John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Malachi 2:17-3:18

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

Annoying God

A year ago, I started planning this series, wondering what it would look like to talk about God all through scripture – through the story-telling histories and prophecies and law and poetry. This journey through the Old Testament, through the 39 books that comprise the law and the prophets that Jesus and his companions and rivals discuss in depth throughout the New Testament, has been helpful for me, anyway, and I hope that as we have encountered people and places, you have seen the reality of a God whose love is not new or built on something fragile or something that we have to earn or find for ourselves, but it is instead the whole reason of human existence and the answer, in the long run, to all that troubles and haunts and breaks us and the world around us.

That is not to say that we find the fix to the problem of the broken relationship here, although it is known that only God can fix it, the resolution to the challenges of humankind is not found by solely reading these 39 sacred texts: the sacrifices, the rules, the temple itself – none of these are finally effective in righting the relationship the people need and God wants.

 In fact, here at the end of the Old Testament, in the book of Malachi, we find the people who have returned from exile, living in Judah. The temple has finally been rebuilt, they have resumed priestly duties and sacrifices and regular worship, but there is a problem: the hearts of the people are not yet right.

Malachi presents this problem to the people in a series of complaints that God has against them: God is annoyed.

God is annoyed because they are complaining about God’s justice but are not willing to be just themselves.

God is annoyed because they tithe, but what they bring in are the last and worst of what they have

God is annoyed because they see following God as a useless endeavor – since the people who aren’t following God are prospering.

Primarily – these are heart problems. The actions of the people make it seem as though they are faithful: they go to church, they throw a buck in the offering, they pray.

But in their hearts, they would rather be anywhere else. They would rather do something else, they would rather not give.

There is a series of Stephen King novels called the Dark Tower series. Stephen King is often a little profane in his works, but one of the things he usually extrapolates is the idea of good vs. evil. In the Dark Tower series, there is a country of very chivalrous people who have knights whose responsibility it is to protect all the people. Of course, knights are still human, so frequently they screw it up, and when they do they wind up in trouble. Because family lineage and pride is a big component of their world, they have a mantra they use when they are about to go into battle: “Remember the face of your father” and then when they have been in trouble, they will be told “You have forgotten the face of your father”. It’s mainly a turn of phrase meant to induce pride and confidence in those who are doing the right things and fighting against evil, and conversely, producing shame and guilt in those who have not lived up to their training. It fits very well with what has happened in Israel that Malachi is addressing – they have forgotten the face of their Father – the God who has given them much, who has provided for them, who has created, and loved, and protected them – who rescued them from Egypt and brought them into their own land, who warned them for hundreds of years before exiling them and then promised to bring them home – that God whose love for them has been evidenced over and over in the covenant providing for their redemption – this God they have forgotten. This God they have turned away from. This God they have continued to worship in name only, but they are not committed, they are not faithful.

So God is annoyed. And he basically says to them “you have forgotten the face of your father” and lists how this is true. They have forgotten justice in pursuit of gain. They have forgotten to give their best in pursuit of keeping what they have. They have forgotten to serve for God’s sake.

God also tells them that Redemption is coming. That the Messiah, the one they have been waiting for, will come.

And the people in this case, at least some of them, respond by writing what Malachi calls “a scroll of remembrance”  - a list of the things they needed to pay attention to, things that would keep their hearts in the right place.

God calls the people to faithfully do worship but only if they are intentional and thoughtful about it, and when they do, God promises blessing. When they seek justice, God will bring justice. When they tithe, God promises an abundance. When they serve, God promises they will be a treasured possession. In all these things, God says turn your heart to me and I will reward your faithfulness with mine.

And for 400 years, they do all the right things – they follow the law faithfully as a people, they become very different than they were at the outset, making sure to do all the things – 613 mitzvot or ‘good things to do’ commandments, as they are called. Most of the Jewish people still follow these today. Keeping kosher, following rules about promises, business, criminal laws, etc. And Jesus comes in the midst of them following the rules to the tiniest degree – and some have their hearts right and some do not.

These rules are not bad things, in and of themselves. But Jesus tells the Jewish leaders in his day that while they should absolutely keep following those rules, they need to remember that they do them for the sake of LOVING GOD, not for the sake of being seen doing them. Luke 11:42 says Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

And so we see that Jesus gives us the admonition that when we follow rules, whether set for ourselves or set by God, the priority has to be that our heart is right first. If we are going to church or giving or praying for the sake of doing the right thing but we don’t love God and love others, we miss the mark. We should do all those things, we should worship and give, but we should do it as a way of loving God.

