(9th March): Jonah 3.1-10; Psalm 50; Luke 11.29-32
The book of Jonah, with its four short chapters, offers an excellent vehicle for meditation during Lent. In the first chapter, God’s call comes to Jonah’s ear, but Jonah finds its demands inconvenient, and so he goes as far as he can in the opposite direction. That doesn’t work out too well for Jonah, and in Chapter 2 he finds himself in the worst predicament imaginable. Now he turns towards God and prays with a newly-awakened piety, promising God that ‘the vow I have made I will fulfil.’ So Chapter 3 finds Jonah obeying the Lord’s call, going to do the work God had asked of him. He goes to Nineveh, one of the largest cities of the ancient world, and standing not far from its edge, he preached and called for repentance. All at once the whole city clothed itself in the sackcloth of fasting. Even the animals fasted.
And Jonah foamed with anger. God’s call had interrupted his life, inconvenienced him. But far from being something that only Jonah could do, the work had turned out to be inordinately easy. So the 4th Chapter of Jonah opens with Jonah enraged at God. Like many of us in times of emotional and spiritual distress, Jonah became irrational and petulant. He sat down in the burning heat of the sun and urged God to kill him.
Instead, God made a plant grow up to shade him and restore him to spiritual health. The things God calls us to do aren’t work that God himself hasn’t been able to get around to. Vocation creates us, makes us who we are meant to be. As we offer ourselves to God, God transforms us and gives us his own peace.