Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Nineveh Lent (Three Day Lent) Special

Volume 4 No. 195 February 9, 2014

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Old watercolr painting of Nineveh, Iraq
Nineveh, Iraq, during its glory days. watercolor
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Bible Readings for Nineveh Lent (Three Day Lent)

Bible Readings for Nineveh Lent (Three Day Lent)
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_3-Day-Lent.htm

2. Sermons for Nineveh Lent (Three Day Lent)

Sermons for the Nineveh Lent (Three Day Lent)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Nineveh-Lent.htm

Articles, Prayers, Sermons and Bible Commentaries for all days of Three Day Lent.

3. Inspiration for Today: No Other Way Out of Town

Each of us, by birth, arrives in a town called Sin. As in Wabush, there is only one way out -- a road built by God himself. But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. That complete about-face is what the Bible calls repentance, and without it, thereís no way out of town. ...

4. Nineveh Lent: A time to Question Our Goodness

The Jacobite Church is following a three day lent known as the Nineveh lent starting 3 weeks before the Great Lent. Many in the church are confused of even the existence of such a lent because it is not associated with the great lent of the church. But there are churches which have conventions during this time as it is seen as a time to re-orient ourselves towards God. The doubt, though, remains as to whether such a short lent is effective at all?

The answer to this lies in the fact that this is a special lent because of its association with the book of Jonah. It is a lent undergone in a haphazard manner to fulfil certain norms. The gospel reading for today in juxtaposition with the book of Jonah will lead us to some insights to follow. ...

5. Sackcloth and Gladness

Knowing something of the background of Nineveh helps us to understand that the repentance of the Ninevites was something stupendous. God sets Nineveh before the eyes of His own people as an example of penitence, a model of conversion. The Israelites were stubborn in resisting the message of the prophets. Rather than repent, they rejected the prophets and contested them. They turned a deaf ear to their message. They discussed, debated, and procrastinated. The Ninevites, on the other hand, responded immediately to Jonah's preaching. No discussions. No haggling over the details. No attempt to justify themselves. No negotiations. ...

6. Are You in the Belly of a Big Fish?

I've sometimes felt like I was in the belly of a big fish. I had decided to do something my way instead of first seeking the Lord's guidance and leading.

You, whoever you are, God has a plan for your life. Maybe you feel like you are wasting your time at a dead-end job. Or perhaps you have no job but would desperately like one. Maybe you think you have the dream job but the Lord has been speaking to you in a still small voice to give it up for something else. Like Jonah, you may not particularly like the mission God has for you but He has the intention of making you ideally suited to carry that plan out. ...

7. Surrender: Closer to You Than to Me

Jonah might be the surrendered saint we most readily identify with. In the end, he realized it was better to be closer to God than to himself. He was brought to the surrender ceremony kicking and screaming, with both heels dug into the sand. He wanted nothing to do with God's terms of surrender. ...

8. When God Repented

When God catches up with him, when God steers him back, when God says to Jonah a second time, "Get going to Nineveh," it's interesting that the Lord adds, "and I will tell you what to say."

When God spoke, we have no idea if Jonah was listening. What we do know is that when he got to Nineveh, Jonah preached a sermon with only five Hebrew words in it. Loosely translated it goes, "Hey Nineveh! In forty days you're going to be blasted to bits." Jonah walks for one full day into the middle of the city all the time preaching that five-word sermon. He starts preaching that sermon and even though the people of Nineveh don't speak Hebrew, they begin to take notice. I mean, how could Jonah lose? ...

9. The History of the Three Days lent in Syriac Orthodox Church

Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu provides history of the Nineveh Lent (3-days lent). ...

10. Here am I, Lord, Send Me

A devotional based on Jonah chapter 1.

11. Repentance and Remission of Sins - The First and Last Teaching of Jesus

Priority No. 1 in the commission Jesus gave His disciples was repentance and remission of sins. To understand the Scriptures means that repentance should be preached, and then remission of sins. Repentance comes before remission of sins. We can never come before the Lord and ask for remission of sins until there is true repentance. ...

12. About Malankara World

Bible Readings for Nineveh Lent (Three Day Lent)

The three day lent is a lent of attrition and repentance commemorating the repentance of the people Nineveh at the preaching of Prophet Jonah. This lent is a precursor to the Great Lent. It starts three weeks before the start of the Great Lent.