God’s promise is always that loving God is rewarded. I encourage you as you think about how you love God to think about how you could do the things that God has asked better or more fully. How can you show God your love this week?

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As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Zechariah 9:9-10
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

King of Peace
Zechariah is a book of prophecy. The people of Judah are trying to figure out how to do right things now that some have returned from exile. They have made progress in re-building the temple, they have made progress in re-building their community. But they are not sure what all of this will mean for them – will the promised Messiah come now? Will the King that God has been promising be anointed now? Zechariah never answers the timing question for them – but he gives them this admonition – if you are people who are faithful, God will be faithful.
And then he gives them promises of what it will look like when the Messiah finally does come.
And one of the promises he makes is that the kingdom will be at peace.
So today, let’s look at what that peace looks like – because we know the Messiah has come and is coming again. We can look at this as already having started – we have the ability to live a peace that passes understanding and to dwell in the peace of Christ’s reign according to what Paul has written to us as Christians. But there is more to this promise that hasn’t happened yet for us, too. So with the remnant who has returned from exile, we might ask how long. The answer will be – the answer always is – be faithful and God will be faithful. So we live into what we already know.
Here is how God’s promise to them of peace is important for us, both in living a kingdom life now and in anticipating Christ’s return and everlasting peace that is to come:
1. We can be at peace with one another. That means that when we have conflict, we yearn for peace and we do all we can to create peace. Again, Paul gives us this admonition: as far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone. This means sometimes, like Jesus did, sacrificing something we want or need in order to create peace. If you have never been on Facebook or Twitter, you might think that this is an easy thing to do – but those of us who have ever found someone to disagree with on social media (and by the way, if you are on social media and you agree with everyone that might not be a good thing either) over guns or migrant rights or abortion or the president, then you know that sometimes it is far easier to create disorder and outrage and wreak havoc than it is to create peace. I have needed this reminder from time to time: internet arguments rarely change minds, they just change relationships. So if we are going to create peace, sometimes that means staying away from some people or sacrificing our need to be “right” about something in order to move forward
2. We can be at peace in our circumstances. This is a tough one, and in this crazy world of go, go, go, it can feel like there is no way to experience peace in the midst of chaos. I recently had a moment when I was completely overwhelmed – a visitor was coming unexpectedly and I was not prepared. I began to be anxious about it in an unhealthy way – I had a lot going on, a lot happening and a lot I could not control. But in that moment, I prayed for both the circumstance and my anxiety over it. And ultimately, that prayer was answered positively in both areas. There are moments, too, where someone else is overwhelmed or anxious and you have the ability to bring peace to the situation. Sometimes that is simply by being present in the moment. Sometimes there are words you can say to help (hint: calm down probably doesn’t work!) Sometimes all you can do is pray. But one thing you can find over and over is that when you carry the peace of Christ with you and in you, you are able to find peace in your circumstances and bring peace to other people in the midst of their circumstances as well. You can probably think of times when your life has been crazy and chaotic. You probably know that those times will happen again. In those circumstances, you don’t need to wish away what is happening or pretend it isn’t happening. But you can ask Jesus to help you find peace in the middle of it – and he will. When we read Zechariah’s words to the people “He will proclaim peace to the nations” we can understand that to mean that the kingdom of God is a peace loving and peace making place.
3. We can have peace with God. This is how we become Christians – by agreeing to follow the King of Peace where ever he leads. And the first place he leads is to repentance and forgiveness. And this is reconciliation with God, giving us peace with God. As we live in community with one another, as we lean into what God has for us more and more, as we grow in our faith, we find more and more things that we need to surrender to Christ, that we need to make peace with God over – things that have derailed us and kept us bound to sin and darkness. God will never forcefully take what is not offered in your life. So if you have some sin that is haunting you and taking you captive, God will let you keep that until the time is right for you to give it over. Maybe for you that is a sin of gossip, or maybe it is a sin of greed, or maybe it is the sin of racism or sexism. In all these things, God says I have a better way. I have a way that promotes peace. I have a way that gives YOU peace and makes you have peace with me. And if you are faithful to me, I will be faithful to you and work with you and build the relationship between us to a place where you are at peace with me and with everyone around you and in every circumstance. There are days, still, as a pastor, even, where I find new things that I need to reconcile to God. God is ever patient and ever kind and ever revealing the places that I need more God and less Jennifer in. God wants to do that for you, too. God wants you to know and live and rest and find God in the places where you wouldn’t expect to find God. And as you do that – as you are given greater peace with God, you will find that you are in a place where you are both able to find peace with others and your circumstances more easily, but where you also yearn for the day when God’s peace will overwhelm all that is and Christ’s return will usher in an eternal peace for all the nations, a peace that is not just personal and communal, but a peace that lasts, because the King of Peace is reigning over us all.
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As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Haggai 2:1-9

1 on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 3 ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? 4 But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”--

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

There is a parable that goes like this: A mother had a son who had an extremely bad temper. He would often do or say some extremely hurtful things, after which he seemed truly repentant. No matter what the mother did, she could not get the child to think before he reacted.

