Conclusion to the Sign of Jonah series
All the signs of Jonah point to Jesus. The signs that reveal Jesus’ presence in our lives are sacrifice, death and resurrection, God’s word and Repentance that leads to life. Are your lives defined by these signs?
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh as the representative of God’s people to do the work of God. We will see next week that Jonah’s flight from God was consistent with kind of prophet he was. Jonah and Israel did not understand that their mission was not separate from their life as the people of God. That was the lesson Jonah was learning to teach Israel. It’s the same lesson we need to learn.
Your mission is not separate from your life as the people of God. I can ask all kinds of questions about missions. How many of us are foster parents? Support a missionary? Visit lonely old widows tucked away alone in retirement homes all over the Puget Sound. But our problem is more fundamental than that. Why would we want to add to our church? How are we doing loving the people we already have? How many different families have you had over in the last two weeks? The last two months? The last two years?
We don’t reach out to the world because we do so poorly reaching out to each other. Reaching across the street starts with reaching across the pew. I know you do not have an affinity with everyone. And being nice is not the same as loving people. You may not feel animosity toward anyone in this church but how many people’s welfare in this congregation would you say you are passionate about? We think that because we are polite to the bank teller and the barista and are courteous drivers that we are loving people. We think if we ask someone how work is going while standing around the cookie table or make some amusing comments about baseball in passing conversations that we are loving people. But love is defined differently by Jesus.
And I know how busy we all are. But loving the people in your community is what your mission is, it’s what defines you as a follower of Jesus. Throughout history there has been work, hobbies, families and the like; the problem is priority.
I am not saying that coming to my house for dinner is a glorious refreshing thing all by itself, but how are your cares going to be present in my prayers, unless you are present in my life? How are we going to get to know one another? How am I going to bear your burdens and you bear mine unless we know one another enough to share them? See, I don’t think we are just hiding from our mission in the world; we are hiding from being the body of Christ. Are you sacrificing for one another? Are you dying to yourselves to live for the body of Christ? Do you obey God’s explicit words to love the brethren? This means more than friendly chit chat around the cookie table. Are you reaching out to the people you are connected to, In Christ, and loving them?
It takes sacrifice. It takes dying to yourself, it requires letting the word of God dwell in you richly. It takes looking outward, like Christ, toward others. I know this can be messy. Life is hard and complicated and people have baggage, but we will never reach out to Nineveh if we can’t even reach out to each other.
Your mission starts by reaching out across the pews of Christ Covenant Church and as you become those who reach out more, you will continue to reach across the street. It begins at home with the family of God in whose midst the Lord has planted you.
Pray for someone you know is struggling. Send encouraging e-mails and text messages. Make a phone call and see how someone is doing. Send someone a cashier’s check anonymously in the mail who you know is struggling and could use the money. Take someone out for lunch or tea or a beer and pay for it. Invite people over. This way we learn about each other’s burdens and build each other up. And this is just the beginning. We don’t need more programs. We need more fellowship. You do eat everyday don’t you? You watch sports? Go to the gym or go for a run? Do you work on the car? Go shopping? What you need is more fellowship in the things you already do.
Sacrifice. Die to yourself and be resurrected in Christ. Let His word abide in you. Repent. Build up the broken. Heed the signs of Jonah. Be the signs of Jonah pointing the world to Jesus Christ.