Bible Readings For Monday of Three days Lent

    • Evening
      • St. Matthew 12: 31-41
    • Morning
      • Numbers 5: 5-10
      • Jonah 3:6-4:4
      • Isaiah 19: 17-22
      • Acts 7:37-43
      • Colossians 1:3-13
      • St. Matthew 7: 1-12

Bible Readings For Tuesday of Three days Lent

    • Evening
      • St. Luke 4:24-32
    • Morning
      • Exodus 22:28 - 30
      • Micah 1:1-16
      • Jonah 4:5-11
      • Nahum 1:1-14
      • Isaiah 57: 13-19
      • Acts 8: 9-25
      • Romans 15: 14-25
      • St. Matthew 24: 36-46

Bible Readings For Wednesday of Three days Lent

    • Evening
      • St. Luke 11: 5-13, 29-32
    • Morning
      • Exodus 23: 1 -9
      • Zephaniah 1: 11-2: 4
      • Jonah 2:2-3:5
      • Isaiah 41: 17-26
      • St. James 1:13-27
      • Romans 15: 24-33
      • St. Luke 11:27-36
    • Holy Qurbana
      • 2 Peter 2: 1-18
      • 2 Thessalonians 5: 12-24
      • St. Matthew 12: 38-50

Bible Readings For Thursday / The end of Three days Lent

    • Before Holy Qurbana
      • Genesis 18: 23-33
      • Joshua 7: 6- 13
      • Jonah 4:1-11
    • Holy Qurbana
      • St. James 4: 7-17
      • Ephesians 5: 3-11
      • St. Luke 12: 54-13: 9

Sermons for Nineveh Lent (Three Day Lent)

Sermons for the Nineveh Lent (Three Day Lent)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Nineveh-Lent.htm

In addition to sermons and bible commentaries, you will also find articles, prayers, and reflections for all days of Three Day Lent in the link above.

More Sermons

Featured Articles

Inspiration for Today: No Other Way Out of Town
Wabush, a town in a remote portion of Labrador, Canada, was completely isolated for most of its [existence]. But [finally] a road was cut through the wilderness to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only one road leading out. If someone would travel the unpaved road for six to eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only way he or she could leave ó- by turning around.

Each of us, by birth, arrives in a town called Sin. As in Wabush, there is only one way out -- a road built by God himself. But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. That complete about-face is what the Bible calls repentance, and without it, thereís no way out of town.

- - Brian Weatherdon

"Don't ever forget kindness and truth. Wear them like a necklace. Write them on your heart as if on a tablet." - Proverbs 3:3  

Nineveh Lent: A Time to Question Our Goodness

by Rev. Fr. Jerry Kurian, Malankara World Editorial Board Member

The Jacobite Church is following a three day lent known as the Nineveh lent starting 3 weeks before the Great Lent. Many in the church are confused of even the existence of such a lent because it is not associated with the great lent of the church. But there are churches which have conventions during this time as it is seen as a time to re-orient ourselves towards God. The doubt, though, remains as to whether such a short lent is effective at all?

The answer to this lies in the fact that this is a special lent because of its association with the book of Jonah. It is a lent undergone in a haphazard manner to fulfil certain norms. The gospel reading for today in juxtaposition with the book of Jonah will lead us to some insights to follow. St. John 1:43-51 talks about Philipís call from Jesus. In his enthusiasm Philip then recounts this encounter with Nathanael. Nathanael questions whether any good can come out of Nazareth?

The parallel to this is the book of Jonah in which God wants Jonah to go preach to the Ninevites so that they may repent. Jonah here also questions the goodness of the people of Nineveh and refuses to obey God. Both Nathanael and Jonah refuse to believe in the goodness of a place and people. The refusal is like a refusal to believe in the goodness of another. The same applies to workers in the church. By questioning the goodness of others we are treading the wrong path.

The other day I was driving and had to stop for a red signal. The person behind me started honking his horn because he wanted to go left even though there was no free left. His incessant honking made me go through great pain to make way for him. He passed with an angry face. I then got a green signal and took the left towards my destination. What I saw pleased me for a moment. The person who had jumped the signal was hauled up by a traffic policeman and was being asked for his documents. For a moment I could not help but smiling or sneering.

Back home I thought whether I had done the right thing. Was I good or was he good? I had not broken any law or done anything bad. I was good. Still I had done something which needed change. My step of making away may have given temporary relief to the person but led to more pain later. Was I more good than him or should I have stood my ground which would have prevented him pain? My goodness started pricking me. Jesus on the other hand reaches out to Nathanael despite his questioning the goodness of his place. God also reaches out to Jonah despite him questioning the intention of God to save the Ninevites.

Christians are caught between being good and bad that they forget the ugly reality of life. One should know that ultimately we are all good but we still need to change. Many sermons tell us we are bad and therefore need to repent and change. But these passages in the bible tell us we are good and still need to change!

