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God Cares
Exodus 16:2-15
HW in HI

Jonah is the central character in today’s Old Testament reading. You might recall that we ran into Jonah in early August, when he had found his way into the belly of a whale. God had called him to go and speak with the people of Ninevah, and Jonah had done what most of us would probably do: he had run away. He had booked passage on a ship headed in the opposite direction. God had caused a great storm to come up. Eventually Jonah admitted that he was the cause of the storm and he got off the boat into the raging sea. He was saved, in a sense, by a whale that swallowed him and eventually deposited him on dry land. One of the things we noticed was that this story is here for a purpose, but that purpose is probably not literal fact, as we are quite sure that no one can survive for three days in the belly of a whale.

As we pick up the story this morning, we find that God has told Jonah, “Get up, go to Ninevah, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” And the narrator says, “Sop Jonah got up.” Jonah, it seems, has come to understand that spending three days in the belly of a whale did him no good at all. Jonah has learned that when it comes to God you can run, but you cannot hide.

Ninevah was a huge Assyrian city, north of Babylon. especially by ancient standards. Some say it held as many as 600,000 people, especially by ancient standards. To cross the city was a three days’ walk. Jonah does indeed travel to Ninevah. And he finds a city filled with people that are worshipping many false gods. They imagined these gods were like people, with husbands and wives and families. And they imagined that these were jealous petty gods to which they needed to make certain sacrifices. In a sense they were a religious people – they believed in something.

Jonah came to the middle of the city and he began to proclaim the message God had given them. He told them they had 40 days to repent of their wickedness, or Ninevah would be destroyed. Who would hear him?

Who might hear one of us, even in our little town – who might hear one of us if we said that the people of Waimea needed to repent or the city would be destroyed? I expect that the result would be: no one. Rather, your friends would worry terribly about you and bundle you off to the doctor who would check you into Hilo hospital for a mental examination and I would visit you there. It is not hard, really, to imagine why it is that Jonah was so reluctant.

But Jonah was heard. The kind ordered the people to fast. And God spared Ninevah. But Jonah was furious. He knew that it was hardly possible that the whole city of 600,000 had turned to God. He knew what we know: it is tough work to turn your heart to God. And Jonah was angry. Why would God not spite the Ninevites? Surely there was still plenty of evil there. No way they had become a city of angels. And Jonah fumed and ranted and rage. He told God he’d rather die of God wasn’t going to smite Ninevah.

Jonah made himself a little shack so that he could watch the goings on in Ninevah. Probably to prove to God that they were evil. So God grew for him a little shade tree. Jonah was rather pleased with the share tree, but the net night it withered and died. Now Jonah was furious again, and ready to die. God said, let me get it straight: I should worry about your shade tree, but not about Ninevah with all those people and animals?

Jonah was running from God. But he found he could not escape. So he did God’s work but it made him furious. He thought God was totally unfair to him.

Something similar is taking place in today’s lesson from Mark. A land owner hires workers throughout the day. Some are hired early in the morning, Those hired in the early morning, then more are hired at nine o’clock, more at noon, and some are hired at 3 o’clock and some as late in the day as 5 o’clock. At the end of the day, the land owner pays everyone. But the amazing thing is this: they all get paid the same. The folks that worked all day grumble about not being treated fairly. The landowner asks, “are you envious because I am generous?”

Whenever we try to figure God out, we get stymied. In the end, we are never quite sure. We read that “My ways are not your ways, says the Lord.” And in our own lives, we know it is true. Don’t expect God to be totally even handed. It simply doesn’t work that way.

God gives us a clue, though: Are you envious because I am generous. God is basically saying, it is mine. The whole world is mine. And you will see that I care for everybody. Those wicked Ninevites that were about to perish. The workers that didn’t get a job until the end of the day.

The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. Yet the Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, "Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar's need. Why give him gold?" Alexander responded in royal fashion, "Cooper coins would suit the beggar's need, but gold coins suit Alexander's giving." The story says something more about god, I think, than it says about Alexander the Great.

God we find, cares for us. Not, particularly the way we want to be cared for. But for the Ninevites, for the farm workers, for the people of our communities. It is perhaps useful for us to remember that we have more in common with the Ninevites than we would care to remember. And yet, God cares for us.

Be not troubled with thoughts of the morrow, Of duties you surely must do. On the Lord cast your burden of sorrow; It matters to Him about you! Be not weary when trials are given, But trust Him to carry you through. He will make all a pathway to heaven; It matters to Him about you! Then be patient until His appearing, 'Tis dawn almost now on your view; For the mists of this dark age are clearing. In love He is planning for you! Audrey Mieir