves and think about ourselves to a certain extent. But when God calls, we also need to think about others. God needed a message to get to the Ninevites, even though the people of Nineveh did not believe in God! God, like Jonah, didn’t really like the Ninevites all that much. God wanted to destroy them. But God chose Jonah to carry that message to the people and to give them a chance to change their ways.
And God chooses us. God hears our complaints and whining, I dare say. Luckily, I don’t know anyone who’s ended up in the belly of a whale, but from our story, we also know that God keeps calling us. God tells us we are of value. God tells us that our community needs us and needs our presence. Maybe we don’t feel like going, but the community needs us to go. In Jonah’s case, the Ninevites paid heed to what Jonah said and changed their ways.
The same is true of St. Agnes’ House. After all of my self-centered whining, then, I meet the guests. Recently and older woman who was pretty scared to be in Lexington by herself, but wanted to be by the side of her middle-aged son who needed a heart transplant reserved a room. She “slept” in the hospital for over two months. Finally, she was willing to venture out and check out St. Agnes’ House. She wasn’t sure she was going to sleep there at night, but she needed a place to go each day away from the hospital. She needed a place that was quiet where she could take a nap, or read a book or knit. Her room at St. Agnes’ House was perfect, she told me.
As she registered and toured the house, we talked about her situation and she confided that she thought her son was dying. She was grateful for a lap quilt that had been made and donated to the house. It was the perfect thing for sitting in a chair in the afternoon. She thought she might return the quilt when she left, but I told her it was hers to take if she wanted. She kept thanking me and told me she felt so much better that day. I didn’t see her much after that, until one day, we passed each other in our vehicles. We stopped and she told me her son had died and she was coming to check out. She told me how much she appreciated her room at the House and she said she was going to keep the quilt.
That’s why we go when God calls. God really doesn’t want to hear our self-centered whining. God has chosen us and our community needs us or at least needs to hear the message God has asked us to bring to the community.
May we, like Jonah, set out to go where God calls us. In doing so, we may bring life and salvation.