The path to change is taken in two different ways by Nathanael and Jonah. Nathanael is impressed by Jesusí words that he saw him in a vision. Jonah is forced into conforming. Jonahís fast is a forced one as he was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. The initial thrust from God albeit forced is essential for those who claim to be good and in this case may even actually be good. Goodness comes from unexpected quarters. It comes to Nathanael from Philip and it comes to Jonah from the sailors of the ship. Even though they eventually throw him out they wait till the end to see whether they can save the ship and everyone in it. Goodness is also seen in the people of Nineveh who make a complete turn around and lent and waste themselves so that God may change Godís mind

The final turn around of both Nathanael and Jonah is note worthy. They both accept what God has in store. Actually speaking the three day lent is difficult for people to understand when they keep looking at it from the perspective of being sinners. Far from this when we start looking at the lent from the perspective of Jonah and Nathanael it becomes a lent which tells us we are good and yet we need to change.

(Excerpts from a sermon preached in St. Maryís JSO Church, Bangalore on Jan 20, 2013)

Sackcloth and Gladness

by Fr. Mark

Scripture:
Jonah 3: 1-10
Psalm 50: 3-4, 12-13, 18-19 (R. 19b)
Luke 11:29-32

Nineveh

Nineveh is in the news. Nineveh is, of course, the present day city of Mosul in Northern Iraq, not far from the Turkish border. Its ruins spread over 1800 acres: a huge green space on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. The ancient Nineveh of the Assyrians was an immense city, seven times larger than the Old City of Jerusalem.

The very mention of Nineveh cast fear into every Jewish heart. Sennacherib, the King of Assyria whose palace was in Nineveh, invaded Judah in the days of King Hezekiah. To placate Sennacherib, Hezekiah gave him "all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasuries of the king's house" (2 K 18:15). He even "stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord" (2 K 18:16) and gave it to Sennacherib. God intervened to save Jerusalem from the invading Assyrians. "The angel of the Lord went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. . . . Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went home, and dwelt at Nineveh" (2 K 19:35-36).

Stupendous Repentance

Knowing something of the background of Nineveh helps us to understand that the repentance of the Ninevites was something stupendous. God sets Nineveh before the eyes of His own people as an example of penitence, a model of conversion. The Israelites were stubborn in resisting the message of the prophets. Rather than repent, they rejected the prophets and contested them. They turned a deaf ear to their message. They discussed, debated, and procrastinated.

Sackcloth and Ashes

The Ninevites, on the other hand, responded immediately to Jonah's preaching. No discussions. No haggling over the details. No attempt to justify themselves. No negotiations. "And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them to the least of them" (Jon 3:5). The movement of repentance rose from the grassroots.

Let Every One Turn From His Evil Way

The conversion of Nineveh began, not by royal edict at first, but in the hearts of the people "Then tidings reach the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes" (Jon 3:6). Only then did the king make his proclamation: "Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from His fierce anger, so that we perish not?" (Jon 3:8-9).

God's Change of Heart

God was touched by the penitence of the Ninevites. The heart of God was moved, turned around. God repented because Nineveh repented. "When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which He had said He would do to them; and He did not do it" (Jon 3:10). Jonah's message is considered so essential to Judaism that it is read annually in synagogues all over the world on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance.

Judged by the Ninevites

In the Gospel Our Lord holds up Nineveh as a model of penitence. He contrasts the repentance of the Ninevites with the hard hearts of those who resist Him, refuse Him, and treat Him with indifference. "The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Lk 11:32).

Learning from the Ninevites

"Something greater than Jonah is here" (Lk 11:32). Here, in our midst, Christ himself - "our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30) - is present in Word and Sacrament. Does the story of Nineveh make any difference in our lives? In what way might it change our approach to Lent.

The Divine Initiative

First, it demonstrates that in every conversion story, the initiative is God's. It is God who comes in search of us, sending us a prophet, or many prophets, appealing to us by means of signs. At times, in His severe and tender mercy, God permits that we should suffer, if by suffering, we might turn to Him in our hearts.

Corporate Penitence

Second, the response of the Ninevites was not individualistic and private. It was social and corporate. Individualism is utterly foreign to the biblical model of a people fashioned into the one Body of Christ, responding to His love as His one Bride. It follows that penitence, while it touches the heart of each one, must find a corporate, social expression.

The whole city of Nineveh became involved in the movement of repentance. Saint Benedict provides for the very same thing in the Rule: Lent is intensely corporate. Lent is an undertaking of the whole community, modifying its schedule: eating, working, sleeping, reading, and praying at different hours. Lent affects us not only individually, but socially. We are in movement toward the Pasch of the Lord together.

