I take some delight (the devil in me, I suppose) in how God upends our expectations, mostly out of His great mercy. Jonah’s story, our Old Testament reading this week, is case in point. Jonah, after detouring for three days in the belly of a “great fish,” for refusing God’s call to go on Nineveh, finally shows up in this giant metropolis. He cries out for the people to repent. And, well, they do!!! They not only turn toward God but show outward signs of repentance (wearing sackcloth and ash). Jonah, as the story continues, is mighty peeved that God would bless such a damnable people, and he goes off and sulks. He cannot conceive of God’s willingness to extend mercy so far as the dirty, awful people of Nineveh. Jonah might be heard to cry on the streets of Nineveh, “For cryin’ out loud, Lord, just send me back to belly of that confounded whale!!”
God’s willingness to save us goes far beyond our understanding. Deserve has nothing to do with God’s overwhelming desire to save or love us back into life. Our Baptism should remind us that whenever we go astray, God will nudge us back on the path to Him, if we are willing to listen. The people of Nineveh, in spite of a great reputation for wickedness, were really ready to be saved by God’s mercy. How about us? And are we willing to share the good news of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ with all of God’s people and not just the ones we think are “desirable” or easy to talk to? Who are the people in our lives that we might even think deserve the difficulty that they are in; they created their own mess? What God has decided that we all deserve, by virtue of being His children, is love and forgiveness. We are never beyond the reach of God’s grace. God needs us to open our hearts to the possibilities of His blessing and acknowledge or need for said blessing (i.e. love and forgiveness). God’s mercy renews us and makes changed life possible.