Jonah, the Fish, and Us

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.” (Psalm 130 NRSV)

I love the story of Jonah and the great big fish. Whether one interprets the story as a parable or as a literal event, there is no denying one fact. In the deepest most isolated area imaginable, God heard the cry of Jonah. Through umpteen million tons of blubber and a raging storm, God heard an incredible cry of dread.

This is the power of Psalm 130. Out of a sense of fear and in the middle of absolute darkness, God hears the voice of His people. God not only hears us, but God forgives us. In the pit of despair, when all seems lost and hopeless, God delivers and restores us. There is hope in a hopeless situation. This is our story. We are freed from darkness to come into the light.

The psalmist did not stop at individual salvation. The very last portion was an appeal to the whole nation of Israel. The individual and communal natures of God’s salvific works depend on the participation of all believers. This implies that the church, comprised of those who have experienced an individual change, must also seek forgiveness as a collective body of believers.

One cannot argue that the church has failed to be perfect in the world. It is very easy to sight many events in our history which would support the claim that the church has at times been anything but holy. However, at its best, the church has and continues to provide ministries which make a positive and lasting impact on our world. We as a church must petition God to forgive us and move forward to learn from our past. This is the only way that we can build our future.

As for that big fish in Jonah, I am sure that it suffered a whole bunch of heartburn and trauma. How could it not? The good news is that Jonah was freed and the fish could swim easily and happily. Our hope is to be freed from whatever pit in which we find ourselves and discover the radical love and joy of God.

Published by joekmac

I am a pastor in the United Methodist Tradition. I am the Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Belen in the New Mexico Annual Conference. I am married to Cazandra and have two sons with hemophilia.

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