One day while washing dishes, she had a great idea. She called her son into the room with her and handed him a plate. “Throw that plate on the ground” she instructed the young man. After some encouragement, the young man did as he was told. As expected, the plate broke into several pieces.

 “Now let’s glue this plate back together” the mother said, so they worked together for quite some time and had the plate looking pretty close to its original state, although a few cracks and chips were still visible. “Now say you’re sorry to this plate,” the mother said. The child looked confused but saw that his mother was serious. So he said his apology. “Now is the plate good as new?” the mother asked. The child shook his head no, because although it was back together, it would never look the same.

The mother went on to explain that is what we do to the hearts of our loved ones when we are angry. Although the pain can be mended and apologies can be given, the relationship will never be able to be put back together the same again.

 

This parable is true enough – what has been destroyed can’t be put back together again perfectly.

Indeed, the Israelites, that is the remnant in Judah after returning from Babylon to rebuild in Jerusalem, are feeling that right now.

They want to rebuild the temple as they remember it long ago.

But they can’t.

  • God restores relationships
  • God restores us to God
  • God will restore everything

Notice God’s instruction for restoration:

  1. Be strong
  2. Work
  3. Do not fear

God’s restoration may not make our relationships look exactly as they once did – the temple didn’t. But! God will restore.

 

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As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

We read in Zephaniah that God sings over us. What does that mean for us?

John 20:1-8
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Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

This week it was my privilege to welcome my great nephew Orion Lee into the world. My poor niece was in labor for around 30 hours, most of that spent waiting. Yesterday she was just a girl in labor; today she is a single mom with a beautiful baby boy. Yesterday she had only herself to worry about and care for. Today she will never spend another moment of her life where she does not worry about her precious son and what he’s doing and where he is and all the million other things that plague parents as long as they have breath.
This is also what happened with the resurrection:
Saturday the disciples and all who followed Jesus were bereft, overcome with grief. The messiah had died. He was in the ground. He was gone.
But then
Sunday morning happened
AND EVERYTHING CHANGED
Forever
The resurrection changes everything about everything!
If you follow Jesus and you don’t know that or haven’t heard that or can’t see that – let me tell you some ways in which the resurrection changes everything for you:
First, if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, you wouldn’t be here. Not in this space, not a Christ follower at all: why follow someone whose basic claims seem crazy and ridiculous at face value? We probably wouldn’t ever have even heard of him – why learn about yet another rebel in ancient Rome who didn’t even have the ability to pull together an interesting insurrection? Jesus becomes just another criminal, shamefully crucified by an empire that specialized in squashing insurrection.
But THANKS BE TO GOD! He is risen (wait for it)
And because he is risen indeed, we know of him.
And we know he is really and truly risen for a number of reasons. Because of what he has done in us for sure – but also because the idea of the resurrection as a lie doesn’t work. The disciples truly had nothing to gain – they may be famous now, but they certainly had no following at the beginning. The resurrection is only known to us because it is true. Listen,
Chuck Colson, who was famously part of the Nixon Watergate scandal, became a Christian in prison for the reason that he had just been part of a conspiracy that fell apart and he said:
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

Second, because of the resurrection who we are is different: we follow a King whose whole purpose was to show us a kingdom that is different – a kingdom of servants whose sole purpose is to love and proclaim and forgive.
Not sure about this one? Not only did Jesus preach it, he lived it.
On the cross, among his last words: Forgive them, Father.
To those who put him on a cross, both the religious leaders and the politically complicit
To the one who betrayed him – he offers the bread and wine and washed his feet
To the one who denied him – he offers the hand of friendship and kindness
Jesus coming back from the dead is what redefines Lordship and Kingship to resemble humility, servanthood, selfless love. No one who lives today witnessed the resurrection or personally saw the Christ after: but oh, that they would see Jesus in you and I! Oh that our following the Christ who died and yet lives would result in the transformation that pours out and overwhelms with love and joy and peace and hope and self-control!
Jesus tells us before he dies that the way people will recognize us for who we are is because of our love for one another – we are transformed by following and if we are not – are we really following?

