Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Jonah, Jesus, and Us 03: The Fish and the Folk Song

Jonah, Jesus, and Us 03: The Fish and the Folk Song


God let [Jonah] go his own way, as he does with us when we insist on running our own show…
-Lydia Brownback I have spoken of Jonah, and of the story of him and the whale. — A fit story for ridicule, if it was written to be believed; or of laughter, if it was intended to try what credulity could swallow; for, if it could swallow Jonah and the whale it could swallow anything.
-Thomas Paine The usual place to learn the greatest secrets of God’s grace is at the bottom.
-Timothy J. Keller Jonah is a parable to challenge its readers to reimagine a God bigger than the one they were familiar with.
-Pete Enns The sign of Jonah is burned into the roots of our being.
-Thomas Merton A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
-Jesus (laughs) (audience applauds) – [Woman] Yeah! – Yes, I know, I know. Let’s pray and you can go home. I mean, what, (audience laughs) if we’re being honest, what better way to learn about an ancient
text than by studying demon-possessed vegetables? (audience laughs) It’s a gift to us all. For those of you, hi, my name’s Jimmy, I’m the lead pastor of
our Downtown Hamilton site and part of our teaching team. It’s a pleasure to be with
you and to track through “Jonah, Jesus, and Us Part Three.” Now that was “Veggie Tales.” If you’ve never been to church before, that’s us, I don’t know (laughs). This is like, it’s cartoon
Bible story telling, and so if you’ve never
heard of this before, it’ll serve you well to use the Googler and find some ancient
stories told by vegetables. For lots of us, though, who
grew up in church tradition, this got us through our kids’
naps, our kids’ pre-naps, our Sunday school classes
that we were meant to teach but maybe slept in,
and so we pressed play. And it’s interesting, like,
it’s not wrong, it’s really not. So the story, Jonah was a profit, ooh ooh, but he really got it, ooh ooh, it’s true. It is true, but a lot of
times, when we boil down ancient texts that are
deep with rich meaning and story and satire and
suffering and rebellion and life and dirt, if we adopt a cartoon caricature too often, it becomes our narrative. I don’t know if you caught
the Thomas Paine quote, Thomas Paine, one of fathers
of the Enlightenment, who said we need to reject
the spiritual world. We need to reject our belief
in God in favour of naturalism. This is all there is. There’s nothing up or
down looking over us. The natural world is all we have. He points to the story of Jonah being this fictional
caricaturization of everything that is wrong with
religion, that if you stare at the story of Jonah
being swallowed by a fish, you have embraced everything that is wrong with intellectualism and
the pursuit of knowledge and you have embraced
the opiate of the masses. And in some ways, if that’s all we take from the story of Jonah, he’s right. He’s right, this is not
a cartoon fairy tale. So if you throw up that first picture, a lot of times, this is
like what we have stitched on our kids’ pillows late at night, this beautiful fish with
non-threatening gills and ample soft space, with a little bit of water inside the belly. This is the Western
consciousness of the story of Jonah and the whale,
whereas this picture here is the story, is the snapshot,
is the narrative trajectory of the Hebrew consciousness
of water and sea beasts, of suffering and rebellion,
of doubt and return of God’s correction, but most
of all the story of Jonah in Hebrew consciousness, in
the ancient consciousness, it is the story of the deep
well of God’s divine mercy. Jonah is the story of the
deepness of God’s mercy for humanity that has, continues to rebel, and that God is still
along for the journey, moving us back towards faith, moving us through the rhythms of grace
towards love and wholeness, the best version of ourselves,
to life and not death. So to recap, in case this is
your first time being here, you’re joining us for part three
or you’re listening online, it would serve you well
to go back and listen to part one and part two. I’ll give a quick recap. Jonah, son of Amittai, which
Hebrew translated means dove, son of truth and faithfulness. See, if you’re a Hebrew
person, if we were to hop in a time machine and go back,
we would laugh at that point because really nothing
summarizes dove and peacefulness and faithfulness and truth and you know, putting your hand up or
something else to God and running far, far away
and just being stubborn. That, we are meant to catch the humour of the story right out of the gate. Everything that Jonah is described to be, he is definitely not. He is somebody who has rebelled from God. So Jonah is a prophet. This is a prophetic writing. And what prophets were is
