Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email email@example.com, Minister: Rev Julian Albrow, Telephone (01392) 255791
Friends, Once again we have travelled through the Holy Season of Lent, considered the events of Holy Week, been humbled by Good Friday and are now rejoicing because of Easter Sunday. But what does this really mean for us and how do we respond to the Good News of Jesus.
Often when Jesus was asked to give a sign to the world to prove he was the true Messiah, he would reply that the sign he would give was that of Jonah. Now Jonah was a famous Jewish story. Today it is still one of the best known in the Bible and, also, the least understood. Folk get hung up on the whale! Jonah is a hard hearted, narrow-minded, extreme nationalist bigot. He represents one of the worst characteristic of the people who had returned from exile and began rebuilding the land and its worship. They became narrow and exclusive. They quarrelled with the Samaritans, not allowing them to have a part in the new temple nor willing to accept their temple on Mount Gerisim. They refused to let foreigners in, or to let Israelites marry foreigners. They closed the gates, the borders, their minds to anything they did not consider pure. Inwardly looking, they still thought they could honour God. Jonah is called by God to go to Nineveh and denounce it. Jonah runs away in the opposite direction. Down he went to Joppa and boarded a ship for Tarshish, believing he was out of the reach of the Lord. A storm occurs and others on the boat work out Jonah was to blame. He volunteers to be thrown overboard, but the Lord will not be thwarted and sends the big fish to transport Jonah to dry land, which is three days swim and sail away. The Lord then calls Jonah a second time and this time he obeys and goes to Ninevah. He preaches that the city is close to destruction and for the need of repentance. The folk heed his words and turn back to God to see if they could save their city. God hears their prayer and forgives. Jonah enters into a monumental huff and sulk. The last thing he wants is foreigners to be converted. He says to God, I would be better dead than alive. Why? He now knows the exclusivity of the religion of the Israelites is going to be challenged. Foreigners and sinners are to enjoy the blessing of Israel’s God.
God’s powerful love is for all of His children, Jesus is Saviour of the whole world. The sign Jesus gives is one of an all-embracing God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Tarshish, Ninevah, Babylon, Rome, Greece, Asia, etc. Jesus in his actions demonstrates this. He embraces sinners, he touches the untouchable, he gathers children in his arms, he allows unclean women to touch him, he even raises the dead. In his teaching he reinforces this; the Good Samaritan Parable tell the truth that they are included in his love and will be used by Him. Later Peter is called to Joppa to baptise Gentiles, Pauls ministry is especially for them. We are also called to be faithful, willing to listen and share and shift our prejudices for Jesus’ sake. It is the calling of fisher-people to be fishers of folk, all folk, and what a shift that necessitates. As St Marks Gospel rings out; The time has come; the kingdom of God is upon you; repent and believe the gospel. The sign of death, burial and Resurrection. The sign of denying ourselves and living for Jesus. If we do, God promises help; the gift of His Holy Spirit
God Bless, Julian