God’sBigBlog: Jonah Asks for Death; Paul Chooses Life

Lectionary for Sunday, September 18:

“When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

“But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry . . .  ‘And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’”  – Jonah 3:10-4:1, 4:3

“For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.”   – Phillipians 1:21-26

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Jonah is having himself a pout. A nice, self-destructive pout. How do I know? It takes one to know one.

As far as God is concerned, Jonah has accomplished his mission; the people of Nineveh have repented – a job well done. But Jonah wants more than job satisfaction. He wants the satisfaction, the glory, of being right – of being superior to the wicked Ninevites. Without his special place as God’s prophet of rectitude, life as Jonah understands it has lost its luster. He wants to die.

In his letter to the Phillipians, on the other hand, Paul toys with the idea that death might be preferable to life. “Living is Christ and dying is gain . . . I do not know which I prefer.” He longs to go on to glory – to death and eternity with Christ. But life has a grip on Paul. He is held fast in this world by his generous love for his friends.

For Jonah life is all about subtraction. For Paul it is about abundance: “I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith.”

I’d probably be happier if I were more like Paul and less like Jonah. But how do I get there from here?

Lectionary, Pentecost 14, Proper 20

Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8

Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

LECTIONARY: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Pentecost/AProp20_RCL.html

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© 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Barbara Falconer Newhall. and www.GodsBigBlog.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog's author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that full and clear credit is given to Barbara Falconer Newhall and www.GodBigBlog.com with appropriate and specifc direction to the original content. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA. The Psalms are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. Material originally published and copyrighted by the Oakland Tribune is posted here by permission. WordPress theme adapted from Thematic Theme Framework