God of Second Chances
Jonah 31-5, 10
Whats the greatest gift in life? Some might say its health. Others
would suggest intelligence, or education. Clearly, a strong, supporting family is very
important. I have my own opinion; I think the greatest gift in life is getting a second
chance. Jonah learned that first hand. When God called Jonah the first time, Jonah ran
away. He was supposed to go to the great city of Nineveh and speak Gods word of
judgement against it, but Jonah said No, not this little white duck. He walked
on down to the travel agent and said Im interested in a long cruise. What have
you got thats far away from Nineveh?
Tarshish is nice this season. Ill take it. So off he
heads in the opposite direction, running from God. Silly duck, you cant run from
God. Where you going to go? The whole world belongs to God. As Joe Louis, the great
heavyweight champion once said about an opponent, He can run, but he cant
hide. You cant hide from God. God found Jonah out there on the sea, and sent
the worst storm anybody ever saw. It scared the ships crew so much that they figured
one of their passengers must have angered God something terrible, and when those sailors
learned that Jonah was running away from God, they tossed him overboard then and there.
Now, God could have let him drown, but instead along comes a great fish, snaps
Jonah up, and after a three day submarine ride, spits him out on the shore--facing
Nineveh. God gave Jonah a second chance--a second chance to be prophet to the great city
of Nineveh, a second chance to say yes. Now, the people of Nineveh were the
worst--thats why Jonah ran away in the first place. Nineveh was the capital of
Assyria, the fiercest, meanest, baddest country in the world. These Assyrians swooped down
out of the north on their iron-wheeled chariots, with their heavy swords and long spears
and conquered everything in sight. Israels capital of Samaria was just a bump on the
road to them, they leveled that proud city in a heartbeat, put its leaders to the sword
and moved on. Some of the prophets call the Ninevites an army of locusts, coming out of
nowhere and devouring everything in their path. Only Gods angel prevented them from
taking the holy city of Jerusalem.
Archaeologists say they used to pile up their enemies bones outside the
gates of Nineveh, just to let you know, as you entered the city, how bad they were. There
wasnt a crime they werent guilty of, an atrocity they didnt revel in.
Fire and brimstone was too good for these folks. They deserved whatever wrath God reserves
for the worst of the worst. Instead, God gives them a second chance. The God of Israel,
the God whose cities they burned, whose people they ravaged, this God sends
Jonah, now willing to preach, to give them one more chance to repent. Forty
days more and the city will be destroyed! And they repent. Jonahs words
convince all, from least to greatest, to put things right with God. Everybody covers
themselves with sackcloth, repents, and God forgives them, decides that the city will not
be destroyed after all. God gives the terrible city of Nineveh a second chance.
How about you? Do you need a second chance from God? Is there something in your
life, in your past, in your present situation, in your family, that has you in a quicksand
of guilt and shame. Have you not done as much for God as you think you should, and wonder
if God could ever have a plan for your life? Do you have a family member, or a friend,
whose been away from church for a while, or away from the sacraments, and figures they cant
come back; that God wont give them a second chance, or a third chance, or a fourth
chance? Well, our God is a God who loves to give second chances.
Every time the Chosen People turned away from God, the bible tells how God gave
them another chance to be faithful. King David sinned more than once in Gods sight,
and God always loved him enough to give him another chance. Those fearless disciples of
todays gospel run away in terror from the cross, but, after his resurrection, Jesus
gave them a second chance to be courageous.
Our God loves to give second chances, so, dont let guilt keep you away from
confession and repentance; dont let your past prevent you from doing something great
for God now. Our God is a God of second chances--ask Jonah, ask the people of
Nineveh--better yet, go to God and find out for yourself. Amen.