7th Sunday after Pentecost

7th Sunday after Pentecost

July 28, 2019

“See Jonah Personally”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. Today I’d like to finish my sermon series, “Jonah in July,” and today’s sermon is entitled “See Jonah Personally.”

My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? According to USA Today in April of this year, they ranked the worst jobs in America based on job satisfaction, the amount of stress, the future of that kind of employment, and the income. According to USA Today, the 5 worst jobs in America today are taxi drivers, loggers, newspaper reporters, retail salesperson, and enlisted military personnel. That’s interesting. I don’t know about all the jobs in the military, but I know which job I sure wouldn’t want. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who returns your loved one’s possessions after they’ve been killed. That cannot be a great job, but he came knocking on our family’s door.

PFC Bruce Carlyle Anderson graduated from Indus High School in 1966 and in May 1968 he joined the Marines knowing full well he’d go to Vietnam. He arrived in country in November 1968 to serve as an antitank assaultman. During his tour he was wounded twice and also had malaria. In July 1969, he was on patrol when a land mine exploded. Bruce lost his life from multiple fragmentation wounds caused by the land mine outside of Quang Ngai. He was 22 years old and the only member of his platoon to be killed in action. Sometime later, a man delivered Bruce’s belongings to his parents – my grandparents. Everyone left the house to let Bruce’s parents have some time with the items alone. No more than 15 minutes passed when my grandmother stepped outside and asked if anyone wanted coffee. Huh? How could she be so calm? How could she be so composed in a dreadful time like this? I found out how, and I’ll do my best to explain and do so by what we know about Jonah.

My uncle Bruce was called by his country to go and fight in Vietnam, so he went knowing it might cost him his life. In the 8th century BC, the prophet Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh, that great city, but Jonah chose to run away instead. Jonah HATED his job as a prophet and he just wanted OUT! But you know the feeling, right? Running away from problems? Dodging what we don’t want to deal with?

All of us are a bit like Jonah in that sense. We have faith…we believe…but when the going get rough – when life gets dark and the storms of life pop-up as they do this time of year here in South Florida – we want to yell “pass” to God’s way/will (Don’t want to do this, don’t want to deal with this, don’t want to think about his) and run towards other ways to find relief or escape. We should be running TO the One who can calm the storms of life by the power of His Word and His grace.

Dealing with a job you hate is one thing. Losing a child or loved one in any way is difficult. Living each day in pain or fear or without hope are challenging. Everyone’s got something they deal with, a lesson I learned powerfully this week. Look left to right and around you. See those people? EVERYONE you see…they are dealing with something.

But here’s the thing…as you deal with the life and death “somethings” of your life, you’re not alone. In your times of crisis…the dark and stinky times of your life…you don’t face these challenges alone. Jonah was not alone in the belly of the great big fish. The LORD was with him through His grace-filled word. Friends, when you are in the dark and stinky belly of the great big fish of life, you are not alone. God’s Word made flesh, Jesus and His love and grace are always with you.

Jonah did a job he didn’t want to do, but look at the outcome! A whole city repented! It’s a miracle! How can that happen? 120,000 people repenting from an 8 word sermon? That’s amazing…and so is grace; amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. God empowers this kind of change of heart, and a change in behavior when we turn/repent. Sin makes us do crazy things, say awful things, and causes inaction when we should take action and God can still work in us despite our rebellion. It is almost impossible even to imagine that Nineveh would repent at the short sound of this reluctant prophet’s voice. In the same way, when we repent of our sin, it is a miracle in our hearts that we have heard the Gospel and responded positively. Repentance, true repentance, changes our course from its current path to a different one – a better one with a better outcome! Every day is a chance to change, so why put off action until tomorrow? What if there IS NO tomorrow? Can you live the rest of your in regret? Repentance worked a miracle in the lives of the Ninevites. Are you ready for that miracle in your life?

The prophet Jonah, though, hoped the Lord would destroy Nineveh; talk about a lack of job satisfaction! Jonah hated Nineveh; they were his enemy, but in reality Jonah was his own worst enemy. The main problem in the book of Jonah is Jonah! And Jonah was angry that God would show grace to the enemy of Israel.

Have you ever been angry like that with God? Have you ever pouted and resented God because life hasn’t gone the way you expected? Are you angry because life has taken turns you didn’t see coming? Things not going your way? Are you afraid and concerned about where life goes from here?

If so, let it go and let God and grace have their way in your life. God is working all things for good in your life because of Grace…you just need to give it time to work/play out. GRACE. That’s the heart of God! Let’s talk more about grace.

When the family gathered back in the house, everyone now saw Bruce’s possessions. Clothing. His medals. Personal items. And a Bible. A little now-blood-stained Gideon’s New Testament shaped to the contour of his butt from having it in his back pocket so much. In the book of Jonah there are 3 statements of faith. In the book of Jonah there are 3 statements of faith. Inside the cover of that Bible the family read a statement of Bruce’s faith and as a family we knew that it was well with Bruce’s soul. God’s grace had reached out and saved a marine who provided the ultimate sacrifice for our country. That’s why Grandma could make coffee. An enemy land mine took her son’s life, but the Lord saved his soul and set him free and that grace-filled truth comforted the family instead of anger and resentment and trying to run away.

There really isn’t an ending to Jonah; we don’t know the ending, and that’s okay because that’s also is true in life. We know for sure what eventually happens. A time comes for us to die, and what do we rely on? In life, in death, we find our hope in God’s grace just like PFC Bruce Anderson and just like Jonah.

Your next chapter of life is waiting to be written. Will you ever Pass? Pray? Preach? Pout? Probably…it’s called life. But in all things, rely on God’s grace for “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” A gift of God indeed…just like the book of Jonah. Just like life itself.

And, as always, it’s good to be home.

Amen.