Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jonah 3:1-4; Weekday Lenten Service 5, Jonah the Survivor Series by Reed Lessing; March 25, 2009

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:1-4, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I just love how this part of Jonah starts. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time… Go to Nineveh!” And Jonah got up and went. After all that he’s been through, after all he’s done, Jonah gets a second chance. He does exactly what God sent him to do. It’s the “second time” that such a wonderful phrases here. Think of it this way…

In the “old days” people used to have answering machines on their home phones. Actually we are considering dropping the land line altogether once we get “local” cell phone numbers. But in those “old days” you’d have a message like this. “Hello this you’ve reached the Watt family, we can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave your name and number we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. (beep)” Then you’d go through your messages one at a time and pick the calls you wanted to return and the calls you want to ignore. Now days people use caller ID for the same purpose. You probably do that. It works well to avoid those calls from salesmen. But they’ve pretty much learned the *67 secret for keeping their ID from showing up. Well, Jonah did that with God. His message went something like this. “Hello, this is Jonah. I am unable to take your call right now, please don’t leave your name, number or message, because I won’t be getting back to you, (beep).” And you know all the trouble it caused. But here we are, after fish vomited Jonah on the beach. God keeps calling. He never gives up on Jonah. He never gives up on you either. Now you can take comfort in that just as well as you can take warning. The belly of the fish is a dreadful place to be. But God is faithful he keeps calling.

You can’t avoid the Baptismal images here. God’s grace, his undeserved love, comes to Jonah through his “baptism” in the sea. It’s a death and resurrection for Jonah. He dies to his sin, in the water. He arises alive again, vomited out on the dry land to live again by faith. It shows here where Jonah does exactly what he’s been told to do. He goes to Nineveh. I’m not sure what he expected when he got there. He was probably expecting his visit to end in a horrible death. But I couldn’t be worse than what he had already been through. And besides he had already died, in a sense. Deep into the water he went and up again saved by the fish, spit up on dry ground. But Jonah isn’t the only example of God killing and raising in water. Think of the flood. The water covered the earth. It was washed of its sin. The water was judgment. And the water saves, too. Noah and his family were saved by the same water. And remember again how God saved his people at the Red Sea. When all was lost, they were trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army. There was no escape. They were faithless; they had lost all hope of rescue. And then God opened up the water of the sea and they passed through it, safe. I’ll never understand what possessed the Egyptians to follow. The water that saved God’s people became judgment for their enemies. They went through death and resurrection to new life and on through the desert to the Promised Land. I just love how hymn 487 in LSB says it.

Come, you faithful, raise the strain Of triumphant gladness!
God has brought His Israel Into joy from sadness,

Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot Through the Red Sea waters.

(LSB 487 Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain)

We could look at all kinds of places in the hymnal that make this connection of death to sin, and resurrection to new life in water. But turn first to LSB 268, we’ve been here before but the connection is so strong I just can’t help turning to it again. Look at the prayer.

The Flood Prayer

P Let us pray.

Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. You drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, yet led Your people Israel through the water on dry ground, foreshadowing this washing of Your Holy Baptism. Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.

We pray that You would behold [name(s)] according to Your boundless mercy and bless [him/her/them] with true faith by the Holy Spirit, that through this saving flood all sin in [him/her/them] which has been inherited from Adam and which [he himself / she herself / they themselves] [has/have] committed since, would be drowned and die. Grant that [he/she/they] be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, [he/she/they] would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen.

Now turn to LSB 325. Look down the second column and read with me the section labeled “Fourth”

Holy Baptism - Fourth

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?

St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4)

This is no idle figure of speech either. Baptism is a death. That old sinful nature in you is killed. It receives just what is necessary. Compare yourself to Jonah and the people of Israel backed up to the Red Sea. You know your unfaithfulness. Your unwillingness to do what God asks. You go through the motions so it looks good. You sit in church listening attentively. But you struggle against sin. Your unfaithfulness is different than mine. Your temptations are different than those of your spouse. It’s easy to find fault in other people. We are so quick to relish your neighbor’s problems. We don’t like to face our own. When someone gives us “constructive criticism we act grateful but really are resentful. We are so eager to get the stuff of the world. Those glossy ads make so many things seem like needs instead of wants. And how reluctant we are to give to the real needs of people all around us. We certainly don’t want to be “enabling” bad behavior. It’s hard to speak kindly of those God has placed in government when you totally disagree with the way they approach… everything. You see the problem isn’t really these things that you do. The problem is you. You are sinful and unclean. It’s easy to relate to those who run from God, and those who lose faith in the face of trouble. That’s us, with our backs to the water. That’s us trying to get away from God’s judgment.

But you have to die so you can live again.

You guys will probably remember the story of the Georgia Tech, University of California game on New Year’s Day, 1929. Roy Riegels made the biggest mistake of his career. He recovered a fumble, and made the best run of his life… in the wrong direction. He was only stopped by Benny Lom, a member of his own team who, by grace, caught him at the one yard line. 36 in. and Roy would have scored a touchdown for the other team. The locker room was silent all during half time as the coach struggled with what to do. When it was time to return to the field he only said, “Men, the same team that started the first half will start the second half.” Everyone got up to go onto the field, everyone that is except Roy. He wanted to die. The coach called to him to get out on the field. “Roy didn’t you hear me? The same team that started the first half will start the second.” Roy looked up with his cheeks wet with tears. “Roy,” the coach continued, “get back out there, the game is only half over.” Roy played his heart out the second half. The players testified that they had never seen a man play as hard as Roy.

Jonah too played hard. He went to Nineveh. He took the task before him and did exactly what he was asked to do. Imagine if you will shouting out the message that Jonah shouted, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Now imagine that you are yelling it in a city that is known for killing people for the fun of it. Now, Jonah isn’t really happy about what he’s doing. But he offers the people of Nineveh what he’s been given. He got a second chance to do what God commanded. And that’s what he offers to them. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah was probably laying heavily on the destruction idea. He didn’t want to offer these people God’s grace. But it is there anyway. When he’s done preaching he goes out and waits for the fireworks. And Nineveh is overturned. They repent. God relents of the disaster. The sinners of Nineveh have faith in God their Savior. They are overturned to be new different people.

Repentance. Death and resurrection. That’s what God has for you too. You are overthrown through water and God’s Word. You die to sin and rise to new life. You are given a second chance. Your sin won’t condemn you to the depths of death and hell. It all happens in Jesus. You are overthrown in Jesus. Your sin is killed in Jesus. Your old sinful nature dies in Jesus through your death in the water of baptism. You go deep, deep into the water, drowned dead, and come up again a new man, or woman. It is a lavish washing away of your sin. Martin Luther talked about how the water of baptism is colored red by the blood of Jesus. Jesus’ death is your death to sin. His blood is shed on the cross for you, for the forgiveness of your sin. And it happens again in daily contrition and repentance. God uses his law to show you your sin and you die. Then he shows you your savior and you live again. Your sin doesn’t condemn you you have a second chance to live. And you come up out of the water, motivated to do better because you have been overturned.

Jonah survived only through the gospel, and so do we because our God in Christ is the God of the second chance! You have received the forgiveness of your sin in your death and resurrection in Holy Baptism. You have received the forgiveness of your sin because of Jesus death and resurrection on the cross. Anem.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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