Move! God Is Speaking
God spoke to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh and tell them that they had gone against God. Nineveh! The home of the enemies of his people! He couldn’t possibly do what God was asking. Why would God care about the very people he hated because they were his enemy? He tried to go the opposite way to Tarshish and Joppa, he begged to be released from this responsibility, but God had said, “Move!”
This is the third in UMC Discipleship Ministries’ Rise Up! worship series, modified for online ministry.
Note: For best understanding and flow, listen to each video where it is placed in the page before moving on to the next portion of text as placement is based on where the music/audio would take place during a live service.
Prelude & Opening Hymn
Word and Response
(Jonah 3:1-3a, 10, 4-9 NRSV; paraphrase by Taylor Burton-Edwards, UMC Discipleship Ministries)
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.
The Lord: Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.
So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.
All: (sung response)
You may run, can’t be caught
You may hide, can’t be found
Brother when God get ready
You got to move
Jonah spent the day going into the heart of the city, crying out as he walked …
Jonah: Forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown!
All: (sung response)
You got to move, you got to move
You got to move, oh move
When my God get ready, You got to move
The people believed God. They proclaimed a fast, and everyone great and small, from the king to the animals of the field, put on sackcloth, turned from their evil ways, and cried out to God.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God repented from the calamity God had planned to bring upon them; and did not do it.
The word of God for the people of God; thanks be to God.
Spoken Word Reflection – Brothers
Reflection for Sunday, January 21, 2018 – Move!
We don’t hear this in the scripture reading above, but when God first spoke to Jonah, Jonah didn’t want to do what God told him, so he tried his best to run away from God.
When it comes to why we resent something (or someone), it’s not without cause, right?
Jonah’s reasons for feeling the way he did about the Ninevites were simple and commonly held among the Hebrew. The Ninevites were literally the arch-enemies of his people. They were ruthless, warlike, cruel, and didn’t worship God but multiple “gods”. Jonah could easily justify their destruction by God. Jonah would have, at least, been momentarily excited that God was finally going to give the Ninevites what Jonah believed they deserved for their treatment of the Hebrews – annihilation. But, instead, he did his best to run away from it. Why?
He could have feared for his own life if he traveled to and in Nineveh. It was commonly known those people were a threat just because they were those people.
He could have avoided God’s call because he wanted God to destroy the Ninevites and knew God was full of mercy and might spare them if they repented. After all, in Jonah and the Hebrew peoples’ minds, the Ninevites deserved destruction – not forgiveness. They were unforgivable. He might not have wanted to be responsible for any part of what some might consider “saving” the Ninevites.
Finally, He could have tried to avoid God’s call simply because he could not set aside his personal hatred of the Ninevites and the very idea of being anywhere near the Ninevites was unacceptable to him.
There’s more to Jonah’s story than just today’s scripture. There’s the trip on the boat from Joppa to Tarshish when Jonah first flee’s God’s call, God sends a storm, the sailors call on their own gods who fail them, then turn to Jonah who says, “Just throw me overboard (kill me now) and the seas will calm.”
An important part is when the sailors have finally thrown Jonah overboard, the seas calm, and then God sends the great big fish to swallow Jonah up. After three days, Jonah admits (to himself and God) that God could redeem anyone including someone who’d run as close to Sheol (hell) as Jonah had and agrees to go to Nineveh if God will just save him.
If we were to read the rest of Jonah’s story, we’d find out that, after finally doing what God called him to do causing the Ninevites to sincerely repent for which God forgave them, Jonah forgot everything he’d said in the belly of that fish and angrily complained to God.
Poor Jonah! God did what Jonah knew God would do because Jonah understood who God was. God spared the Ninevites. And it flat ticked Jonah off. He was like, “Geez, God, just kill me now! The Ninevites? Really?”
God just said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” So Jonah stomped off to the desert outside the city, laid out his blanket, sat there, and waited “to see what would become of the city.”
Can you imagine what Jonah was thinking? “I know they’ll mess up. They’re godless Ninevites. This won’t last. They don’t deserve to live.”
