In the midst

These are some early reflections on passages for a sermon I’m to deliver on 8/7… please consider them a work in progress… I find it helpful to ‘pray through my fingertips’ sometimes… thanks. ~P

In the midst of what he perceived to be his trouble, his death, the prophet Jonah prays from within the “great fish”:

Jonah’s Prayer

1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.

3 You hurled me into the deep,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.

4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’

5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.

6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.

7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD.”
[Jonah 2:1-9, NIV]

The world is not ending, and we are not being punished – in fact, God is guiding, providing and protecting our lives even in the midst of our straying or disobedience (wilfull or otherwise). What looks like trouble to me may, in fact, be God’s own provision to protect me from the rightful consequences of my own choices!

I’m not sure that when Jonah prayed this beautiful prayer that he understood that God was providing for him by having him swallowed into what surely appeared to him to be a smelly, watery grave inside that big fish. But he did what people of faith do when they realize that they’ve been relying on their own ingenuity to put their own “great plan” in the place of God’s perfect one. He may not have known, but he cried out in prayer… stating (not asking) “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.” Not, “please answer me.”

It is certain that humanity is in distress; the toxic deep of our culture and its lies swirl around, threatening to overcome us. for a little while, it may seem as though we will indeed be overcome – even in the church – by the waves; it may even seem that we’ve already been swallowed whole. But God is still in the business of guiding, providing and protecting… are we still in the business of praying in all circumstances, confident that He who emerged from certain death will reach out and save us?

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance[a] from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
[Matthew 14:22-33, NIV]


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