Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 15, 2019
There is no person on the face of this earth to whom God’s love does not extend. God’s love crosses racial, economic, geographical and social barriers. Every person who draws breath is a candidate for God’s love. If we are God’s children, should we not love them also? Jonah had a hard time letting go of his pre-set ideas of whom he thought God should love. How does it sit with you and me? How far would we like to “allow” God’s love to extend?
I have trouble with myself. I find myself to have an attitude that the church might only be made up of well-behaved people, people that I can relate to. I try to hide it, but I personally know when it shows up, and I have a hard time getting rid of my pre-conceived preferences.
In his book, No Wonder They Call Him Saviour, Max Lucado tells the story about a mother named Maria and her daughter Christina. Maria and Christina lived in a poor village in Brazil. Maria’s husband died when Christina was an infant. Maria had a job as a maid in order to support herself and Christina. There were no luxuries, but they got by.
For fifteen years things went rather well. But now Christina had become a teenager and teenagers often have minds of their own. Christina was not interested in marrying young and raising a family like most of the other girls that she grew up with. Not that she couldn’t have her pick of husbands. Her olive skin and brown eyes, as well as her infectious personality, kept a steady stream of prospects at her door. She dreamed of trading her dusty neighbourhood for exciting avenues and the city life. Just the thought of this horrified Maria. People don’t know you there! Jobs are scarce and life is cruel. And besides, if you went there, what would you do for a living? That is what horrified Maria the most. Maria knew exactly what Christina would have to do for a living. That is why Maria’s heart broke when she awoke one morning to find her daughter’s bed empty. Christina had gone and Maria knew where. Maria set out immediately to bring her back.
Maria threw some clothes in a bag, gathered up all her money and ran out of the house. But not before she had an inspired idea. On her way to the bus stop she went to a drugstore. She entered the photograph booth there and spent all the money she could afford on pictures of herself. With a purse full of small black and white photos, she boarded the bus ride for Rio de Janeiro.
And there Maria began her search. Knowing what a girl would have to do to support herself in this cruel city, Maria began with the bars, hotels and nightclubs, any place with a reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture – taped to a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note. It wasn’t too long before both the money and the picture ran out and Maria had to go home. She wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village.
A few weeks later young Christina descended a flight of hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over she longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation, “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.” And she did. 1.)
Jonah had his pre-set ideas about who could be part of God’s love. Might Dayspring be similar? Are we a church that cares for middle-class, well behaved people that fit into our neat little framework of “insiders”? Perhaps not, and that would be just great. And if you find yourself to be an exception, please, we need many such people. They are people that have a heart for every person, regardless of background, race, socio-economical status. They are people that are welcoming and hospitable. They are people who have sacrificed their selves, and who do not look at the world with any distinction between “insider” and “outsider”. These are the people that will form the core of a church that continues to become externally focussed.
We can no longer have the attitude of a Jonah. Jonah had the audacity to sulk when God changed God’s mind about Nineveh and when the people of Nineveh had a change of heart. Or was it really so audacious of Jonah? Wasn’t it perhaps the normal human thing to do, the thing I catch myself doing when I practise my life as a Christian?
It is a subtle move in our minds, but it is a change that is one of dying to ourselves, of crucifying our own pride. Only when we empty ourselves of the pre-conceived ideas of whom you and I want to associate with, will we be able to be vessels of God’s love for all the human beings we encounter.
Will God be able to change my attitude? How about yours, I don’t know your attitude, but God does. And God “so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This is what our faith is all about. God gave God’s only Son on a cross. So the way of the cross could affect you and me. The message of the gospel needs to sink down from our brains to our hearts, less than two feet in distance. But sometimes it takes a lifetime. Let’s examine ourselves.
Thomas Carlisle wrote a poem about this:
“Jonah stalked to his shaded seat
and waited for God to come round to his way of thinking;
and God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
to come round to his way of loving.”
1.) Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him Saviour
2.) From a poem by Thomas Carlisle
Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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