Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life on Sunday, January 25, 2014
Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
The Call to Worship
Welcome to worship today. Bring your joys and burdens to the Lord.
All: For God hears the cries of our hearts and heals our wounded souls.
Remember the wondrous deeds that God continues to perform in your life.
All: Let us be thankful for all the mercies and tenderness that God offers to us.
Come, praise the Lord with all your heart and soul.
All: Let our voices raise in a powerful concert of praise and thanksgiving
Lord, we want to follow you whoever you lead. Reach out to us this day, stirring our souls and spirits with the winds of your power that we may faithfully be your disciples. For we ask this in Your many names. AMEN.
A reading from the The Tale of Jonah (3.1-5, 10)
The Divine word came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the Divine word. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5And the people of Nineveh believed [what he said]; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their selfish and violent ways, God decided that the Ninevites would not suffer calamity, and they were spared.
The Psalter (25.4-6)
Make me to know your ways, holy one; teach me your paths. 5Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 6Be mindful of your mercy, o god, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
Click on the audio bar below to hear the recording. Text follows.
Mercy and Steadfast Love
Our readings today speak to us about becoming willing to follow God’s promptings and teach us how to become the person we long to be. And how we read these texts, and indeed every text we consider each week, depends in large part on what is going on around us, the context within which we live. Everything that happens in our lives, every news story both heart warming and disheartening, creates a lens through which we read sacred texts. So let’s consider as we reflect on these texts today, how our context is informing how we interpret these texts.
In our reading from Jonah there are several things going on. First and foremost it’s important to read that Jonah is being told to go to Nineveh for a second time. Now you may recall that the first time Jonah is told to go to Nineveh he refuses and heads off to Tarshish to escape the voice of God. But there was that little mishap with the whale which swallowed Jonah and later spewed him out onto dry land after Jonah prayed to God one of those prayers that starts with, “God if you’ll just save me from this mess I’ll do whatever you say.”
And so… we find Jonah again being told to go to Nineveh and warn those there that they are in peril. And miraculously the people listened! The halfhearted prophet barely got a third of the way across the city when the people began to fast and pray. Even the king himself turned from their evil, violent ways. And God saw their returning to their true nature and spared them.
But Jonah was unhappy with the situation. He was angry that God had relented. He was resentful that he had been inconvenienced to have to leave his home and go to Nineveh to bring the word to the people there. He had a full-fledged temper tantrum. And God continued to teach him the value of mercy.
Our reading from Psalms is the opposite of what we see from Jonah. The Psalmist prays to God asking to know God’s ways. It speaks to us of patience and persistence, of mercy and love. Our reading from Psalms is really the anecdote for anxiety and frustration. Seeking God’s ways. Longing for truth. Becoming willing to be teachable. Staying aware that it is God’s that saves us not our own hand. Waiting patiently ever mindful of mercy and steadfast love that fills our hearts when we seek God.
Understanding that we receive God’s mercy is an invitation and direction for us to show mercy to others. Becoming aware of God’s steadfast love for us releases us from the scarcity mentality that causes us to fear that there’s not enough love to go around. Emulating God loving, liberating character is what leads us to living a life that reflects God’s “word of love, peace, mercy, and forgiveness,” says my colleague Rev DeWayne Davis.
Even when I don’t feel generous and merciful if I do my best to enact that I will eventually become the person that I want to be. In 12 step circles we call it “acting as if.” Acting as if I’m patient and kind even when I’m annoyed and anxious. Acting in mercy even when my self centered anger flares against another.
As Rev Davis says, “God is faithful and committed to the liberation of ALL people.” God’s grace is applicable to everyone, even our enemies. Let us remember these words as we listen to the news, and deal with our families, friends, co-workers, and strangers this week. And let us be thankful for that mercy and steadfast love that we enjoy as a child of God.