Third, and this follows closely on the second – the marginalized, the other, these are to be treated differently because of the resurrection, too. You can see this immediately in who knows of the resurrection first: it is the women – the first preachers were women ordained by the living Christ on Resurrection Sunday – women who cannot testify in court, who are protected only under the auspices of men in that day, who are essentially considered the property of these men, who are set aside if they cannot bear children or aren’t married. The resurrection says that women and men are equally redeemed, equally transformed, equally valued, fully loved. We cannot see it so clearly because of our cultural lens that sees all of that somewhat differently (although in many ways we have not moved too far) but the fact that Jesus gave his message of resurrection to the women was a move to transforming how his followers should see and value the marginalized and oppressed of the world. We are not at liberty as Christ followers to devalue anyone – Jesus has proclaimed loudly as the stone rolled from an empty tomb that the worth of a person is not in their gender or what society says, but in the blood that dripped from a cross and the unwrapped linens from an undead body. The marginalized are welcome at the table, welcome in the company of all followers, welcome every where in every situation – skin color, gender, race, national identity – all of these no longer are to be used to oppress another, instead as our differences are celebrated, our beauty as ONE body of Christ under the banner of the resurrection to be delighted in!

Finally, and this is the whole point – the resurrection redeems the garden. We no longer look to Eden as the garden of our origin, but instead to Gethsemane and the burial garden. Jesus cried out “It is finished!” as he breathed his last, and we know that this means that the victory of the cross is the burial only of our sin. But the victory of the empty tomb is bigger – it is the victory of life over death, of hope over despair, of love over her enemies. Death where is your victory? Death where is your sting? Paul asks and we answer: defeated under the heel of the risen Christ – we have no fear, we do not dread the end of our earthly life – because praise the Risen King – we believe in the resurrection of the dead, and because of the resurrection, we too, will be raised. In fact, our first resurrection comes as we begin the journey of following Christ: we are raised from the death of a sinful life to the life of abundance that is only found in Jesus and the hope he brings us all.
John says at the end of his gospel that all the things that Jesus did are too numerous to tell. If we were to describe all the ways the resurrection changes things, we would be here for a long time. Brandon called sermons this morning stories, and yes this resurrection story is the best story and one that never gets old, because we cannot tell it all: what of hopelessness becoming hope or miracles becoming routine or joy in the face of suffering or more and more and more…
Every sermon in every church on every Sunday is a recap of the resurrection promise: the Christ who died now lives and that changes everything for everyone for all time.
May you follow the Christ of the cross so completely that you, too, are changed by his life, death, and resurrection!

For:

He has risen!
He has risen indeed!

April 14, 2019

King Jesus

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Luke 19:28-40

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Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

Last year, Shelby and I went to Scotland and London with a group from Olivet. It was an incredible experience and a beautiful trip. Neither of us had ever been big royal family fans, but we enjoyed learning about the history of the kings in England and Scotland. And in London, as we toured the Tower of London, we got to watch a clip from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the longest reigning monarch in British history. When I got home, I watched more of the coronation ceremony, intrigued by the religious and secular aspects of it and how they are intertwined in the ceremony.

The pageantry and beauty and ritual in Queen Elizabeth’s coronation were spectacular and gorgeous. And for royalty, it is expected that things will be perfectly ordered and precise, because the king or queen command the highest honor and receive only the best. They will have significant authority and responsibility, they are leaders of the highest order who will serve for a lifetime and their children and grandchildren and so on will continue the lineage of monarchial rule.

And today we read of the coronation, of sorts, of King Jesus. It is at least the first recognition, aside from the angels at his birth, that he is indeed a king. We won’t do a point by point comparison of the Queen’s coronation to Jesus’s, but suffice it to say Queen Elizabeth did not process to her coronation on a borrowed donkey colt covered in other people’s coats. In fact, we could compare Jesus’s coronation even to ones of his day: Caesars who were crowned emperor in Rome most assuredly had all the pomp and circumstance that was possible in that time and day. It is almost as if Jesus is making a point about what his kingdom will look like…

It is still startling to the Pharisees and teachers of the law when they hear the people shout about Jesus being King:

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.

Those are dangerous words.

Israel is not her own nation. Israel is not free to have her own king that is not appointed by Caesar.

We don’t live in a monarchy, so it’s a little odd for us to think of the consequences of this little parade in a Podunk town (even as a capital city in the empire) as being more than a blip on the radar for the emperor of Rome, but the local leaders were trained to squash minor insurrections quickly and efficiently because what was small one day could become a full scale rebellion and Rome was Rome because she did not allow any rebelliousness to foment out in the open.

This is about power.

Who has it. Who keeps it. And what happens when you live in an oppressive regime and you express the possibility that you might have some, too.

