But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals.
In the story of Jonah, he first runs away when God tells him to warn Ninevah about their wicked ways. He tries to avoid God’s command by fleeing and winds up being tossed into the seas and swallowed by a fish. God heard his prayers and saved him. Then he again asked Jonah to go to Ninevah and warn them to change their wicked ways. Jonah instead tells them the city will be destroyed in 40 days due to their wickedness and violence. When the Ninevites heard these words they repented. Their king ordered all to fast and pray for forgiveness. Seeing that the Ninevites were sincere, God decided to spare them. But Jonah was angry! Although Jonah had been forgiven for running away from God and hiding, he is livid that the Ninevites were forgiven when they acknowledged their sins and asked for forgiveness. He wanted revenge on Ninevah not God’s love and forgiveness. In the passage above, God questions Jonah as to why he would be angry over a bush that gave him shelter from the sun and not feel anything for the people of Ninevah.
Lent offers us a period of contemplation to test the reality of our Christian lives for truth and authenticity. It allows us time to search and see the times when our rage and anger overcome us and our self-righteous sins stain us. This season prompts us to reflect and repent those feelings and actions that drive us further from our heavenly father. As we inwardly reflect on what may be offensive to God we may discover that it is not always a sinful act but instead may be a failure to act-are we ignoring those urges from God to reach out in love and generosity? Perhaps we are not seeking to draw closer in prayer and studying his word. Do we stop and listen long enough to hear what he is saying to us?
As we enter this season of Lent and reflect on God’s supreme sacrifice of love sending his son to live here on earth, teach and preach and experience our lives and then to die on the cross taking on our sins. How could any effort on our part be too much or too hard or too time-consuming in the face of God’s love and forgiveness for us, over and over. Let us use Lent to reflect on the dusty and seldom used practices of our Christian faith that we may have been neglecting. Just as Jonah and the residents of Ninevah had to pray and meditate to ask forgiveness, let us look within and identify those things we may need God to forgive in us. Let us renew and make fresh our spiritual practices that bring us closer to God. These renewed practices will help us serve our loving God and be the spiritual soil that nurtures our Christian faith in the service of all God’s children.