Jonah’s story ends as it begins, with words from God. It ends with an unanswered question that the writer wants readers to make their own.
We sing, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea,” but even that vast description isn’t wide enough. God, who works with Jonah, holds the whole world with divine hands and heart. Jesus becomes the fullest expression of God’s wide mercy. In him we see the length to which God’s love will reach: those who are far from us politically, socially, or religiously are also part of God’s creation, encompassed by God’s loving care just as we are.
I recently shared dinner with an exceptionally gifted, highly trained couple who serve a troubled, disease-riddled part of the world. As a physician and a nurse practitioner, both are deeply committed to the God who loved the Ninevites and who loves those in 21st-century counterpart places. Through their stories, I heard God’s compassion, grace, mercy, and love. Had God asked them, “Should I not be concerned about ______,” they would answer “Yes.” Their lives sing out, “I have heard you calling… I will go, Lord…. I will hold your people in my heart.”
In the church where I often preach, our worship includes “Prayers of the People.” Weekly, we read the names of those in need. Some are church members. Many are not. We all have the chance to sing the line, “I will keep your people in my heart.”
Even as his story ends, Jonah has not come around to God’s way of thinking. But God has not given up on him. Or on Nineveh. Or on us.
Source: “Here I am, Lord,” Dan Schutte (1981). Lyrics available: https://genius.com/Dan-schutte-here-i-am-lord-lyrics.
How does your church demonstrate God’s worldwide compassion and lifesaving work in the world? How might the church reach those far from you?
God, help me grow to be more fully like you. Help me break out of my narrow world and my fearful spirit to reach out to those who are far from me. Amen.