The pharisees have a small amount of power and they are not liking the way this Jesus fellow keeps calling them out for it. They know, too, that the best way for them to remain in that position of power is to continue fighting against those who would undermine or diminish it. They do this by aligning closely with the empire: garnering favor with those who have more power so they can keep theirs.

Contrast this with Jesus.

As king, his first responsibility is to die.

That isn’t powerful at all.

In fact, it looks as though everyone BUT Jesus and his followers is getting what they want: fake peace with Rome (and continuation of the status quo). Later, Christ followers would avoid all appearances of bowing to Caesar – because they did not follow him, they followed a different King.

Meanwhile, Jesus keeps moving toward his responsibility. Keeps doing what must be done to save us. Keeps going forward knowing that what follows the worship of today is desertion, defeat, agony, and death.

He rides the colt today, but he will be betrayed.

He is praised today, but he will be mocked.

He is hailed as King, but those who shout Hosanna today will shout Crucify Him on Friday.

He still goes.

Philippians 2:5-11, which Amy read this morning, tells us that Jesus is king, but not the kind of king we are used to: he gives up his royal status on our account. He lays all of himself on the line for us in a way we could never expect him to. He gives over all of who he is to serve us – and he does it even though he has all the rights in the world to be called king of kings.

Jesus calls us to the same level of pouring ourselves out: the first part of that passage says “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” and then it tells us what that mindset is. This King doesn’t want his subjects to seek power. This King doesn’t want us to be pointing out an us vs. them, like the pharisees did, like we still do when we talk about sins we are passionate about: do we talk about abortion as though the women who might have one are evil, as though those choices are not difficult and painful? Do we demonize gay people or Muslim people or others who are different than us? Do we talk about our political enemies as though they are not people? “All democrats lie” or “all republicans are haters”? Do we believe that following Jesus gives us the ability to denounce others while we proclaim Christ as though we were Jesus ourselves?

Jesus comes not to hold power the way the world understands having power. It is not ruthless and vindictive, this kingdom. Rather it is the upside down politics of loving others, of giving first, of serving before being served. It is always the kingdom where the King himself gave EVERYTHING for the subjects he would embrace and he asks us for nothing but delights when in return, our love moves us to do the same.

Luke’s account of Jesus’s coronation as King is one that should give us pause. His followers were all there that day, walking behind him, waving palm branches, shouting Hosanna.

On Thursday, they would all leave him alone.

Peter would deny him.

Judas would betray him.

And the wonder of it is that Jesus dies for them.

As you sing Hosanna this morning, as you think about what following Jesus looks like, what it looks like to claim him as your King, I ask you to consider the wonder of a King who looks like Jesus. The wonder of a King who forgives his enemies, who dies to make us live.

And consider with me the places and times where your life may not look like it is part of that Kingdom. Where you have denied him. Or betrayed him.

This week we remember the suffering of Jesus. The heartbreak and sorrow and pain. The death. We have the benefit of looking ahead and knowing that Easter is coming. But we would do well to remember that Easter does not come without Good Friday and that Good Friday was hard. Palm Sunday was joyful, but the rest of that week was a series of disappointments for the disciples.