they were messengers from God. They heard a message or
had a vision from God and it was always directive. This is what I want you to
do or to tell my people, to give them course correction,
to alter the trajectory, the pathology of their life
back towards what I’ve built in them to do, to be, to be faithful. So God continues to remain
faithful and he sends messengers to course correct, to show
what faithfulness looks like. And so prophets would receive
messages to give to people, and Jonah is one of those
first instances where we see right out of the gate, it’s
a hard no, God, not for me. So he’s taught to bring a
message to the Ninevites, he says no, he rips basically
across half the known world, charters a boat with a bunch of sailors and floats off to Tarshish on the way. The waves rally up and
the sea engulfs them and the sailors almost do
some, like, divine gambling. They cast lots and it points to Jonah. He’s sleeping, they bring him up, and they throw him overboard. And these sailors come to, last week, were like converted right there, they, after the sea is
calm, they offer a sacrifice to the Lord Most High, this God is above, is in control, is not the
God of a particular land or a margin, he is the God
over the sea and the land. Now in our consciousness
today, we approach this story of like okay, so he’s thrown into the sea, but we kinda know where
the story is going. If you’ve heard it before,
or even you’ve heard it caricaturized in like, you know, common Western storytelling,
whether in movies or “Veggie Tales” or
whatever, you’re like, ah, but something else is a-comin’. In the Hebrew consciousness, for sure not. These were the symbols, these
were the emblems of death. So Jonah moves away from
God, signal of death. Jonah goes out onto a
boat, the place of death, the seas, the seas were
this place of chaos. They were everything that
was wrong with the world, the unknown, the deep, the
dark, the belly of the Earth, the reign of Sheol, it was
the place where people went, where creation went to die. So already, we’re
getting these inferences, clear indications that this
is headed the wrong way. Now interesting, how many of
you have put your kids through, or you have been through
yourself, swimming lessons? Yes, most of us. And how many of us hated them? Yes, a few of us. So we have two kids, my
wife and I have two kids. Caitlin is 15 and Ella is 10 years old, and Ella has always been
like the little fish. She, right away, as a
young kid was in the water, don’t need the goggles,
dive in, see what happens, swimming, like in some
of her swimming lessons, she would cross lap just
to race faster kids, and we’d be like, no, no,
we’ve paid for these lessons. Leave the other children alone. Caitlin, on the other hand, our oldest, was (laughs), was none of those things. She is a softy as a thinker,
and so we enrolled her in swimming lessons because
obviously you enroll your kids in swimming lessons ’cause you never know when you might be called to charter a boat with ancient sailors and
cast over into the sea where a fish will eat
you and you never know where that backstroke will come in handy. So we put her in swimming lessons, and if you’ve had your kid or you’ve been through swimming lessons before, you know that it sort of follows a normal track. So you learn the basics. What does it mean to inhale
and not take on water? What does it mean to float? Like back float, front
float, dead man float, it’s all very inclusive imagery. What does it mean to swim
and keep yourself moving through the water, and then, do you remember what happens next? You are marched, as a
little like droopy-drawered, swimming trunk kid, over to the deep end, where your sadistic instructor
floats in the middle and pretends that he or
she is gonna catch you and then doesn’t. (audience laughs) Right? We’ve all been through this,
and so this is Kaitlin, I was like, oh my goodness,
this is not gonna go well. I know my daughter. So she walks over to the
edge, and she can see that she cannot see the rings at the bottom of the ocean here. We’re just looking at the depths of water, and so she is wiping away tears, and week after week after week, and we got to the end of the lesson, the lifeguard, or her instructor, is moving closer and
closer, and she’s just like, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it.” And so finally came the day where we had a particular resolve. The story finally resolved
itself, so she’s like, “I’m gonna jump in today. “It’s gonna be great.” We’re like, “Great,
Caitlin, we’re proud of you. “You can do it.” She’s a little toddler, blonde kid with her hair up in a pony. She gets to the edge of the deck there, the pool’s edge and the
