Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What happens when you get what you ask for?


The captain and the clergy
This is a series about bringing the light by being the light…
What happens when you get what you ask for? Are you really ready for that?

Today we begin with the story of Jonah. And before we get in to that, I want to stop a minute and talk about truth vs. fact. They’re not necessarily the same thing. Especially as relates to stories. For example, was there really a Babe the Blue Ox that accompanied Paul Bunyan? Did John Henry actually out drill a steam shovel in a contest? Did  George Washington really tell the truth about  that cherry tree? Each of those stories were told for a purpose. To teach us something. And this is what I want to say about the Bible…the Bible may not always be factual, it is always TRUE and RELIABLE… So don’t let yourself get caught in meaningless arguments by people who want to drag you in to these arguments about if the Bible is true when  what they really mean is if it’s factual. 

Don’t waste your time.

Likewise, there are those who get into these pedantic arguments like, well a whale is truly a mammal and not a great fish, so ….well, so, who cares? That’s not what this is about. OK, we clear on that?

Let’s start by saying that Jonah is unique among prophets.… Abraham Joshua Heschel (who by the way was on that bridge in Selma even though movie didn’t show it…)says that a prophet comes  from a people and then speaks  to the  prophet’s own people, motivated by love…BUT here,  Jonah is sent to Nineveh, the city of his oppressor, his enemy. NO way, he says. So he runs away…jumps on a boat…a horrendous storm arises…and the sailors feel he’s bad luck, a Jonah, and they throw him overboard. He gets swallowed up…by a whale…spends three days in there and gets spat out…his own 3 day crucifixion/resurrection story.

SO he changes his mind and goes, and surprise! They listen! It would be like in that movie The Interview, if  instead of sending  two bros to kill  Kim Jong Un, they send them to say, Hey, straighten up, fly right and he actually does it! Like when James Franco says, so feed your people, Kim would actually do that…

So does Jonah celebrate? NO..he sulks…he was ready for fire and brimstone and destruction…the last thing he wanted was repentance..(note how it's after the people have en masse already begun to fast that the leader declares a fast..) So Jonah sits under a broom tree…which God quickly eliminates…

SO Jonah goes God, how could you do that? I loved that broom tree..
And God says,  So you care more about broom trees than my children of Nineveh……and the light comes on…for Jonah.

Last week, we held our annual Martin Luther King, Jr, day march for peace and justice. As you know it’s been a a hard time for relations between  the city and its police, especially in the wake of Eric Garner. And then the murder of the two police officers Ramos and Liu.  We could not have just a generic  march. And there was much debate about our messaging. So we went to have dialogue  with our local precinct 24…We started just by asking them how they’ve been feeling. Opened up a a flood of feeling. My colleague Alistair had suggested we could ask the police to march with us. I said that was a crazy idea. And indeed, Captain Mallon said that in uniform, that was just not possible. But then, Monday, about halfway through the march, the captain, in uniform, joins our line of march.…how do I respond? Do I feel maybe there was something wrong with out message if the police felt comfortable, joining in? Do I feel maybe he didn’t understand our message? In the end, I decided to be thankful and call it a victory…It meant a lot to him to have joined in.

What does this tell us about God? We have to be prepared to talk to anyone…no one is outside the circle…What does this tell us  about us? There are of  course political ramifications….As we learn from Industrial Areas Foundation, it all begins with  relationships…

But personally?  We have to allow for the possibility of change…in others ….and that also might even include ourselves…

That’s our light for today…


The In2 church has sent some guests to worship with us. Including one of my son  Nate’s middle school classmates, Glen. Seems so little changed, except for his cool glasses. One of their guests is a pianist, following the service she sits down and shares the gift of playing for us. Next week they arrive for worship.

Sharing a hymn

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