Nineveh Repents! Film at Eleven.

Jonah 3, 1-10, Luke 10, 38-42

October 5, 1999

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My grandmother Dovie Waldrop once told me, "Bobby Max, one of the things I always regretted is that my mother died before we got electricity on the farm. She never got to see how easy housekeeping was with electrical appliances." Personally, I never find housework easy, so I always try to think about this while taking care of household duties. Her message was clear: keeping house without electricity was a hassle, and the major part of the burden fell on the women.

Today we see a glimpse of this in the Gospel, Martha is busy running around taking care of the details, while Mary sits around wasting time with Jesus. In Jesus' gentle words to Martha about the importance of such "time wasting", I find a warning about doing works of justice and peace without spirituality. There are many problems in the world, and many just causes. As one gets caught up in this work, it is easy to be swallowed by the work itself; we let go of our spiritual anchor and end up depending solely on the "arm of the flesh", as though petition campaigns and organizing drives by themselves can bring the Reign of God to our neighborhoods. But if we have no time to "hang out wasting time with God" then we are missing the point, our work becomes a grind and a trial, and the Way is dry as dust. It's like tying one hand behind your back and then trying to play a Rachmaninoff piano concerto.

Meanwhile back in Nineveh -- a city so big it takes 3 days to walk through it -- Jonah preaches one day and the entire city turns out in sackcloth and ashes to mourn and repent their sins. When the King hears about the pending destruction of the City, he is so distressed he orders everybody to fast and he himself goes and sits in a pile of ashes. He commands all people in his kingdom to turn away from violence and evil. "When God saw by their actions how they had turned from their evil way," he canceled the previously announced destruction of the city. They not only had faith, they demonstrated their faith by their actions.

Imagine this. Some whacked out desert prophet arrives in Washington, D.C., reeking strongly of fish. He starts walking across town, preaching against the wickedness of the government -- and amazingly, the government listens! The President ends the embargoes against Cuba and Iraq, and withdraws US troops from NATO, Congress abolishes corporate welfare and enacts living wage laws and a rational and compassionate social services system paid for by a just and equitable tax system. Pork barrel spending ceases, and a pro-life amendment is added to the Constitution. The gap between rich and poor starts to narrow and wealth becomes more evenly distributed.

Would you be surprised about the repentance of the wicked? Happy? How did Jonah feel about the sudden success of his Revival Crusade for Justice in Nineveh? Well, actually, he wasn't too happy, but that story must wait for tomorrow.

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