lifeguard or their instructor is like baiting her to come forward. She wipes tears away,
does like four pumps, then goes, “No, thank you.” (audience laughs) And just like walks into the changing room and we’re like, do we get a refund? Or like should I go get her? Should I jump in and drown the instructor? But Caitlin’s fear was
based in what was unknown. What is known, she can handle. Getting in the shallow
end and paddling around, learning how to float,
learning how to exhale out of her nose underwater,
good to go for the most part, but when she looked over
into the deep water, Daddy, what if I drown? What if I forget how to swim? What if I don’t float? What if I’m not a fish, but I’m a weight? What if they find me at the bottom? What if I drink in too much water? What if the lifeguard
doesn’t, what if I can’t, what if it doesn’t, and all
these questions overcame her to the point where she
had to like re-engage with her swimming lessons and learn how to do this all over again. How many of us have found
that that’s emblematic of our walks with God? What if, what if, what if? I don’t wanna do that thing. I can’t do that thing. What if it’s too deep? What if I sink? What if I can’t swim? What if I haven’t learned enough? What if I don’t know enough? What if I discover that question that will just drown my faith? And the story of Jonah is
the same as our story today. These are the same questions. And this is why studying the depth of these ancient traditions,
these ancient texts, are so helpful, because the story of Jonah is the story of Jesus
and is the story of us. Hearing from God, rebelling,
clarifying, facing death, facing suffering, and knowing that God, in his deep and infinite mercy,
is there all along the way. So Jonah is thrown overboard, and this is capital punishment. This is not a Tom Hanks
movie, where perhaps Jonah will build a raft and find a volleyball to put a face on so
that he has a companion. This is Jonah seeing death in its fullness, no other option. And I wanted to introduce you to one other kind little fella. This is Leviathan, right here. Everybody say hi, Leviathan. (audience murmurs) That’s okay, he can’t
hear you, he’s not real. So Leviathan was this ancient sea beast, derivative of basically a fight between these Gods in heaven. He is this twisted
multi-headed, multi-armed, scaled beast that dwells in the deep. And so if you’re an
ancient Hebrew listener or reader and you’re reading
that not only did Jonah sail, but he was thrown overboard, you’re like, oh my goodness, he is for sure dead, and then you hear, “And
then the Lord sent a fish “or sea beast or sea
monster to swallow him up,” this is like the fatality
move in Mortal Combat. This is the double kill right here because not only is he in the chaos, but the one who reigns over chaos, the sea beast, is doing away with him. There is nothing left. In ancient Hebrew
consciousness, this would be where you would close the book. This is the normal story
arc of ancient mythology. There is a request, there is a rebellion or a war and a fight and everybody dies and the gods are still mad. But is that what we see in this story? I’ll invite you to take out your Bibles. We’re gonna read Jonah
chapter 2, verses one to 10. If you don’t have a Bible,
we’ve got some lovely ushers that will be coming
through the aisles here. Just stick up your hand, don’t be shy. They would love to pass you one. We’re gonna take a minute
because it’s sort of like a wonky placement of the book. The only reason that I really know where Jonah is in the Old Testament is ’cause I memorized
the page number, 1187. So it’s 1187, page 1187 in my Bible. That might make sense
to you, but otherwise, just look in your table of
contents at the beginning, especially if you’ve never
kind of like worked with or held a Bible before,
take your time, find it, and then we are going to read it together. I want us to track
through the text together ’cause there’s gonna be lots
of things to process here. So as a reminder, Jonah has rebelled, he’s heard prophesy direction from God to take to the Ninevites. He says no, flees, sets
sail on a boat to Tarshish, winds, waves crash up. He’s thrown overboard and
then to make matters worse, he is swallowed by a…? – [Audience] A fish. – A fish. It’s interesting, the word
is, it’s not Leviathan here, it’s just fish, it’s like sea monster, some being in the deep. So right away, as an Israelite,
you’re reminded, right, yes, God, our God, Yahweh,
is the creator God, God Most High. You’d harken your mind back
to Genesis Chapter One, where in the beginning, God created, his spirit hovered over the… waters, and orders chaos,
because this is a God who orders all of creation. This is not just a marginal God of a particular geographical region, this is a God who gives order