Whatever it is that may put you in the category of Kingdom outsider, I pray that today you will examine your heart and as we move to receive our commemoration of that suffering, commit to Jesus once again your very self. Ask forgiveness for where you have missed. Ask guidance and strength to live out your faith. And remember that no matter what you have done, Jesus gave everything he has and is to be your King and he wants you in the kingdom.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Habakkuk 1:2-5, 3:17-19
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Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
Scripture is unflinching in its descriptions and tellings of people:
People have questioned, yelled at God, misunderstood God and disobeyed God and all of those things are laid out…for us to know that they happen, that God is not afraid of our questions or fist-shaking – but instead stands ready to remind us that we are not forsaken. Some of these have abandoned God completely. God tells those stories, reminding us that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” really knows God’s love, but also showing time and time again that hearts whose intention is to turn to God are able to do so, because God stands ready and willing with forgiveness and welcome. I think of Peter
Habakkuk’s prophetic book is a good one because there are several things happening in here that show us what a relationship with God looks like:
First, Habakkuk is lamenting the lack of justice in Judah (where he lives). Judah’s leaders have wandered far from God and things are not right. He stands up and looks around and sees people being mistreated and abused and he hates it. He has a complaint. It is not about him, specifically, but it is about what is happening in the world around him. And we know about this complaint because Habakkuk takes it right to the very throne of God and says: Hey – What the heck God? How long are you going to let this keep happening? Why aren’t you listening? What exactly ARE you doing? Habakkuk lays out his complaint before God. And he does not hold back anymore than he would if he was making this complaint to his neighbor or his friends.
Second, God answers him. It’s not an entirely satisfactory answer – but God doesn’t hesitate to give him some information about how the wicked will be brought to justice – again, by virtue of other wicked peoples (in this case the Babylonians). Judah will be overrun by the Babylonians, and this will end the current oppression. Remember that God always hears and God is big enough to handle any of our doubts, our fears, our challenges. God doesn’t berate Habakkuk for asking – instead God provides an answer that says the evil hasn’t gone unnoticed and that God is working.
Third, Habakkuk doesn’t stop there. He continues his complaining. We didn’t read it this morning as part of our text, but he basically asks why God will let the Babylonians prosper – they are wicked, too! Habakkuk says he’s heard lots of great things about who God is and about what God has done, but he cannot figure out why God is not just fixing ALL the evil right now and right away in a way that will end it once and for all.
It’s a difficult problem. It’s one that everyone who thinks very long about faith in God wrestles with and the reality is that understanding who God IS helps us understand what God DOES – when we know that God operates from a place of perfect love and gives us the opportunity to choose that love over evil, then we know that the evil that happens in the world is permitted only to the extent that God allows each person to make their own choices – and those who choose other than love and kindness or selfishness over selflessness – those choices will ALWAYS look like evil. But God has FINALLY abolished evil and death (which is usually the end result of all evil acts) in the person of Jesus and in the act of the resurrection.
God has moved to act against evil. God has poured out the Spirit and made it possible for those who follow Jesus to do differently, to live differently, to love completely – but even as we live in the time where we can make peace and live graciously, we, too, struggle with what we see and what we hear and what we know about what is happening around us.
And that’s where our final connection to Habakkuk can come in – he has heard God tell him to wait it out, that the new thing he is going to do is going to be amazing and miraculous, and that even the Babylonians will not finally be permanent – in fact, evil does not ever prevail forever. And Habakkuk, even in his questions, proclaims that he will never stop praising God – no matter what happens, because God has proven faithful. Listen again to Habakkuk’s words in chapter 3: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, thought there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength,”
Habakkuk recognizes that God has not left them alone. That even if starvation seems imminent, even if it looks as though all is lost, God is trustworthy and faithful and he can be joyful, resting in God’s strength, even as his own is failing.
By the way, please note that Habakkuk does not anticipate that God will fix his problem – rather, because God has answered him and promised ultimately that the evil around him will be addressed, Habakkuk knows that God is paying attention and sees what is happening. God is working, Habakkuk just can’t always see it and in the meantime, he can know that God’s hand will prevail.
We, too, live in a place where we can’t always see God’s action in the ways and times we would like. Still – we can rest in God’s faithfulness. We know that God is at work and that God is paying attention.
We know that death has been overcome. We know that Jesus is alive. We know that Jesus is the person whose life and death proclaim over and over that sin and evil and bad are not going to win. Jesus taught us that WE are part of the fight against them – when we live lives that reflect what Christ taught – when we love our neighbor, when we treat others kindly, when we give instead of take, when we do not seek revenge, when we pray, when we feed, when we clothe, when we ACT – we are agents of good who are far more effective than any DC or Marvel superhero ever concocted by a comic book writer. We have the power, in Christ, to actually impact the people around us for the good. That’s the new thing that God has done, part of what God promised Habakkuk, part of what Habakkuk and all of the Old Testament witnesses were waiting for: the promise of the living Christ working and moving in each of us to love the world and conquer evil where ever we find it in our world today.
Did you know you were a superhero in cognito? Well, you are. Love your neighbor today and use your power.
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As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Nahum 1

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Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

Do any of you remember Carnac the Magnificent? I don’t remember him, per se, but I have heard of him. Johnny Carson would dress up in a crazy costume and make fun of psychics. Psychics make a living by predicting the future. Usually the really good ones will be able to stand in a room of 50 or 60 people and do what my husband has taught me is called “a cold read” meaning, they can get you to tell them enough about themselves to give you back that information in a way that makes it seem like they know it, when what they are really doing is guessing and you are telling them they guessed correctly. “Anyone here have an Aunt? I’m hearing from Aunt Jane, no Jessie, no Julie…” they might say and then someone will gasp because they have an Aunt Julie and the “psychic” will go and guess more things about Aunt Julie.

