Reflection from our Diocesan Spiritual Advisor (The Rev. Lee Weissel), February 2024
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.' Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah 3 v1-3
The old way to capture a monkey was to place an object of desire inside a box or barrel. The object would catch the monkey’s attention, and they would reach into the crate and grab the object. They would then try and remove it, only to discover that they could not fit their closed hand, let alone the object through the opening. The desire to have the object was so great, that even when their potential captors came close, they would still struggle to remove it. It was only at the final moment would they release, only to realise that it was too late. Letting go in order to go and live was key. For us, it may not be a banana, but we can often be holding onto things that stop us from living the fullness God has called us to.
In the story of Jonah we see a prophet of God having to let go of things he was holding onto that were not of God. These same lessons can apply to us. The first is letting go of our hatred of those we consider enemies, like Jonah has to do in order to go and preach to the Ninevites.
It can also be letting go of our plans and ideas about where we should go, also like Jonah when he takes off in the opposite direction from where God tells him to go.
And particularly today, is letting go of our identities. Jonah liked the title of Prophet, but had to let go of his understanding in order to embrace God’s purposes. It is only after Jonah goes through all in chapter 1 and 2, that he is ready to truly hear God, and thankfully, God is gracious and merciful, allowing Jonah a second chance.
In this story, Jonah still feels overwhelmed as he talks about ‘Ninevah was a very large city’. In the Hebrew, the emphasis is that it is a large city, even for God, but this is supposed to be part of the humour of the text. There is no city too large for God; it is supposed to reflect that Jonah’s understanding of God is too small.
Likewise for us, our vision and understanding of God can be too small, so we hang onto other things (like a banana) and put our trust in those things, telling ourselves these are ‘just in case’, things.
This year as we begin to journey together, let us ask God for a bigger vision and understanding of Him. Also, let us turn back to God if we have been holding onto things that have prevented us from flourishing in Him. And as always, let us pray, asking for God’s leading in our lives and our communities.