and calm and organization and care and creativity
to the sea and the land. Even the beasts of the sea
don’t escape his order, his grace, his love, and his divine mercy. And so Jonah is swallowed up by this fish, and I’m picking it up in verse one. “From inside the fish, Jonah
prayed to the Lord his God.” So something has changed already. Jonah prayed to the Lord,
his God, and he said, “In my distress, I called to
the Lord, and he answered me. “I called for help and
you listened to my cry. “You hurled me into the
depths, into the very heart “of the seas, and the
currents swirled around me. “All your waves and breakers swept over me “and I said, ‘I have been
banished from your sight, “‘yet I will look again
toward your temple'” or towards your presence. “The engulfing waters threatened me “and the deep surrounded me. “Seaweed was wrapped around my head.” Who hasn’t that happened to? “To the roots of the
mountains, I sank down. “The earth beneath me
barred me in forever, “But you, Lord my God, brought
my life up from the pit. “When my life was ebbing
away, I remembered you, Lord, “And my prayer rose to
you, to your holy temple,” to the place where God is. “And those who cling to
worthless idols turn away “from God’s love for them, but I, “with shouts of grateful
praise, will sacrifice to you. “What I have vowed,” or
committed or covenanted, “I will make good on. “I will say, ‘Salvation
comes from the Lord.'” And then this beautiful last
line, to summarize this poem, and the Lord commanded the fish to puke. (audience laughs) “And the Lord commanded the fish, “and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Now there’s a couple things going on here that we’re meant to catch. First of all, this is a
poem that Jonah writes from the belly of a fish. Now I know that we all
have had this experience, you’re swallowed by a
fish, and as you’re sinking to the depths, you’re
trying to find your journal and you write a poem
about your experience. If I had a nickel for every
time (audience chuckles) that happened to me, I’d have 35 cents. We’re meant to know that
there’s margin here now. Jonah has been on a trajectory of running, of moving categorically,
systematically away from God, and now there is no escape. He thought that death
would be the final hand up into God’s face, and instead
God is showing him divine and severe mercy to
reorient, to recalibrate, and to course-correct back to him. And so now Jonah has
margin, has time, to process what he understands about
himself and what he is reminded, who he is reminded of how and who God is. And so this poem is actually almost like a Scriptural collage of a
bunch of different psalms. So you might recognize
some of the landscape of these words, like where can I go? You’re everywhere. If I go to the depths of
the sea, you’re there. He’s piecing together
this imagery to say, this, the writer is inferring, this is a person who knows the religion, this is a person who knows the rules, this is
a person who knows the book, but even being a knowledgeable
person just isn’t enough. It has to make its way into your heart. And so Jonah is recalibrating,
right, this is who God is. Right, this is who I am. Right, this is the risk
of a life poorly lived. If I stray from who and how
God is and his love for me and his call for me, there’s a nation that’s in danger and that’s on me. What am I doing? And so there’s this amazing
flow of poetry, of prose here. In the first section, we read about death. It’s this movement of like
the waters were churning, I was down in the belly, I was
at the base of the mountains. Another interesting side
note here, if you take a look at verse three, take
a look at verse three. Who does it say hurled
Jonah into the depths? You. Does your translation read “you”? “You hurled me into the depths.” Yeah. Well, did God? No, the sailors did, right? In the narrative of the
story, it’s the sailors who hurl him over, but
now Jonah is recognizing this divine interruption of God’s grace. Saying it was actually God
that hurled me into the depths so that I would have margin,
space, time to learn. So that I would have margin, time, space to learn about the depths of God’s mercy, this divine well of mercy. So he moves from death into hope. When my life was ebbing
away, I remembered you, Lord my God, and my prayer rose
to you because you heard me. God, you have not gone anywhere. You’ve seen, heard, known me the whole way and you still haven’t left. And then very quickly,
it moves towards life. And this is where it’s almost
like a little bit funny, too, that the writer of Jonah
still adds a little bit of like satire and humour because he says, “With shouts of gratefuL praise,
