Let us pray, In the name of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Good morning/evening again everyone!
You might remember that last week I talked to you about God’s intimate knowledge of each of us, and his call on our lives. This week we are continuing in that theme of call. We are going to have a look at the call of Jonah, and the call of the apostles, we will look at what is similar and what is different about these calls, and how they relate to our own call as Christians in our community.
Lets first have a look at Jonah. Our passage begins with a reference to God coming to Jonah a second time to call him to action. So of course that means there had to be a first time. If we read the first two chapters of Jonah, we see that God had indeed visited Jonah already to call him to proclaim repentance to the city of Nineveh.
But what did Jonah do? Did he get up and dutifully follow the Lord’s call as we see the first apostles did in our Gospel account? No! Jonah ran. He ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction to where God had called him, and he ended up in a very bad place, thrown into the sea he was ready to drown, until he was saved by the big fish. Jonah, made the mistake of thinking that he could run from God. That he knew better than God, and that he could just ignore God and go his own way.
Of course none of us here would ever be so foolish…
When God rescued Jonah from the calamity he found himself in, Jonah gave thanks. Eventually the fish spits him out and that’s where our passage today begins. This time Jonah is much more willing to listen to God’s call on his life, and he follows that caling and does God’s will for his life. He didn’t do it half heartedly either… so convincing was his preaching that the entire city and even the king repented of evil. Now of course Jonah still wasn’t at all happy about this, he wanted the city and it inhabitants to suffer the wrath of God, that’s why he fled in the first place - because he knew that God was merciful, and would forgive the Ninevites if they repented. No he wasn’t convinced this was a good idea, in the next chapter we see he was upset and angry about the outcome, until God sets him straight.
Jonah’s preaching led to the salvation of more than 120,000 people who turned from evil and asked God’s forgiveness. Jonah, was reluctant to follow his call, to say the least. But when he did it anyway, when he was willing to do what he knew God was calling him to then God used him in a glorious way. He will do the same with us!
Have you been ignoring a call from God? Have you been arguing with God about what you need to be doing? You see we all have calls - God wants all of us to be active in his Kingdom - for some people it might be a call to daily prayers of intercession, for others it might be to create clothing for the poor, for others it may be serving as a lay minister, or communion assistant, for others to be a voice of proclamation - whether publicly, or just with family and friends. We all have a call, it’s best we don’t wait until we are drowning and swallowed by a fish to recognise that God may just have some idea what he is talking about - because like Jonah, through us God can do amazing things - if we let him!
But what about those apostles in our Gospel account today? They seem to be the very opposite of Jonah don’t they? When they are called they promptly drop what they are doing and obediently follow the Lord. We would love to imagine ourselves to be more like the apostles wouldn’t we? We would like to think that we are following without question God’s call for our lives… and some of you may be… I know my story is much more like Jonah!
The thing is if we read about these first disciples in the Gospel accounts we find that their immediate response didn’t make them perfect - Simon-Peter is the best example for me, he is quick to follow and proclaim his undying love and loyalty to Jesus… but he is also the one to whom Jesus says ‘Get behind me Satan!’ when he is thinking more of earthly matters than of the Kingdom, he is the one who despite following a man who preached nothing but love for enemies and forgiveness, cut the ear off a soldier sent to arrest Jesus. He is the one who despite his promises of loyalty even to death, denied Jesus three times on the night of his arrest… Peter and the others weren’t perfect. Despite their willingness to follow the call God had put on their lives, their human weakness and inclination to sin still overpowered them at times.
Do you know what was truly remarkable about the ministry of the apostles? It wasn’t that they were perfect at it, it wasn't that they never made mistakes, it wasn’t that they had it easy - many of them ended up being martyred. No what was remarkable was that when it was hard, when they didn’t understand why, when they made mistakes and stumbled, they didn’t give up.
They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, repented of past errors and set off to continue on the journey God had called them on. The apostles, just like Jonah, were used by God to achieve incredible things. It was through their ministry that the church was established, and it is because they answered God’s call, and persevered that the church exists today - 2000 years later, and that more than 2 billion people have at least some link to the Christian faith.
They could never have imagined what God would do through them - and we cannot imagine what he can achieve through us.
What is God calling you to do?