The Father Comes Out to Meet Us

Third, the response of God to penitence is immediate. God finds the "humbled, contrite heart" (Ps 50:17) irresistible. No sooner do we set our foot on the path of penitence, than the Father comes out to meet us. "While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him" (Lk 15:20). To the penitent the Son opens the refuge of His pierced Heart, and in exchange for a single tear, He gives the torrent of His Precious Blood. The Holy Spirit envelops the penitent in a cloud of refreshment and peace. God waits to show His mercy. He watches for the smallest sign of repentance and responds by opening the floodgates of His mercy.

Repenting All the Way to the Altar

This is what happens mystically in every Mass. God takes the initiative: He speaks through the prophets and apostles and, in the Gospel, He speaks through His Son, calling us to conversion. The Word, rightly heard, compels us to go to the altar for the Holy Sacrifice, the mystery of the Covenant. Compunction and contrition are perfected in covenant, in the mystical "coming together" effected by the Eucharist.

The Priest Penitent

When the priest goes to the altar, he does so in the name of all. He stands before the altar representing all, pleading for all, bearing the repentance of all in his heart. Repentance becomes an inward readiness for the Eucharist, for identification with Christ, Victim and Priest.

That My Soul May Praise Thee

In Holy Communion, Christ, responding to the response of penitence that His grace in us has made possible, draws us intimately to himself in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Giving us the mysteries of His sacred Body and precious Blood, He lifts us into His own face-to-face with the Father. The bitterness of penitence is ordered to the sweetness of the Eucharist. "Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may praise thee and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee forever" (Ps 29: 11-12).

Source: Vultus Christi
© 2013-2014 The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. All Rights Reserved.

Are You in the Belly of a Big Fish?

by Fred Alberti, Salem Web Network Director of Social Media

But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. - Jonah 1:17

Being a home-school family we sometimes have some rather interesting experiments that we get to enjoy as a family. George is one such experiment. George is a goldfish whose bowl-mate sadly perished. My son's task was to teach the goldfish to come to the top of the bowl when he tapped on the glass. After several weeks of tapping and feeding and tapping and feeding the fish finally learned to come to the top of the bowl.

Big deal right? Right, that is until the fish started to do more. Anytime someone would walk by the bowl he would get all excited and start moving his mouth like he was yelling at whoever it was that was walking by the bowl. This became rather normal and we would just ignore him or comment that he was yelling at us in Spanish.

Then one day my kids were listening to an FFH song titled "Big Fish." It was then that George decided to really show off what he could do. When the song played George would begin to swim around like he was dancing in the water and would seemingly move his mouth to the words (move over Ashlee Simpson).

I particularly like the first verse of the song which goes like this:

Are you in the big fish
Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad
Have you turned your back in His wish
On His will for your life, have you made Him sad

Do you want to get out of the big fish
Listen to God and follow His plan
And you won't be part of the main dish
He'll spit you out on to dry land

I've sometimes felt like I was in the belly of a big fish. I had decided to do something my way instead of first seeking the Lord's guidance and leading.

You, whoever you are, God has a plan for your life. Maybe you feel like you are wasting your time at a dead-end job. Or perhaps you have no job but would desperately like one. Maybe you think you have the dream job but the Lord has been speaking to you in a still small voice to give it up for something else. Like Jonah, you may not particularly like the mission God has for you but He has the intention of making you ideally suited to carry that plan out.

Will you follow His plan or will you turn your back?

Maybe you've already chosen to turn your back and feel that there is no way out now. If that is the case I've got good news for you. The Bible has this to say about Jonah, "From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God" (Jonah 2:1). God is the God of second, third, and fourth chances.

Commit your way to the Lord today.

Intersecting Faith & Life:

Buy a goldfish if you don't have one already. As you feed it remember that the Lord has a purpose and a plan for your life. Ask Him to reveal it to you daily.

Further Reading

Hebrews 13:20-21

Source: Crosswalk.com - The Devotional

Surrender: Closer to You Than to Me

by Dr. David Jeremiah

Christ has called for unconditional surrender-death to the flesh-for all who would follow Him. When we become Christians, we are "crucified with Christ" (Rom 6:6; Gal 2:20), our rebellious sin nature is put to death with Christ when He died on the cross. And yet, in practical terms, "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another" (Gal 5:17). There are still times, in other words, when we don't feel like surrendering-we'd rather die than give up our independence, our individuality, and our indecencies. But Jesus draws a firm line in the sand: "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27).