I will sacrifice to you.” It’s A), a little bit difficult to breathe in the belly of a fish, and
B), if you’re gonna offer a burnt sacrifice, it might be a little uncomfortable for the whale. Just saying. He says, “I will say salvation
comes from the Lord.” Jonah, cast into death,
swallowed by the sea beast, moving down, down, down. This story is over. This story is now beginning again. It’s taking on new life, and
what is it that Jonah needed to experience in order
to take hold of this? Time, reflection, course correction. God, Yahweh, institutes
a divine, a severe mercy that redirects Jonah even to the point of getting close to these
instances, these markers of death. God says, I will let you go there, but death will not be
the end of your story. Now in our culture,
many times, not always, but I’m sure many of us have
had experiences or examples in the church or with
Westernized gospel presentations that it sounds a lot more
self-helpy than Jesus-centrey. Have you had that experience before? And so we don’t often
hear, you know, walking into the service of like, hey,
today is repentance Sunday. All of you will come forward
and confess your deepest, darkest sins to all the
people in the front row. Aren’t you glad you came to church today? But this is the message of Jonah, and it is the message
of Matthew, chapter 12 and other instances in the gospels, where God clearly states,
this is not your best. This is not what I have for you. Turn around, repent,
stop what you’re doing that is leading you down the
spiraling road towards death. Turn around and move towards life. So if you fast forward
to Matthew, chapter 12, this is exactly what’s happening again, and so Jesus coins the
phrase the sign of Jonah. You saw it on the screen
just a little while ago. You may have heard it before. This was a controversial
statement he’s making. So Jesus is talking to
the most religious people in the world at the time in
terms of first-century Judaism. Now Matthew chapter 11,
he’s walked his people, his disciples, these people
who are following him through the rhythms of grace, and he says, come to me all you who are
weary, and I’ll give you rest. I’ll show you what these
rhythms of grace are, that following the way of
God should not be burdensome. It should be freeing. This is a life best lived. Leave religion behind,
come towards the notion of relationship with Jesus. Come, come, come, come, come. And then very quickly,
the Sabbath rolls around and Jesus presents an
affront to the Sabbath. So a man comes to him, he’s disfigured, Jesus on the Sabbath heals
him, reinstates him back towards a life well lived, reinstates him to his family, reinstates
him into his own religion that for sure would have rejected him and says go to the priest,
offer your sacrifice, let them know what happens,
don’t tell them it was me. Don’t tell them what happened with me. Just know that you are
reinstated, God loves you. And then he and his disciples
walk through the fields and they’re picking grains and they eat, two things that you didn’t,
according to the rules, did not do on the Sabbath,
because if you were an affront to those rules, it led you towards death. Religion leads towards death. This is what people were learning. And so the Pharisees
in Matthew, chapter 12 confront Jesus and they say,
okay, this is the last straw. The Romans have heard about
you, we have heard about you. Do a trick, perform a
miracle, give us a sign, or we will kill you. That’s the story in both
Matthew, chapter 11 and 12, it says that the Pharisees
had already begun plotting to kill Jesus. Isn’t it interesting how
clouded religion can make us? ‘Cause one of the
base-level rules in Judaism, the ten commandments,
is you shouldn’t kill. It’s like just signing
your name to the test. That’s step one. And yet they’re concerned
about healing on a day that was meant for rest,
and they’re concerned about eating the wrong
way and the wrong things on a day that’s meant to
be holy, and Jesus is like, you are on the spiralling
road towards death. You are headed to chaos, not to life. You are headed to the
belly, not to the surface. And so Jesus says to them, only a wicked, an adulterous generation asks for a sign, but none will be given,
only the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah was in
the belly of the fish, or some translations say
sea monster, for three days, so the Son of Man, which
is title that Jesus had for himself, so the Son of Man will be in the belly of the Earth for three days. What Jesus is saying here,
what the sign of Jonah is, is that this thing,
this plot that you have to kill me will come to fruition. It will happen, and it
will create so much life that you will be unable to contain it. What was meant for death
