Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shal be over-thrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. Jonah 3:4-5
The story of Jonah is memorable for many reasons. Jonah is introduced as a “reluctant prophet” in the section heading in my Bible, told to “get up and go to Nineveh.” (1:2) His response is to put a big body of water between him and where he received the message. In the midst of a storm, Jonah acknowledges that God is pursuing him and asks to be thrown into the sea where, of course, a giant fish swallows him whole and gives Jonah time to think. When Jonah understands he needs to be faithful, the fish “vomits” him onto dry land, (2:10) where he hears the call again – “go to Nineveh.” (3:2) This time, Jonah listened.
He preached the shortest sermon in the Bible. There were no parables, no illustrations, no demonstrations of divine power, simply the call “just forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (3:4) Yet the message is received as a powerful warning. The warning travels all the way to the King. A fast is declared; God “saw what they were doing” and “stopped planning to destroy them.” (3:10)
We’ll explore Jonah’s response to God’s mercy more on Sunday morning, but now seems a great time to focus on the response of the Ninevites. They heard that they had fallen short of the good and settled for sin and evil. God sent Jonah as a messenger to repent and the people repented. They ac-
knowledged their need for forgiveness and fasted.
There is a 40 day period coming our way next month called Lent. It is also a season of repentance, reflection, and fasting. But before the fasts, there is a tasty tradition known alternatively as “Shrove Tuesday,” “Pancake Day,” “Mardi Gras,” and other names throughout the world. It is a day of confession to God of the ways we have fallen short, a commitment to restraint and contemplation through Lent and then, as a means of removing all the rich, tempting ingredients from kitchen cupboards, a delicious feast of pancakes. I hope that you will mark your calendars and make plans to join us on February 13 for a fun pancake dinner!
Grace and Peace,