Jesus offers one term of surrender: The cross you died on positionally must be the cross you live on personally, each and every day. For the saints of God, surrender leads to an entirely new kind of life. In fact, we are born again to a new and living hope (John 3:3; I Peter 1:3). But to experience that life we have to surrender not just once but every day.

There are numerous examples of saints in Scripture who chose life by surrendering. First, think of Job. Though he was assailed with greater calamities than most of us will ever face, a prayer of surrender was found frequently on his lips: "'The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.' In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong" (Job 1:21-22).

The truest test of whether we are surrendered to the Lord is in times of personal defeat. Pride says, "Rise up and fight!" But the Spirit says, "Surrender and live." Job was wise enough to know the difference-and he lived (Job 42:10-17).

Jonah might be the surrendered saint we most readily identify with. In the end, he realized it was better to be closer to God than to himself. He was brought to the surrender ceremony kicking and screaming, with both heels dug into the sand. He wanted nothing to do with God's terms of surrender: "Go to Nineveh and preach a message of judgment to the Ninevites." Thank you, No. Jonah did an about face and hopped the first ship headed for Spain. You know the rest of the story.

From the belly of a great fish Jonah prayed his prayer of surrender: "I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD" (Jonah 2:9). Jonah learned it was better to surrender sooner rather than later. He went to Nineveh and God used him mightily.

Finally, the one for whom the stakes were the largest was Jesus Himself. Even as a young boy He sensed the need to be surrendered to the will of His Heavenly Father (Luke 2:49). And at the outset of His public ministry He was offered surrender terms by the devil himself-which terms He soundly rejected (Luke 4:1-13). He made it to His last night on earth able to say, "I have finished the work You gave Me to do" (John 17:4). Yet His greatest challenge came just moments after He said those words.

When Jesus prayed His prayer of surrender, "Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42), He set the pattern for surrender for all who would follow Him into the kingdom of heaven. Ultimately, no one who says to God, "I'd rather be close to me than to You," enters the kingdom of heaven. No one goes to heaven who says to God, "Not Thy will, but mine be done." The ruler of hell itself earned his position with just such words as those (Isaiah 14:12-14).

How do we accept Christ's terms of surrender, living daily on the cross? Begin each day with a prayer of surrender: "Lord, today I surrender my life to You. I choose Your will to be done, not mine. I want to be closer to You, God, than I am to myself. I accept Your terms for my life today and purpose to live personally the crucified life which I received positionally through faith in Christ. I ask You to give me grace to be a surrendered soldier of the cross today. Amen."

Source: Excerpted from Turning Points, Dr. David Jeremiah's Devotional Magazine

When God Repented

by The Rev. William Carter

Scripture: Jonah 2:10-3:10, 4:1

I hope you don't think for a minute that the story of Jonah is a fish story. No, here's a story about a man who doesn't want to do what God commands.

In the very first words of the book, God says, "Hey, Jonah, I've got a job for you. Go to that great city of Nineveh. Cry out against that wicked city and all the nasty people who live there."

So what does Jonah do? He gets up and he goes alright. He goes to the city of Joppa and he marches right down to the dock on the Mediterranean Sea. Then he hops aboard a ship that's going in the opposite direction. God says, "Go east to Nineveh." Jonah heads west to Tarshish, somewhere around the Rock of Gibraltar.

If you know the story of Jonah, you may remember what happens. A storm arises on the sea. Jonah is thrown overboard to appease the storm. The Lord God sends a great big fish to grab Jonah and bring him back east, back to the shore where he started.

During the return trip, Jonah prays a flawlessly composed psalm in the belly of the fish. That causes the fish to cough up this preacher. Then God says for a second time, "Now, Jonah, get going to Nineveh. Go to that great city and do what I want you to do."

Certainly this is a whale of a tale, but it is not a fish story. It is the story of a man who was called upon to do something for God and he doesn't want to do it.

Now, I pause to tell you, there is some question about exactly what Jonah is called upon to do. Certainly, it involves preaching. Jonah is called upon to speak up against the city because the wickedness of the city has literally been thrown into God's face. And, yet, the first thing Jonah does is to get out of God's face. He flees from the presence of God.

So when God catches up with him, when God steers him back, when God says to Jonah a second time, "Get going to Nineveh," it's interesting that the Lord adds, "and I will tell you what to say."

When God spoke, we have no idea if Jonah was listening. What we do know is that when he got to Nineveh, Jonah preached a sermon with only five Hebrew words in it. Loosely translated it goes, "Hey Nineveh! In forty days you're going to be blasted to bits." Jonah walks for one full day into the middle of the city all the time preaching that five-word sermon.

