3rd Sunday after Epiphany
January 24, 2021
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
“God of the Second Chance”
Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. Today the sermon is based on the lesson from the Old Testament prophet Jonah.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
So many people, myself included, have stopped using a “land-line” telephone and just use their cell phone. One of the great features of a cell phone is that it tells you right away who is calling. If it’s someone you know, you see their name and maybe a photo. If it’s someone you don’t know, you’re given the location of the caller’s area code. That’s the beauty of something like Caller ID. You can pick and choose which calls to answer and ignore since telemarketers call ENDLESSLY! But what if the Caller ID window said that GOD was calling? What then? Well, welcome to the world of Jonah!
Jonah was a prophet of God – all be it a very reluctant prophet – in the 8th century BC whose book contains the least amount of actual prophecy. In fact, the only real prophecy that takes places in Jonah is found in today’s lesson in verse 4: “…forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The rest of the book is Jonah’s story and how he was sent to Nineveh to provide this prophecy which the Ninevites heard, heeded, and God relented in His destruction of Nineveh much to Jonah’s disappointment. The book of Jonah is good stuff; it’s not about the “whale” and it’s not about Jonah; it’s about God’s compassionate dealing with a reluctant person and a reluctant people, and to both God shows mercy; He gives them a second chance.
In Jonah chapter 1, God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh, to which Jonah says “Yeah…I don’t think so.” He ran from God’s call, which is why we then get the narrative that involves the storm at sea and the “whale.” At the conclusion of chapter two, the great fish vomits Jonah onto dry land, and God calls Jonah a second time, and gives Jonah – even reluctant Jonah – a second chance.
God calls to us in His Word – daily – to live as His forgiven people ought to live, but it is so easy for us instead to ignore His divine Caller ID. It is easier to try to keep those sinful habits of ours in the dark. It is easier to have those sinful thoughts and rationalize them away believing that only we know what’s going on in our minds. It is easier to ignore God’s Word and will for our lives and instead do what our sinful flesh desires. God sees and knows our daily sinful rebellion, our nasty thoughts, our wicked and harsh words, and He knows that when His call comes, we are so prone in our sinfulness to either allow the call to ring or simply out-and-out ignore the call of God. Yet, God keeps calling! He never gives up on Jonah…He never gives up on you! Our God is a God of second chances.
When the time was right, Jesus Christ came into our world to provide the answer to God’s call regarding who would save His people. It was a call as old as time itself. After humanity’s fall into sin, God promised that one day One would come who would crush the head of the serpent – Satan – and that first-Gospel promise (Genesis 3:15) was fulfilled in and through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For every time that you have sinned, Christ paid the price for your rebellion with His body and blood. For every time that you have ignored God’s Word for your life, Christ obeyed it and satisfied it perfectly through His perfect obedience; an obedience that took Him all the way to Calvary’s cross. Why?
Why would God give us so many second chances? Why would He keep loving us and forgiving us? That’s what every loving parent does. God created you. He loves you. Christ died for you, that you might be His own. Your every day is a day of second chances; what you do with them is up to you.
On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. During the first half of the game, All-American center Roy Riegels (“regals”) recovered a fumble for California on his own 35 yard line. In evading some of the Georgia Tech tacklers, Riegels became confused. He started running – 65 yards – in the wrong direction. One of his teammates outran him and tackled him on the one yard line just before Riegels was about to score for Georgia Tech. The mistake resulted in a safety which proved to be the deciding points of the game. It was a colossal blunder in one of college football’s biggest annual bowl games.
A football coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half-time. That afternoon Coach Nibbs Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and said simply, “Men, the same team that started the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out. All but Roy Riegels; he didn’t budge. The coach looked back and called to him again. Riegels didn’t move. Coach Price walked over to Riegels and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that started the first half will start the second.” Roy Riegels looked up and his cheeks were wet with tears. Then Coach Price put his hand on Riegels shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over.” Roy Riegels did go back, and even though his mistake earned him the name “Wrong Way” and the notoriety of committing one of the worst blunders in college football history, Riegels blocked a punt in the 2nd half, but it wasn’t enough. Tech won the game 8-7, but the Georgia Tech players testified that they had seldom seen a man play as Roy Riegels did in that second half. Riegels made the most of his second chance. In 1991, he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. Even “Wrong Way” Riegels was given a second second chance.
You’re still in the game, my friends, and although at times you may feel you’re running the wrong way, your loving and forgiving God is there to encourage you, to strengthen you, to forgive you, and empower you to live each day as His own. Our God is a God of second chances. Now, what are you going to do with the chance that you’ve been given today and every day? Today is your chance – every day is your chance – to “get back in the game” and make a difference for the Kingdom of God.
Oh…one more thing. Go Bucs!