Last week we talked about all that gets in the way of hearing and experiencing God’s call in our lives. This week we are going to talk about what we do when we have heard that call. Today we heard how Jonah got up right away and went to Nineveh. What we didn’t hear is that when he first got the call he tried to run away and ended up in the belly of a whale. I love Jonah because I feel like he often represents how many of us might react upon getting a call from God.
Human beings often react first in fear to anything that requires life changes and the unknown. It is natural and evolution wise it has helped human beings survive for millions of years. I don’t like change. I don’t like the unknown specifically because it is unknown. I remember struggling emotionally when my brothers began to grow up and leave home. When my eldest brother left for the military I was 12 years old and I felt scared of the Erick shaped hole in the family. When my brother Jason left home I was in college already and he moved in with his girlfriend. I was fearful of the family changing yet again with the addition of new people and traditions that seemed weird and foreign to me. In those moments, I was being called just to be open and accepting and I will say that I was not at first. I fought against the changes when they came and happened. But eventually I came to realize how wonderful my sister-in-laws were. I came to realize that we all grow up and leave home and expand our families across the country.
There was so much more to gain by being accepting and moving into the changes was placing before me with courage as Jesus disciples did when called from their careers as fishermen to careers as disciples with an unknown possibly volatile future. I envy the courage of those disciples because I am often more like Jonah needing to be convinced before moving forward. I am sure that many of you are the same way when changes come to your families, lives, and when you become aware that you are being asked to trust in the work of the Lord and to move forward into an unknown future.
We see that Jonah moves forward with fulfilling God’s call to preach doom and destruction to the once magnificent Assyrian capitol of Nineveh. He was called to preach doom and destruction at the hand of the Hebrew God to a polytheistic and gentile culture who did not know God. Jonah was fearful at first because he feared the people whom he was to speak God’s word to. He feared the people because they once belonged to a very powerful nation that had destroyed smaller kingdoms like the northern kingdom of Israel and threatened Judah. Jonah like any one of us was reluctant not knowing or understanding what was to happen or how the message would be received. He struggled to trust God. I think Jonah is more like the average person when we are called to a time of change, when we are called to trust in a time of unknown.
Whenever God calls and for whatever purpose, we are asked to make a decision. We are called to either trust in God allowing him to lead us, run away, or ignore it. Just think about how many lives we can touch when we hear and respond to that call. Just think about how our lives could change for the better. The disciples were called from a simple life, a life where they were only responsible for themselves and their families. It would have been easier to continue in the family business and not to get involved in the dangerous work of the radical message of love that Jesus preached. Yet they seemed to trust. They trusted enough to just drop their work and leave. They trusted in what God was going to do with their lives.
Shane Claiborne, 21st century theologian and author of Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals writes, “One by one, these disciples would infect the nations with grace. It wasn’t a call to take the sword or the throne and force the world to bow. Rather, they were to live the contagious love of God, to woo the nations into a new future”. We all too often forget the courage with which the disciples approached a violent world in need. We forget that they risked everything and gave everything because they believed in the love of God that they were charged to share with the wider world. They lived the Christian life with conviction.
When we hear the call, when we feel the pull in our lives to do more, to be more, and to care more, instead of responding with our first impulses which may be to be fearful, questioning, and to either ignore or turn away, we should embrace that call. We should answer God when we are called by name with “Here I am” and wait to hear and experience how he will lead us next. Keep as your motto the verses from Philippians that gave Paul courage to live Christ’s message more boldly with each new day, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me”. So how will you answer the call of God for today and tomorrow?
 Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, 21st century.
 Philippians 4:13, RSV.
(Based on Jonah 3:1-5,10 and Mark 1:14-20 and Philippians 4:13)