He starts preaching that sermon and even though the people of Nineveh don't speak Hebrew, they begin to take notice. I mean, how could Jonah lose?

Three days in the belly of a fish, and the digestive gases have bleached him white. His clothes are ragged, he's missing a couple of teeth, and he still has a little seaweed hanging from his left ear. He strolls into the center of town, belts out his message and then begins the countdown: "40, 39, 38, 37....."

The good news is that the people believe God. They cry out to God and change their evil ways. The king of Nineveh hears the sermon and he repents. According to the story, even the cattle hear the sermon and they repent. Not only that, according to the story, God is so impressed with Jonah's sermon even God repents. That's what it says: The Lord Almighty changed his mind.

Thanks to Jonah, everybody has turned toward the face of God which, if you ask me, is probably what God wanted in the first place. That's the good news.

The bad news is that when Jonah sees all this he gets furious. He says, "Darn it, God, that's why I ran away from your face in the first place. When I preach doom and destruction, I want doom and destruction. But here you are, so merciful, kind, and forgiving, it just makes me sick."

Now I hope you catch the humor in this. The book of Jonah is a funny book. It is a satire on every exclusive, narrow-minded expression of religion. This is theology as high comedy.

But I hope the story disturbs us too. The story of Jonah holds before us a picture of God that is so loving, so patient, so relentlessly gracious that it pushes us to extend our human boundaries of God's infinite grace.

Why is Jonah so angry? The short answer is because God loves too many people.

The longer answer, according to Jonah, is that God is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, ready to relent from punishing." Like Jonah, that's how we expect God to be toward us. That's not always how we want God to be toward others.

A friend told me about something that happened during a flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to London, England. A woman with a thick European accent got on the plane. She came down the aisle to the tourist section and discovered her seat assignment put her right next to a man with, shall we say, an African accent. She looked at her seat assignment; she saw it was correct. She asked her seatmate, "I'm sorry, are you in the right seat?" He smiled and nodded yes. She turned around to see if there were any other empty seats in the section but she didn't see any so she tugged on the sleeve of the flight attendant.

"Excuse me," she said, "as you can see, I'm sitting next to a person whose skin color is different from mine."

"Yes, ma'am, I can see that."

"Well," she said, "this is simply unacceptable. Is there another available seat?"

The flight attendant looked at her strangely and said, "I'm sorry, ma'am, it's against our policy to move people unnecessarily."

"You don't understand," said the wealthy woman, "this arrangement will not do. I have funds in my purse to arrange an alternative."

The flight attendant said, "You do?"

"Yes, I do. Would you please go up to first class and see if there is an available seat? I simply cannot sit next to this person."

The flight attendant shrugged her shoulders, walked up the aisle. A few minutes later she returned. She leaned over the European woman, tapped the man with the African accent, and said, "I'm sorry, sir, I hate to do this. I must make a seating change. If you follow me, we have a place for you in first class."

The love of God makes it possible to give every person first-class treatment. Sometimes, however, we get stuck in our same old seats.

Right here, in the midst of the writings of Israel's prophets, there is a story of this reluctant prophet Jonah. He is called to speak to people outside Jewish boundaries and he doesn't want to go. He is sent against his will to speak to outsiders and he hates the assignment. Do you know where this story comes from? From the Jews.

As the Jewish writer Elie Weisel retells the story of Jonah, he notes that Jonah is to teach the Gentiles without ceasing to be Jewish...It is the Jew in him who will teach the Gentiles. The more Jewish the poet the more universal his message. The more Jewish his soul the more human his concerns. A Jew who does not feel for his people, who does not share in their sorrows and joys cannot feel for other people and a Jew who is concerned with his fellow Jews is inevitably concerned with the faith of other people as well.

Here's the question beneath all of this: how far can God reach?

When Jesus answered that question in his words and deeds, he got himself in a lot of trouble. Jesus never seemed to distinguish between the people he taught and healed. He preached to the poor. He cured those who had been ignored by physicians. One long day after another Jesus went into a crowd full of need and tended to one person after another. Just when somebody was ready to typecast him, Jesus went into the home of a rich tax collector and broke bread with the wealthy Pharisees. He never seemed to distinguish between rich or poor, male or female, insiders or outsiders. He did not restrict his care to one group or another. No. In the name of God, Jesus gave himself to the world.

How many people can God love? Before you answer too quickly, let me remind you the church has struggled with this question from the beginning.

