Our church held its first service in seven weeks. It was good to see the familiar faces. But it was different. Families sat together in every other pew. The pew in between was kept empty. Some wore masks, hand sanitizer and masks were available, we smiled and talked but no touching. Everyone sang from their pew, no choir. It's just a different experience.
It was great to see Pastor Josh. He was in fine form and glad to have us there. He had been preaching to an empty sanctuary for six weeks. I bet that was strange too. This sermon is a continuation of Jonah. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. He disobeyed and caught a ship to get as far away from God as he could. The ship is caught in a tempest. The crew has to wake Jonah and ask him to call on his God. They want to know who's fault it is for the storm. Jonah confesses and tells them to throw him overboard. They do. Now for the sermon.
Jonah 1:17 to 2:6 is the text. The Lord prepared a fish. God is in the preparing business. He's always preparing places for us. From the beginning of time God has been preparing something. Cry against Nineveh for their sins have come up before God. A heathen city and Jonah, a Jew, sins. He disobeys and goes the other direction. To make matters worse, once he's on the ship, he falls asleep during a terrible storm. All the heathens are praying to their gods. Not Jonah. He digs his hole deeper and has to be awakened. Still he doesn't pray.
The mariners want to know who has put their lives in peril. Finally, the light dawns on Jonah. It's his fault. He didn't do what God asked. He martyrs himself and tells them to throw him overboard. They do. God prepared a fish to swallow Jonah. He's in the belly of the fish for three days and nights.. Just imagine how nasty it is in there. Ugh. THEN Jonah prays. "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."(Roman 5:20) It took all this for Jonah to come to his senses. Like the prodigal son, Jonah returns to himself.
Pastor Josh posed a question. Who's sin was greater: Nineveh's or Jonah's? Interesting question. As we in the sanctuary gave it some thought, Pastor Josh responded, "Neither--sin is sin." There's always a lesson to be learned. All of us must have our sins covered by the blood of Christ.
There's an old saying our preacher reminded us of. It's "Sinning away your day of grace." Jonah's last opportunity was fast slipping away. But he prayed, God's mercy answered, he was set on dry land, and he continued on the Lord's way. "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)