4 things that made Jonah angry
Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield, Sunday 25th August 2019
An earlier start for me again at Holy Trinity, I was playing percussion in the worship band so had to be there early for the final rehearsal. It was also the last joint service of the summer holiday period,
Vicar Mike was back with us after his holiday and both led the worship, presiding at communion, and gave the sermon, which went something like this:
Think about a notorious criminal, someone who did evil. (One was named, my sermon notes are deficient.) Could their conversion be sincere? One minister had a congregation member get angry because he had ministered to that notorious criminal in jail. (Again the minister was named, my bad.) The anger of the congregation member is understandable,
(The sermon transcript is already online at http://www.holytrinityhuddersfield.com/recent-sermons/ the criminal was serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the minister was Roy Radcliffe. Radcliffe’s story about the conversion of Dahmer is found in the book Dark Journey, Deep Grace.)
Is conversion limited to not very bad people? Jonah ran away from God because God had told him to preach to Nineveh. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was a dangerous place, the violence in that city was notorious. Assyria was also the enemy of Israel, where Jonah was sent from.
When God asks if Jonah is angry, Jonah says ‘Yes, I am angry.’ Jonah was angry. The Bible is not against anger, Jesus is portrayed as getting angry. Some Christians could do with more anger when faced with the injustice of the world rather than passively watch the news unemotionally.
Jonah is an unusual prophetic book because it is not about the words of the prophet to the people, it is about the prophet himself. 120,000 come to faith in Nineveh, and Jonah is angry. Jonah is not a nice guy, he is self-righteous and racist. Jonah is angry and his anger is on four targets.
Things that made Jonah angry
Jonah is so angry with Nineveh. These people are evil and deserve to die. He is angry that they do not get what they deserve.
Jonah is angry that God was compassionate with the people of Nineveh. They deserved death, God showed mercy. Jonah even quoted scripture, throwing God’s compassion back at him as something he hated.
Jonah was angry with himself. with God, he says he wants to die. His self-centeredness and racism is obvious. ‘My country’ is blatant racism. Not God’s country, Jonah’s country.
4. The Bush
Jonah is upset that the bush that grew for his shade is gone. Jonah’s anger has become so irrational that he’s even angry at a bush. But God uses the bush, a bush that grew in a night and was gone in a night, to explain his methods to Jonah.
God restrains himself, full of love and mercy and compassion. God steps towards us. God’s compassion is for people not for rules, it is radical compassion. The most used description of Jesus is that he was a man of compassion. Jesus did not equate a man with his sin. Jesus can see through the crud on the surface of people to see the person inside. No one is too notoriously bad for God’s compassion.
The reading can be found here.