After Jesus was dead and risen, along came another preacher. His name was Simon bar-Jonah, that is, Simon, son of Jonah. One day he was sitting on a roof top in the seaside city of Joppa. Sound familiar? Simon, the son of Jonah, was minding his own business saying a few prayers. Suddenly God broke through and said, "I want you to preach my judgment and mercy to some people outside your little circle." Simon bar-Jonah or as we call him, Simon Peter, did not want to do it. "Too late," said the Holy Spirit, "downstairs some Italians are knocking on your door."

All of this happens in the 10th chapter of Acts. By the 15th chapter the church is having its first major disagreement. All the preachers are called in from the frontier. Everybody is squabbling over one issue, namely, how many outsiders are we going to allow in God's church? The problem, it seems, is that God keeps inviting everybody. It just goes to show the church doesn't tell a lot of new stories, rather, we keep telling the same story of a God who loves everybody, who is merciful to everybody, who is kind to everybody, but who is stuck with some reluctant messengers.

When are we going to get it straight that the love of God is for all people? That the judgment of God is laid upon every human heart? That the mercy of God can forgive every sin and give second chances to every person? When are we going to get it into our heads and our hearts that the Creator in heaven wants nothing more than to stand face to face with every creature beginning with us, but not ending there.

God is willing to love anybody. Even Jonah. Even you and me. The difficulty is not in telling ourselves this is true. The difficulty is believing it's true for everybody else.

Let us pray.

God of grace, none of us are beyond your reach. In Jesus Christ you have sought and found us. Through him you call us to speak your redeeming word of love. Some of us answer willingly. Others pull back in reluctance. Some can respond impulsively dropping their nets and leaving everything else behind. Others can respond only through your repeated patience and your long-suffering love. Whoever we are, receive us into your love, enlarge our hearts and minds that we might serve you lovingly and logically. Give us the grace and good humor to see your hand in all things and make us useful in your sight. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Copyright © 2000 The Rev. William Carter

The History of the Three Days lent in Syriac Orthodox Church

by Rev. Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu

Bar Ebroyo narrates the history of this fast as follows in his 'Eccleciastical History':

"The people in the East began the fast, which is being observed three days after the Epiphany, in this time (i.e. the time of Catholicos Hananeshu, who became the Catholicos in A.D.686).

When Abdul Malik, the son of Morwon, heard of the beauty of the women in Hirto, he asked the Governor there to send all the virgins to him. As this command came, the governor started to gather all the virgins.

Then all the Christians came together in the church, and prayed and fasted. They prostrated before the Lord and appealed Him to save them from this punishment. On the third day when their Bishop John was reading the gospel he got a revelation about the death of Abdul Malik, and he revealed it to the people. After some days, this news was confirmed. It is said that, from this time onwards the believers observe this fast.

But some others say that this fast was begun in the East when the king Quzra Abroose prepared to rape the virgins." (1)

Translating from the famous book 'Bibliotheka Orientalis' (2), Fr. Chediath gives the following versions also in his translation of Bar Ebroyo's "Sabhacharithram" (pp.248-251):

A lot of people died in the village of Beth Garme because of a fast spreading infectious disease. The Bishop of that diocese Mor Sabarisho summoned the people for a public prayer. He said them:

"The most virtuous God has showed mercy to the people of Nineveh and withdrew from the intended punishment according to the words of prophet Jonah. How much more will He show mercy to us, who believe in Him, His Messiah, and in His Holy Spirit?"

And the people obeyed him. They came together and supplicated to God intensively. All, including the infants, have worn sack clothes. And God has removed the infectious disease for them.

As the East Syrian Catholicose Thimothi (he died in AD 819) took charge as catholicose, he ordered these 3 days prayer and fast to be continued annually. And this Lent should be known as the lent of Anger and not as the lent of Nineveh.

References:

1. Cf. Chronicon Ecclesiasticum III, cols. 139-141. (Abbeloos, J. B. and Lamy, T.J. (ed. and transl.): Gregorii Bar-Hebraei Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, I-III, Paris-Louvain, 1872-1877.)

2. "Bibliotheka Orientalis" by Assemani (ASSEMANI, J. S.: Bibliotheca Orientalis Clementino-Vaticana I, De scriptoribus Syris Orthodoxis, Rome, 1719 / reprint Hildesheim-New York 1975; II, De scriptoribus Syris monophysitis, Rome, 1721/ reprint Hildesheim-New York, 1975)

Fr.Dr.Biji Chirathilattu is vicar of St.Mary's Syrian Orthodox Congregation Vienna, Austria

Source: SOCM-FORUM (edited.)

Here am I, Lord, Send Me
In the beginning, the Word of the Lord came unto Jonah saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me." Jonah 1:1-2

Nineveh had walls fifty feet high and a hundred feet thick; they used to have chariot races along the top, and the city was very wicked.

