Epiphany 3B

                                FRA 112711
                                Jonah and the Whale (oil on board)
                                Aris, Fred (b.1934) (Contemporary Artist)
                                FRED ARIS (CONTEMPORARY ARTIST), ,

Featured Musician -  My Anchor Holds

Exegetical Notes

Mark 1:14-20

Bible Study

  • Jesus’ “Good News”:

    • Fulfilled/ Kingdom of God is near: the “Now, but not yet” culminating Kingdom of God

      • Blessed are the poor, mourning, meek, etc.

      • Yet we are still trampling the poor, mourning, meek- so it isn’t here yet

    • Kingdom of God appear 66 times in the NT (Kingdom of Heaven 32 times), but Kingdom of YHWH only appears twice in the OT (Kingdom of God never appears)

    • “God's kingdom is manifest in the human embrace of God's rule through repentance and faith. Jesus' mission was to call people to repentance, that is, a total reorientation of their lives so that they will be in a position to accept God's sovereign rule authentically. The Gospel of Mark recounts the resistance that Jesus experienced to his mission.” ~ Leslie Hoppe (Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.)

    • Repent and believe in the good news are responses to the in breaking Kingdom of God

    • Repentance calls for change - are we willing to change fro the Kingdom of God?

    • If we cannot see the in breaking kingdom- can we repent and believe that it is good news

  • Calling the disciples

    • No requirements - compare what the disciples go through with your new member class…

    • Jesus calls them simply as they are and where they are (geographically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually)

  • Response

    • Jesus may call, but it is up to the disciples (and us) to answer

    • Responding to Jesus requires change- leaving their nets - what have you left to follow Jesus?

    • James and John leave their father - security, cultural connection to become less than the hired hands (in the social and cultural standing) - are we willing to sacrifice our social and cultural standing to follow where and when Jesus calls?

  • Fish or Fishers

    • Actual translation is I will make you fishers for people. Fishers of people is not an action but a descriptive noun.

    • Jesus will change who you are, not simply give you a different job

    • “You will become fishers of people”

  • To be a fisher/disciple

    • Does not mean perfection- just means taking the first step in the journey

      • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” MLK Jr.

    • Disciples will continue to disappoint and misunderstand, but they keep on the journey with Jesus (even after he is killed, raised and ascends)

    • Peter - follows Jesus”immediately”

      • Proclaims Jesus as Messiah (Mk 8)

      • Reject Jesus as suffering Messiah (Mk 8)

      • Witnesses to Jesus on the Mountaintop, but doesn’t want to leave (Mk 9)

      • Denies Jesus (Mk 14)

      • Is absent for Jesus’ death and resurrection (Mk 15)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • What is the good news? If you were to poll your congregation with this question- what would the responses be? What would your response be?

  • Remember that the news is GOOD! We might wrestle with it and the news may challenge as much as it comforts- but it is good. How do we lift us the goodness of the news of God’s kingdom?

  • Change sucks- the Kingdom must be amazing to make me want to change (repent) how can preachers make the Kingdom a reality of good news that inspires joyful repentance?

  • “Congregations and preachers might reason together about the difference between discipleship as a task and discipleship as an identity. And they might try to imagine what it means to be made "fishers for people." If that is a statement about identity, then it must involve something other than participation in church growth programs in the narrow sense.” Ted Smith (Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.) - if you are preaching on this you should read more about that Ted has to say in Feasting on the Word

Jonah 3:1-10

Initial Thoughts

  • A slice of a larger story. The whole book is only four pages in my Bible. This could be a launch point for a short series (possible future TNS idea?)

  • It feels awkward to preach about this passage without telling more of the backstory and hearing about Jonah’s reaction.

  • Jonah in Christian Art

Bible Study

  • Jonah’s story

    • Historical Location

      • Jonah is identified as a prophet from the Northern Kingdom under King Jeroboam II (786-746 BCE).

      • Ninevah - was an important Assyrian city. It would become capital in 704 BCE. Located on Tigris River in what is now Iraq.