Today as we read about Nahum, I started getting that picture in my mind of a psychic telling you something that is based on intuition and a reading of the circumstances, but it makes you feel better if you want it to. Nahum isn’t guessing about what is going to happen to Ninevah and Assyria, he’s getting his oracles and the prophecies in them from God, BUT their intention is not so much a warning for the ones it is about (because they’ll never hear it) as much as a comfort to the ones that are hearing it: God doesn’t care for injustice, especially when it is coming from the hands of an entire nation.

And eventually, those nations will no longer be powerful and mighty, but instead will be destroyed by others. It is only a matter of time. In this case, God has sent prophets to Ninevah before – remember the story of Jonah? But that was 200 years ago, and now Ninevah (the capital of Assyria) has essentially dispersed the Northern Kingdom of Israel into oblivion. The remaining Southern Kingdom of Judah is quaking in fear over the possibility that the Assyrians will come for them, too. They will, of course, eventually be destroyed and captured and held in Babylon, but they will ultimately return (those are some of the stories we’ve talked about already in this series: remember Ezra and Nehemiah and Daniel) but God wants them to know that it is not ok for a nation to be oppressive and abusive and horrible to everyone around them – eventually a nation like that will come to a not so great end.

It might seem like a prophesy such as this has no bearing on us, but although we are not a great nation, it ties in quite a bit to our message last week: Act justly is one of the commands God has for us. And why? Because it is in God’s very character to demand justice. God’s justice requires righteousness. God’s justice insists that the poor and the widow and the orphan are to be cared for – no matter what. God’s justice asks us to wait on God for retribution – we don’t have to punish our enemies, in God’s time they will see the results of their actions. Instead, God’s justice says be kind to those who are against you, love those whom you would fear and stand firm, because GOD will fight for you.

God has promised to Judah that the good news of God’s justice is coming for them and they do not have to wait long to see it develop in Ninevah. God is already watching the world powers of the day align to make the prophetic true in their time and God is already protecting the people of Judah.

God’s justice also has something to say about how we treat others. About how we judge others. In Matthew, chapter 7, part of the sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us exactly how God feels about US meting out justice:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 

In other words: let God deliver judgement. God is pretty good at this justice thing – it’s part of who God is. And we know that God’s judgement always comes with this caveat: if you repent, if you believe, if you turn from what you were doing – mercy triumphs over judgement: God will forgive, God will offer grace.

It is because God loves the whole world that judgement is reserved for him. God’s ability to see into the hearts and minds, to see the whole of circumstance, to know all of the parts and pieces to every person’s actions: that is why God reserves justice for himself. God is the only one who can be just. God is the only one who knows the truth of every situation and circumstance.

So God gives us pretty clear instructions that our justice is not to be God’s justice – rather our justice comes when we are fair and reasonable and kind and thoughtful: not just to those we care most about, but to everyone we encounter. We should try to put ourselves in another’s shoes and think compassionately even about those we do not agree with. Acting justly for us is going to most often look like standing with those who are treated un-justly, rather than enacting any kind of specific justice for them.

So, maybe you have a friend who has been laid off from work, so your just act might be buying them groceries.

Maybe someone has been mistreated at school or work. You can stand with them against those who are bullying or mean.

Maybe someone is struggling with depression. You can walk with them to fight the darkness that threatens to overpower them.

Maybe someone is sick. You can walk with them to fight their illness or disease.

Sometimes there is real injustice in the world – false accusations, false imprisonments, mistreatment by governments and authorities – sometimes there is racism that needs to be confronted from a systemic perspective. Sometimes there are places where we can see cruelty and hardship that needs a strong voice to rise against.

Recently, in New Zealand, armed gunmen shot up a mosque and killed many people.

Christian justice demands that we not stay quiet about these things. In some places, churches have written letters or offered protection to their local Muslim neighbors. In some places, Christians have gathered around their Muslim neighbors to protect them while they pray.

God asks us to be just in a world that is often unjust. God asks us to discount injustices done to us in this world, because our Kingdom responsibilities offer us the opportunity to be just even when the other is not. God is a just God and he asks that we respond justly in every circumstance and every moment. Because God loves the

This is not an easy thing. This is not a thing done without great discipline. We don’t always get it right. We don’t always follow through, but if we have trusted Jesus with our lives, we can trust Jesus to build in us not only the desire for justice, but the ability to create it and live it and offer it where ever we can.