will be used for life. So the miracle is that you will kill me and you will see the unending well of God’s mercy and grace
for you and for others. Religion leads to death, relationship with Jesus leads to life. So Jonah is essentially shipwrecked. The sailors ask for a
sign, like they cast lots on who did this and why,
Jonah’s thrown overboard, meant to be put to death,
and then instantly, the story changes. There’s actually life that comes from it because God has been here the whole way. Jesus is confronted by the highest level of institutionalized religion that say you aren’t following the rules, well, we want to kill you, and Jesus says, yeah, kill me, it’s gonna
lead to this whole new thing that won’t ever end. And the sign of Jonah
is a course correction. What he says to the
Pharisees is telling them to turn around. You are doing the wrong thing. This is not what God has for you. If you want a sign, the
only sign will be your sin that causes you to kill
me, and out of that, God will still create new life. Friends, know that God loves us so much that when we go off course, he will provide course correction. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable to hear. Hebrews 12 says Gods corrects those, he disciplines and corrects
those whom he loves. It’s akin to if you have
a child, or you know, you’ve ever babysitted
before and the child lets go of your grasp and runs out into traffic. What is the loving thing to do? Is it to be like, oh, Timmy,
you already lost one leg. There goes another. (chuckles) You shoulda learned. Hmm. I wanna be loving and
gracious, so I’ll bandage up your wounds and say nothing about it. No, as a parent or a
caregiver, you would run out into traffic, take that child by the hand, and say, no, we don’t
run out into traffic. There’s a better way. This is not the best thing for you. In the same way, God does
offer course correction for us. Know that God cares for
you enough to correct, to show you a better way out,
to show you a better way up, no matter how uncomfortable that feels. Number of years ago, I was,
I booked this conference with a couple of my colleagues and it was in Southern California,
which I’d never been before, and how many of you would
say that when you go out to the ocean or a body
of water, to the cottage, that you’re like, oh, that’s where I feel the peace of God the
most, like I just feel, I sense God near the water. Yeah, a lot of us. That’s certainly me, for sure. I’m also a pretty competitive person, and so it was like a five-day conference, and I was like, on day
three, we’re gonna skip out of the conference, and we’re gonna rent a, and by we, I mean I’m gonna rent a car and we’re gonna drive down to the ocean and spend some time surfing there. Now I should mention that
I’ve never surfed before, and this was the middle of
November at Venice Beach, actually Huntington Beach. So some of you are chuckling already. This is like the worst time
for a pasty white Christian to be in the ocean, but
I thought to myself, I’ve skateboarded before. We’ll rent a surfboard and it’ll be great, and so we got down to the
ocean and parked the car, and I remember my friend Matt being like, dude, first of all, I don’t know where you would rent a surfboard. Secondly, we think you might die, so maybe we shouldn’t
surf, and I was like, you guys are idiots and
cowardly, and so I was like, well, we couldn’t find a
place to rent a surfboard, so I was like, I’m just gonna go in and I’m gonna go swimming. So you lame-os can stay on the shore while I breach myself into the
waters like a whale and swim. So I swam out and there were
a bunch of surfers out there who were paddling out and hitting waves, and if you know anything
about, here’s a fun fact. Did you know that the waves
in Lake Ontario are smaller than the waves in the Pacific Ocean (audience laughs) in the middle of November when
you’re wearing jean shorts. That’s a thing. So I paddle out, or I swim
out, and there’s all these guys who are paddling out,
trying to hit the waves, and I thought, like just
like in Lake Ontario, when the wave comes,
it’ll crest a little bit and you duck underneath it and swim out. Well I did that, but the
wave was probably, mm, 500 meters long, and
so while I was swimming to the other side, it rolled me. Yeah. If you’ve ever been rolled by a wave, the Hebrew word is it sucks. (audience laughs) Yeah. So I got rolled and
was really disoriented, but then I got pounded by another wave right on top of that, and so I got, what they say in the
industry, buried by this wave. And so what happened is
I got rolled, flipped, and then I was really sort
of unaware of my surroundings and so what I learned in
swimming lessons, you swim up. But up is this way, not that way. I had swam down. And so eventually, I hit