God caused a bush to grow up overnight that shaded Jonah the next day, killed the bush with a worm the following night, then sent a hot east wind and clear sky so that the sun beat down on Jonah all the day after that.
Jonah would have been fit to be tied at this point, on top of suffering from heat exhaustion and possibly sun poisoning, so Jonah once against asked God to just let him die. God asked again if it was right for Jonah to be angry about the bush, and Jonah said: “Yes, angry enough to die. (Just kill me now.)”
And then, in the last two verses of the Book of Jonah, God spoke to Jonah one more time: “You are concerned about the bush that you didn’t work to nurture, didn’t grow because it came into being and then perished. You think I shouldn’t be concerned about Nineveh where there are more than 120,000 souls who do not know their right hand from their left, or that I should care about the animals in their care.”
There are a lot of lessons in the very short Book of Jonah: God uses disobedient believers to reach the unchurched, God gives second chances, God’s plans are greater than our own plans, God is God of all creation, not just those who believe and follow Him, but those who don’t know him at all and to all Earth’s creatures. Throughout the story, Jonah seems to fear God, but not to respect Him. And, throughout the story, Jonah puts Jonah ahead of God and God’s will.
God was speaking and told Jonah to move, to go and do. And even when Jonah disobeyed God and went in the opposite direction, God used Jonah’s disobedience, not just to move Jonah, but to move others.
The storm at sea caused a Gentile captain and crew of sailors to witness firsthand the power and forgiving nature of God as well as the failure of their own gods.
God spoke to the Ninevites (also Gentiles) through Jonah and they were moved to save themselves from destruction. They humbled themselves before God and turned to Him – an entire nation (group/tribe) of people.
God is speaking to us all the time, compelling us to move, whether it’s geographically or spiritually. It’s what we do when He speaks that matters. Will we, like Jonah, go the opposite direction, clinging to our own plans, our own ideology, our own judgment of those that He moves us to help or forgive or love or include, putting ourselves first? Will we only move if the move benefits us directly?
How many days will we spend in the belly of the fish before we face our Nineveh, whatever or whoever that may be?
God is speaking, and He says, “Move…”. Will you?
Prayers of the People
With all our hearts, and all our minds, and all our strength, let us pray to our Lord.
All: Lord, have mercy.
With all who are forced to move by circumstances beyond their control,
by weather, war, violence, employment, or need for specialized healthcare …
All: Lord, have mercy.
With all whom you call to move,
from places of comfort to places of greater challenge,
from one form of service to another,
or from employment to being laid aside for a time …
All: Lord, have mercy.
With leaders in the church and leaders in the nations and corporations of the world
who constantly call those they lead and serve to move
from injustice to greater justice,
from poverty toward sustainability,
from isolation to interdependence,
from wastefulness toward stewardship of the earth,
from conflict toward reconciliation,
from fear toward hope …
All: Lord, have mercy.
And for ourselves,
for your Spirit to keep striving with us,
to turn from our evil ways,
to strengthen our resistance to temptation,
to increase our resolve to grow in doing good,
and to overcome our immaturity
until we are perfected in love …
In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
In the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray:
Our father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.
God has heard our cries. We are forgiven and at peace with God through Jesus Christ.
The peace of Christ be always with you.
All: And also with you.
So let us share the peace of Christ with those around us, and our gifts with the church and all the world.
(Since we don’t do an offering here online, consider paying a kindness forward today, instead: pay the tab for the guy behind you at the drive-through, deliver hot cocoa to the homeless, visit an elderly neighbor.)
When the Lord gets ready, we’ve all got to move.
High or low, rich or poor, we’ve got to move.
One or two, me or you, we’ve got to move.
So move, church.
And keep moving forward as the Spirit Leads.
Notes and Additional Resources:
*Many thanks to the team at UMC Discipleship Ministries for providing the prayers, poem, scripture interpretation and song lists for this series. (©Discipleship Ministries 2018; Spoken word reflection ©Rev. B. Kevin Smalls 2018)
Additional Reflections on Jonah