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As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

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Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

 

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Jonah 3:3-3:10
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Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
Some of you may remember the Paul Harvey radio broadcast piece called “The Rest of the Story”. If you don’t, Paul Harvey would tell stories about people and leave their identity unrevealed in its entirety until the end – telling the trivial information that made celebrities or historical figures seem much more human and less extraordinary. For example, the young man Al who was so terrible at household finance that his wife managed their budget with much chagrin and hand wringing, was the first treasury secretary of the United States, Alexander Hamilton.
Or the vicar of Epworth whose son was saved from a burning house just in the nick of time was Sam Wesley – the father of John Wesley, who was saved from the fire.
These rest of the stories give us a glimpse into the persons and in many ways for some of us, the story of Jonah is the kind of story that we need to know the rest of in order to make sense of it. Most of us have heard the story of the guy who was told to go to Ninevah and instead got on a boat. We know that the boat was hit by a big storm and we know that the sailors asked everyone what was happening or who was the cause of the storm, except Jonah, who was sound asleep! Eventually they woke him and he admitted that he was responsible for the storm because of his disobedience. He advised them to throw him overboard to stop the storm. They reluctantly did so, and the seas calmed, and all was well – except Jonah was swallowed by a big fish (you may have heard whale, but scripture never really says and we just tend to make generic terms specific over time)
Jonah was inside the big fish for 3 days.
He prayed a prayer of repentance and remorse and the fist vomited him out.
Then Jonah does what he was told and goes to Ninevah.
There, usually, ends the children’s version of the story of Jonah – because we focus on the disobedience and repentance. Those are the easy parts of the story to focus on, because they are obvious. And definitely, we should remember that, as one commentary I read this week said, “Everyone is either headed to Tarshish (the disobedient way) or Ninevah (the obedient way) because God has called everyone to follow and proclaim the gospel”
But the rest of the story of Jonah is pretty interesting too, and one of the key things that we can take away from it is that God’s love is for everyone and God’s mercy is always available. The verses we read from chapter 3 make it apparent that God sent Jonah at just the right time, with just the right words to the people of Ninevah.
Jonah turns out to be the most effective and efficient preacher ever.
He walks one day into a city that takes three days to walk through and preaches the shortest message ever “Forty more days and Ninevah will be overturned” and everyone responds with repentance – from the king to the peasant. And God relented.
Jonah should have been thrilled. God used him, God redeemed those around him, and God worked in the lives of an entire city.
But Jonah was not excited. Jonah was not happy. Jonah was TICKED!
Jonah had some reasons for not going to Ninevah in the first place. He came from a country that feared the Assyrians as a constant threat to them (Ninevah was the capital of Assyria) so having God wipe them out would have worked out just fine in Jonah’s opinion. So when he refused to go, he was trying to save his home. And when he went and the city repented, he was annoyed, because he expected God to exact retribution on them, not grant them mercy.
To Jonah’s mind, allowing Ninevah the chance to repent was probably something like allowing Sadaam Hussein to repent or Osama Bin Laden to receive mercy. Ninevah was pretty good at being horrific to those they defeated – they would wear body parts of the leaders of countries they had overthrown and spike heads of conquered kings to their city gates. They were cruel and mean and God spared them because they repented in the face of Jonah’s prophesy.
And Jonah was angry.
God still looked on these cruel and harsh people and loved them.
And Jonah could not understand that kind of love. Jonah could not understand why God would want to give them even the chance at repentance, let alone actually stay the execution.
So Jonah storms off and pouts. And we learn once again that God has a great love for even the most heinous among us. Even the most hateful are given opportunity to gain mercy. Jonah’s book and Jonah’s proclamation about who God is are one and the same – we read it in Jonah 4:2:
He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
The entire book of Jonah is about a God who loves and is gracious and compassionate. This God cares deeply about those who are not even in covenant relationship with him, those who have so many marks leveled against them. The people of Ninevah have no expectations of mercy, they have certainly never given it. But God offers it and they accept it.
And Jonah is angry because he doesn’t like that God is willing to love even these.
But we are fortunate that God is a God of slow anger and long compassion. Because we too, even as Jonah did, have received the benefit of God’s grace. We too, have sinned and turned and been granted a reprieve from the devastation of a sinful heart. We have heard Jesus cry “repent” and have turned away from what we once were to become what God has called us to. We have received mercy we didn’t deserve in times when we have been reluctant to give it. We have scoffed at God’s mercy to others – and wished for a different outcome.
And still, God calls us to love. God calls us to live in right relationship with God and with each other. God asks us to let go of the things that have held us back from loving one another and others around us.
We can find ourselves in this story as Jonah – unwilling to recognize the depth of God’s mercy and its extension to those who seem most unworthy.
Or we can find ourselves in this story as the Ninevahites – recognizing the very depths of our own mistakes and sins and longing for the better news, the good news, of redemption.
Either way – here’s the rest of the story – God is slow to anger, gracious and compassionate, abounding in love. And in every instance, you can find that God waiting with open arms for you.

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

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