        • Assyria known for brutal treatment of those they conquer.

      • Joppa - A port city on the Mediterranean Sea

      • Tarshish - Far western edge of the Mediterranean, near Gibraltar.

      • Source context unknown. Only clues are the exaggerated size of the city of Ninevah, which suggest post exilic period, but this is much debated.

    • Each chapter is pretty distinct part of the story

      • 1 - Jonah is called by God to go to Ninevah “for their evil has come to my attention.” Jonah refuses. Instead, he goes to Joppa to get on a boat on its way to Tarshish. On the boat, things start to go badly. Eventually, Jonah confesses that he is the problem, and tells the crew to throw him overboard. They oblige him.

      • 2 - “The Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah.” He is in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. There, Jonah has a change of heart. Jonah sings a song of thanksgiving. The fish then “vomited Jonah onto the dry land.

      • 3 - Jonah preaches to Ninevah, warning them that God has given them forty days to straighten up. The king hears Jonah, and listens. King declares a city-wide period of fasting and mourning. God sees this, “So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it.” NRSV states “God changed his mind.”

      • 4 - Jonah upset that God doesn’t destroy Ninevah, so he leaves city and pouts. God teaches Jonah a lesson about compassion with a shrub that provided him shade. We never find out of Jonah gets it.

    • Four players in Chapter 3

      • Jonah: Finally obeys God, gets up off the beach, goes to Ninevah and cries out in the city “Just forty days more and Ninevah will be overthrown!”

      • The people of Ninevah: The people believed God (not Jonah). They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes.

        • This turn of events seems to be anticlimactic. After so much reluctance by Jonah, there is almost no resistance.

      • The King: Heard what his people were doing, and joins in. Announces extreme adhesion to the fast - even for the animals in the flocks. Wonders, “Who knows? God may see this and change his mind”

      • God: Sees what happens, “that they ceased their evil behavior.” God’s mind is changed.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • If you tell only the lectionary selection, there is plenty. Jonah’s obedience to God’s call is meet with repentance from the people. God’s mercy is shown. “God changed his mind.” is ripe with interpretative possibilities.  What are the theological implications of a God that can change his mind? When does God change his mind? What changed God’s mind?

  • We expect resistance from the people and King. In fact, we expect Jonah to come to a violent end. He is a foreign man preaching about a foreign God. It is hard to imagine how the people of Ninevah could have heard his words as anything other than an idle threat. Instead, they embrace God’s word, and there is repentance. This can tell us something about who we are reluctant to speak to. Who are the audiences with whom we should have no chance? There are great evangelical implications of who we should/can/are seeking.

  • The fact is, God changed God’s mind at the beginning of the story. The very act of calling a prophet of Israel to the heart of Assyria shows a change of heart in the nature of God. Jonah’s reluctance to listen to God is born from the faith and tradition he knew, not pure rebellion (Bruce Epperly, Process and Faith).

  • If a greater portion of the story is told, the ordeal of the fleeing, then reluctant, then successful, then pouting prophet is fascinating. What does it mean for a prophet to be successful? The people listened to Jonah’s message, and believed God (not Jonah). Why is Jonah upset that the city is not destroyed? Can we get too caught up in our own righteous indignation to miss the point? Vengeance is not Justice. Anger is not justice.


1 Corinthians 7:29-31

  • Not about the specifics: marriage, mourning, joy, buying, living in the world

    • these are not bad things per se

  • Paul believed that the end was imminent: “The time has drawn short”

    • if you are in a bad marriage v. 10-11 or are a slave v.21 - stick it out because God is coming soon

  • God should be the primary focus, not procreation, or mourning or joy, or the world

    • Focus on the commandments of God- if you are going to worry about something- worry about how to please God

  • Paul was wrong...or was he?

    • We do not know what tomorrow will bring

    • People are over stressed and anxious

    • Focus on pleasing God? What does this mean?

      • Micah 6:8

      • Greatest Commandments


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).