We concluded Luke’s gospel with a to be continued ringing in our ears. Jesus’ parting words included the exhortation that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).” Acts, volume two of Luke’s gospel, picks up right where we have just left off with the Holy Spirit being poured out and the good news of great joy for all peoples exploding out from the epicenter of Jerusalem toward the ends of the earth.
And we intend to return to Acts in May of 2024.
But before we do, we’ve chosen to take a detour into two of the minor prophets – Jonah first, and then Daniel in January. This Sunday we will begin a five-week sermon series in the book of Jonah entitled God Loves Your Enemies. This short four-chapter story ends with Jonah complaining angrily to God and sulking over the recently repentant and pardoned pagan city of Nineveh. Like the older brother who refused to join the feast for his brother who “was lost, and is found,” Jonah resents the LORD for being “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6)” toward his despised enemies.
It’s a double-standard, and one that can lurk in our own hearts as well. We can be quick to praise the God who’s mercy is stronger than darkness and new every morn’ and though our sins may be many, His mercy is more. But what about our enemies?
Like the house I passed a couple of Christmases back with a manger scene on the front lawn and a sign that said, “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men (not you Gavin Newsom!)” Maybe you would fill in that “not you…” with another name. Or another group of “others.” Sadly, we can fall short of our Savior who prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” The humbling message of the gospel is the only antidote for our Jonah-like tendencies.
Since the book of Jonah is such a short read, this Sunday will be a combination of reading service and introductory sermon to the series. Erik Thoennes will be preaching from Jonah 1:1-3 and Kenny Clark will be leading our sung worship. Please pray for each as they prepare.
In preparation for Sunday, could I suggest two things? Take time this week to read Jonah in one sitting (maybe even more than once through!). And then devote some time to pray through this passage from Ephesians 2, asking God to work this hostility killing work in our hearts more deeply as we remember the blood of Christ, who himself is our peace.
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Eph. 2:13-16)
See you Sunday, Grace. Come hungry!
*Huge thanks and credit to the talented and thoughtful Danielle Camorlinga for the beautiful art piece she created to help us reflect on the story of this reluctant prophet.
Song Link of the Week
Thank You Jesus for the Blood for the Blood by Charity Gayle
Thank you Jesus for the blood applied
Thank you Jesus, it has washed me white
Thank you Jesus, You have saved my life
Brought me from the darkness into glorious light