bottom and my head crunched into the sand, and I was
out of breath, friends, like I had nothing else,
and so there was that gaping human instinct
that your mouth opens trying to get oxygen, and
salt water in your lungs doesn’t feel nearly as good as oxygen. So I’m taking on water
and swimming and swimming and swimming up to the top, and finally, I see this sort of shadow overtop. It was Leviathan. It wasn’t. It was a surfer, and so he
had seen what had happened, didn’t see me surface, and was like, that pasty white dude is for sure dead. (audience laughs) I should go recover the body. Maybe there’s a reward. So he takes the surfboard
and I kind of like get up to him and he’s like, dude. I’m like, just one sec,
threw up on the surfboard a little bit, and he’s
like, what, what are you, like, where are you from? What are you doing? (audience laughs) And with all grace and truth,
I was like, I’m from here. He’s like, you are not. I’m like, I’m from Canada. He was like, and you came
out to Huntington Beach in the middle of November
without a wetsuit on with your snazzy jean shorts
and tried to catch a wave? I’m like, uh, I think the
wave caught me, but I digress. And he’s like, all kidding
aside, like, this is serious. You could die out here. Like, we’ve picked up other bodies. This is serious business out here. Don’t do it again. Like first of all, take
some swimming lessons ’cause you’re awful. Second of all, don’t ever
come out here and surf as your first pass. And third, the waves are huge. This is not the time to learn. You should have listened to your friends. Now off you go. So I washed off the vomit
that was on his board and, you know, headed back to the shore where all my friends were waiting
with grace and generosity, open arms, ready to hug me. And by that I mean pointing and laughing as I threw up on the shore again. And they said the same thing, like, what did you think would happen? See in my mind, I thought, I know the way. I’ve been swimming before. I’ve been in Lake Ontario before. I skateboarded when I was younger. I can ollie this high. And it took a surfer to
say this is not the way. This could’ve very easily
led to your death, not life. Learn from this. You see, sometimes it
takes those instances of near-death experiences, of calamity, of feeling like we’re
engulfed by hardship and pain to realize that God is saying,
hey, hey, are you listening? Do you have a margin
in your life to listen to where I’m course correcting? Or maybe for you it’s not a
matter of course correction, it’s a matter of you are just in a season of deep suffering, of doubt, of pain, of wrestling with why is
my life, what did I do? Why is my life like this? Why have I suffered so much? Why am I experiencing this much loss? And maybe the reminder for
you is God is still there, that Jesus has experienced
the breadth of human suffering so he knows about the
experience and continues to journey alongside us via his love, his spirit, and the community of faith. But if you’re like me,
whether you find yourself in that camp or the other,
of correction or just grief, you’ve probably asked
yourself from time to time, I can’t hear the voice of God. I would love doing it,
I would love to hear what God is saying to me, but I just hear, I don’t hear anything,
I don’t sense anything. I would love to know that
he’s here and loves me and is walking beside me, I
just don’t get a sense of that. Or yes, I would be open to
God’s corrective measure, his severe divine mercy to move
me in a different direction, but I don’t have that happen in my life. What is wrong with me? Well if you’re anything like
me, or if you’ve ever asked that question before, my days typically go like this, and this is just real talk. My phone’s plugged in beside my bed. I get up in the morning, I open the Bible, just kidding, I don’t. I read the news or I’m drawn
to some social media thing. I get up, get dressed, get
downstairs, get the coffee going, get the kids ready for school, clean up, get the kids off to school, I go to work, have lunch, go back to work, come home, do something energizing,
I work out or whatever, and then I get supper ready
and help clean up the dishes, get the kids’ homework
done or my homework done, and then, you know, I fall into
sort of the lapse of despair of reading the news again,
then I get the kids ready for bed, and bathe, and
I shower, and I go to bed and I end the day the
same way that I started. Thing after thing after
thing after thing after thing with very little margin to
hear, listen, stop, slow down. Friends, maybe that’s the start,
maybe that’s the beginning, is maybe we don’t hear from
God like we could or should because we haven’t created
space to just listen, to slow down, to stop. Now hear me say this