Did Jonah do as the Lord requested? No, he tried to flee to Tarshish, and to flee from the presence of the Lord Ė as if he could hide from God!

Psalm 139 says :

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Scary thought, eh? God knows our every move, our every thought and even our intentions, and He knew Jonahís intentions, probably before Jonah even knew them.

Jonah paid his fare on the ship at Joppa, destined for Tarshish, and was still trying to flee from the presence of the Lord. Then, the Lord sent a violent storm so that the ship was about to be broken. The seamen were afraid and:

1. Cried each one of them to their own god
2. Cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea

Where was Jonah during all of this? He was fast asleep in the sides of the ship, but unlike Jesus in Mathew 8:24, who was at peace in His sleep, Jonah was not at peace in his sleep.

The captain came to Jonah and asked him to call upon his God, for they thought that they would perish if his God did not hear him. Next, they cast lots to find out whose cause the evil was upon them, and the lot fell on Jonah.

The next questions are amazing, considering the circumstances. They ask Jonah what his occupation is, where he came from, what country he lived in and what people he belonged to? Quite a set of questions, especially when you consider what dire straits they were in. But Jonah answered them, saying I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord (what a lie!!) the God of heaven which hath made the sea and the dry land. It was no small wonder that everyone was afraid of what God could do to them Ė after all, it was He who made the sea, and He who commanded the storm. Then the men were exceedingly afraid (notice that the men are now exceedingly afraid) and asked Jonah why he had done this, as he had told them how he fled from the Lord.

By this point in time, the sea was really raging, and the men wanted to know what they needed to do to calm the tempestuous seas. Jonah replied that they were to cast him into the sea, but this was no mean feat for a Hebrew, as he wouldnít have known how to swim, and would have been terrified of drowning.

They cried unto the Lord saying, "We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this manís life. These were men who had previously had gods of their own, but now they were praying to the Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth.

So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea, and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men:

1. Feared the Lord exceedingly.
2. Offered a sacrifice unto the Lord
3. Made vows

All of this from men, who prior to this, had their own gods. Now they accepted the one true God, maker of heaven and earth as their God, too. Yes, he was needed in Nineveh, for the Ninevites really needed Godís guidance and rebuke, but God, in His Wisdom knew that the mariners needed Him, too. Jonah may have thought that he was outwitting God, but in reality, God was still using Jonah for His purposes.

Oh, that we could be like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8 and say:

Here am I, Lord; send me.

AND

Not be like a Jonah, trying to hide and run from God, for we will never succeed.

I hope that this study on Jonah has blessed you as much in reading it, as it blessed me whilst writing it.

Source: Footprints Diary

Repentance and Remission of Sins - The First and Last Teaching of Jesus
by Ralph Bouma "But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:30-32)

In Luke 24:45, we read a precious truth, and it is sometimes so humbling to realize how dependent we are on the Lord that He open our understanding. The disciples of Christ, who followed Him throughout His entire ministry, did not understand the gospel of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ had suffered, bled and died on the cross and had risen again from the dead, but in this verse we read that "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures."

It is important for you and me to understand the Scriptures. What is the Lord Jesus teaching us about repentance? We read in Luke 24:46-47:

"And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

Priority No. 1 in the commission He gave His disciples was repentance and remission of sins. To understand the Scriptures means that repentance should be preached, and then remission of sins. Repentance comes before remission of sins. We can never come before the Lord and ask for remission of sins until there is true repentance.

In our text, the righteous He is referring to are the self-righteous, those who have never learned to know the need for repentance. The sinners are those who come before the Lord to acknowledge their sins

The definition of the word repentance is the main hinge of our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will never have a right understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ until we understand the word repentance. That is why I feel such a burden to unfold here the meaning of repentance.

The gospel of Jesus Christ began with repentance as we see in Matthew 4:17: "From that time [when John the Baptist was cast into prison, and after Jesus had come out of the wilderness having been tempted by the devil for 40 days] Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The word repent/ was the first word of the gospel. And it was the final message that the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples as we saw in Luke 24:47.

True repentance is to dethrone Satan from the throne of our hearts and to come under the kingship and service of the Lord Jesus Christ, to have true remorse over sin, to turn from sin and to turn to serve the living God. That is the first word of the gospel, and if that is missed, we are not preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the entire ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, He called sinners to repentance. The entire gospel of Jesus Christ is a call to sinners to repentance for the remission of sins. Amen.

More about Jesus; in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in evíry line,
Making each faithful saying mine.

Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920

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