Today’s Gospel and Old Testament readings have to do with a call that Jonah experienced and that Simon, Andrew,
James and John all heard from Jesus and to which they responded. It’s a call to discipleship and it’s one that is meant for all of us.
Many of us heard the story of Jonah in the belly of the fish when we were young. I find it interesting that the church
chose to skip that part of the story for today’s reading which begins:
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: "Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you." So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD'S bidding.
The reason Jonah was in the belly of the fish was because he first attempted to escape God’s call by literally fleeing on a ship. When God sent a storm, the sailors threw Jonah overboard, and the fish swallowed him. Three days later, returned to dry land (I’ll spare you the details), Jonah had a different attitude. I wonder if the point is that one way or another, it’s best to respond to God’s call, which is constant and unyielding, even in the face of our disobedience and imperfection.
The disciples that responded so readily to Jesus’ call in today’s Gospel were also far from perfect. Remember how they bickered over who would get to sit at Jesus’ right hand in the coming kingdom? Remember how they fell asleep at Gethsemane and abandoned him at Calvary? Yet they are saints – examples for all of us, celebrated for centuries by the church to which we belong.
So if the call to discipleship is unyielding and uncompromising, and meant for all of us, to what exactly are we being
In the Gospel, Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, and they do. What does following Jesus mean? To what are we to follow him? To preaching (announcing the good news that the reign of God is at hand and within), teaching, healing, prayer, obedience, redemptive suffering, death and resurrection. I realize that many of those words may sound churchy or foreign to us living as we do in the complex world of 2018. But they are what we are called to, according to the gifts we’ve been given, by virtue of our baptism. And if we, in our weakness and imperfection will try to respond to the call, God will bring great blessings to our world and to us.
When Jonah preached repentance as he’d been commanded, “the people of Nineveh believed God … When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.”
When Jesus’ disciples obeyed the command to go and teach all nations, a church that none of them could imagine grew to span centuries and to touch all parts of our world. Ours is a church that has accomplished tremendous good, even though it is made up of imperfect, weak and disobedient people just like you and me, who have tried to respond to God’s call, relying on God’s grace.
Liturgy and Music Minister