Jonah 3:1-10 & Mark 1:14-20
He called out ‘Help! Is anyone up there?’
His shouts became more and more desperate until he heard a booming voice which said, ‘I am the Lord, your God. I will help you, trust me and let go the tree root.’
Then there was silence.
The man also was silent for a moment, and finally he shouted upward,
‘Is there anyone else up there?’
We spoke about Trust last week in Kiama, and trust is about taking a step forward in faith, about letting the other take control of ourselves and our lives. It is about travelling to the safety of our Saviour. Today’s psalm reading from the lectionary [No. 62:8] probably puts it best, ‘Trust in him at all times, o people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.’
But we also know that sometimes trust – like faith- waxes and wanes. Think of Peter – who walks on water at Galilee when Jesus makes the offer to trust in him and let go of his own human understanding of the Saviour. He begins to walk on water, but the waves come up, he takes his eyes and his spirit off Jesus and so he begins to fall, or – in this case – sinks. There are many times for Peter – and you and I – where our trust in the Lord goes up and down like a yo-yo.
At other times our trust is misguided. That is, we trust in the wrong thing [as we discussed last week]. We trust our perceptions of the other, rather than trusting the other. And so it was with Jonah.
Many of us know this great Biblical story from our childhood, an evangelist given a mission, by God, to tell the people in the great foreign city of Nineveh, that God is angry with their wicked ways.
Jonah, scared of the task he has been given by God, and perhaps not trusting God to keep him safe, tries to run away from his responsibilities. In a great storm on the Mediterranean Sea, Jonah finds himself entombed in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights.
While there, Jonah promises to fulfil his mission if God will give him a second chance. God does because, if we repent and change our ways, God will always give Jonah, the people of Nineveh, and you and I, another chance.
God is true to his word and when the Assyrian in Nineveh change their ways, and they are spared.
But this is not good enough for Jonah [if you read chapter 4] – he trusts that his God will be a God of harsh punishment and retribution when it comes to these others and that God will smite them anyway, despite the fact that he himself has been given another chance also.
In essence, he trusts in a god who will be like him and be just as condemning and judgmental and Jonah ‘gets the sulks’ when God spares them.
In the end, it is God who is having to explain his actions to Jonah, rather than the other way around. Jonah, once again, trusted his own form of judgment over and above God’s.
Don’t we also do that, all the time, as we place our own selfish values first and foremost?
When we come to today’s lectionary gospel reading, from the book of Mark, we see that God’s message is still the same as proclaimed by Jesus. ‘Repent and believe the Good News’, he says in verse 14, which we also hear as ‘trust in me and change your sinful and judgmental ways.’
Here, we first come across Peter (called Simon) – the one who would walk on water with Jesus and then deny him a short while later in the courtyard of the high priest.
Together with Andrew, James and John, Peter drops everything, leaves his livelihood, relatives, friends and way of life – and literally as well as spiritually ‘follows him at once’ (verse 18).
A great moment of trust – an initial step off a cliff and a holding out the arm for the Saviour to grab – would have eternal ramifications for them and a great legacy for us.
Who or what do you trust?
May I suggest if you place your trust in a ‘thing’ – then it is misguided trust?
If the person you trust in most is simply you, then you’ll ultimately have a time hanging from a cliff.
If your trust is in a God of retribution, anger, un-forgiveness, a God whose judgment is always on your side, then you’ll find out that you’ll be disappointed and angry.
But, if your trust is bedded in the knowledge that, despite what we think, God thinks it better, and we cease to struggle and keep our eyes on Jesus, then we won’t end up entombed in a fish under the water. Instead, we’ll be given the opportunity to ‘walk upon the water’.