clearly, this could be a great sermon summary or ending to say, ruthlessly eliminate hurry,
which is helpful as well. What I’m saying, while that’s helpful, is this is a message,
this is a summary saying ruthlessly engage with
margin and space to listen. We lead busy lives, agreed, but if we want to hear
from the voice of God, if we want to get a sense of
God’s partnership with us, we do have to go to the
source, and we do have to create space to hear, to
listen, to be in a position to hear the voice of God
by his spirit saying, you’re headed down the windy
road towards destruction. Or you’re in that season of
despair, but I’m still with you. I love you, you’re my kid, I’m with you. I know what the suffering is like. So I want you, everybody right
now to take out your phones. No, seriously, take out your phones. And I want you to go to your
calendar app or however it is that you organize your
life, and when you have that app open, I’d like
you to hold up your phone and show me that you’re not lying. (audience laughs) Phones up, phones up, it’s
like we’re at a concert, just not as fun (chuckles). (audience laughs) So Jonah, you can put them
down, Jonah is in the belly of this fish for three days to relearn, to recalibrate where he’s gone off kilter and where God is exacting
divine mercy on him. Jesus, three days, three
nights, period of time in the belly of the Earth to
reengage what life is like, that death is not the
end, there is new life, new hope, resurrection for us. And us living thousands of
years later, I would love for us for three days to create margin. So take your phones out,
and I would love for us now, I don’t know what your
work schedule is like, but Monday, Tuesday, and
Wednesday, I would love for us to set an alarm in our phones at 3:00 p.m. or 3:00 a.m., or wherever you know you will be most consistent
to create space to listen, not just to eliminate a
calendar item, but to say no, for this period, for this section of time, I’m going to listen. I’m gonna create space in my
life to ask those question, God, is there an area of my
life where I have spiralled down or I am spiralling down
towards death, an attitude, a behaviour, an addiction, that I know I need course correction
and if I’m honest, I’ve been probably ignoring you. I want to create space to hear you speak. Or maybe you’re in a season of life where you have been in
the belly of the beast for no apparent reason and
you’re wondering is God there? I want you to create
space to listen and know that God will answer
back though it might seem like the waves have engulfed
you, that God will answer back saying, yes, I’ve gone nowhere. I’m still here. What a powerful thing that
would be for our church. Can you imagine if we actually did this? For the next three days, just three days, if five to 10,000 people
or hundreds of thousands of people listening online took time, definitive time,
for the next three days to create margin to hear God, the stories that we would hear back, the
shifts that we would experience in our lives of just creating space to ask, to question, to
reengage, to redirect, to course correct, or to
feel the embrace of the love and the deep well of mercy of God. Jonah is in the belly of this fish, all the signals of death, he’s brought to new life, given new hope. Jesus, in the belly of the
Earth, death is the end. This religious figure is gone. Resurrection happens, new life. And then our story, Jonah, Jesus, and us. What will we do with the story of Jonah? Read it as cartoon fairytale folklore? Or something that has deep
impact and significance in our lives as a means
to course correct us, to show us the deep well
of God’s mercy and love for us and to set us on the trajectory of life and not death. My friends, may this be our story for the next three days,
three months, three years. God loves us, journeys with us, calls us his kids, and will correct us. Are we listening? Let’s pray. God, thank you for the deep
well of your love and mercy, for the ways that you
continue to course correct us, for the ways that you
consistently journey with us by your spirit and through
this community of faith. May we be people who are lighthouses, who shine lights and aren’t
moving towards death. Pray that you would give
us the courage to be open and honest and vulnerable in those ways that you are moving us
in a different direction. Pray that you would give
us the courage and honesty to explain exactly how
it is that we’re feeling if we’re in suffering and to understand that you journey with us
and suffer alongside us. But most of all, may we
know that we are secure in the love of God that
has conquered death. May we be people of life. In Jesus’ name. And in one voice, we all said, amen.

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