Unrest: Out of Control

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Jonah 4:1-11

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent and our Lenten Sermon Series at Reeves is entitled Unrest.  Lent is a great season of unrest.  In the life of Jesus this is the time where Jesus came into his own as an authority of  the Word of God.  This is the time he came into his role of as Messiah.

On the Sundays leading up to Easter we will study Scripture passages and scenarios of unrest and my hope is God will reveal to each of us in our own way how God is leading us to lean into and perhaps find comfort in unrest.

So Jonah…the guy that was swallowed by the fish.

Tangent – My husband taught this pericope to his students one night at youth group…the high school boys were all convinced that it was a salmon that swallowed Jonah.  I was convinced that high school boys are weird.

Back on track – Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh.  He runs away and flees into the sea.  A terrible storm erupts and he is tossed overboard to calm the waves.  Jonah is swallowed by a fish, cries out to God in repentance from the belly of the fish, is spat up on dry ground, and makes his way to Nineveh.  He delivers God’s message that the people must repent or they will surely perish…

The Ninevites repent…God spares them…and Jonah…

is ticked.

Twice in the Scripture passage for this week God questions Jonah about the value of the anger.  The questions neither affirm nor condemn the anger.  They ask, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

As one commentator reflects on anger and on the figure of Jonah he writes, “Anger leads to destruction.  If it is repressed or suppressed, it burns the one who contains it; if it is expressed, it burns those to whom it is directed.  Although anger is an inevitable part of the human condition, the divine questioning offers the opportunity to work it through and to work through it.”*

I think it is wise that Jonah sat with his anger for a while.  I recall a song we used to sing in UMYF back in the day, “If I could just sit with you a while, I need you to hold me, moment by moment, till forever passes by.”

I have found myself sitting with a lot of things recently.  Just sitting and it hasn’t been pleasant.  It’s been a place of unrest.

I had a business professor in college – Dr. B! – we can all thank him for rubbing off the word marinate on me.  This is why he would say it: in business classes he would present a concept – for example credit cards – and someone would immediately want to I-ize meaning they’d want to take it to themselves, “so Dr. B. with credit cards I…”  And he would shut them down.  “Quit trying to walk with it!  You’re not ready to walk.  Just marinate.”  In other words, sit with it.

Sit with it.

Jonah sat with his anger.  The text doesn’t reveal if he ever understood that his anger could eventually consume him if he let it run rampant inward or consume others if he let it run rampant outward.  But he took time to sit with it.  I wonder what would happen with my anger, with individual anger, with collective anger if we all just sat with it for a while…if we let God hold us…if we let God make something else of the anger…of us…and then we walked with it?

I think it’s time we take time…that we make time.

That we sit with it.

Prayer: O God, your Scripture teaches that everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for anger does not produce God’s righteousness (Jas 1:19).  Forgive us, Lord, in those moments when we are quick to anger, and invite us to join with Jonah and sit with you.  As we sit with you in that unrest, may we grasp your nearness and may your transformation touch us.  May we experience hope, healing, and revealing through the sitting.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

* Leander E. Keck et al., The New Interpreter’s Bible: Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, Daniel, and The Twelve Prophets (Volume 7) (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 524.

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