Sunday, July 14, 2013

Joy Wins

“Good morning! Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is good to be with you.”

~ Two weeks from today we'll be conducting an outdoor worship service at Walt and Gwen Cressman’s house at 4815 Kroll Road. To find us turn off the Canosia Road and drive to the end. Bring your lawn chairs and a food item.

~ New Members class soon… If there is interest please contact Brad.

~ Aug 3 seminar, 9 a.m. to noon. Steven Berger of Covenant Park in Chicago will be here for teacher training and leadership.

The worship team of Ken, Darlene and Chuck led us today. Chuck opened with a reading from Psalm 47, “Clap your hands, all ye people…” as intro to their lively “Heaven On My Mind.” Our worship songs were selected from the silver songbook this morning.

Patty shared a praise report. In November she woke up for a lady’s Bible study one morning… and while making breakfast for the group had an insight about the word Joy. Since that day she has not had a day of depression, which has plagued her much of her life.

During the offering the trio sang the glorious “Yes, I Am.” A time of prayer followed, beginning with prayers for Community Covenant Church in North Minneapolis which was burned. Many other needs lifted up.

Joy Wins

Pastor Brad Shannon began by reading Jonah 2. He then gave a recap with the endpoint of last week’s sermon being that it’s never too late to stop running from God.

One of the problems with the book of Jonah is that we all think we know the story, so we fail to take in the details. Brad therefore asked us to hear the story as if we were hearing it for the first time.

Interesting choice of words in the first part where the giant fish is “appointed” to swallow Jonah. God has given the fish an assignment.

Brad notes that if you have trouble believing this story you’re not alone, and still welcome here. In fact, God is more interested in what you really think than what you imagine you are supposed to think.

More important than whether such things can really happen is this: do you believe that miracles are possible? Because this is an impossible story.

The best word to describe Jonah in this story is “down.” He is told to go to Nineveh, but chooses to go down to Joppa. Then headed down to Tarshish. He went down into the hold of the ship and eventually is thrown overboard, to the bottom of the sea.

Once in the belly of the fish, Jonah finally looks up. He prays.

Why do we so often not pray? Because we are so busy with other things. We have so many other things distracting us to keep us from facing what is going on in our own minds.

In Jonah’s case, he prays because he has nowhere else to turn. He truly hit bottom.

What happens next is something dramatic. The fish vomits Jonah onto the dry land. Not a heroic figure covered with glory. He is, rather, a pathetic figure covered with whatever came out of that fish.

Jonah thought he was doomed as he went down into the sea… But God was near, and in control.

Pastor Brad pointed out some parallels between the life of Jonah and that of Jesus. Jonah was actually from a small town near Nazareth, where Jesus was from. Jonah slept in a boat during a storm, as did Jesus. Jonah’s name means “Dove”… and a dove appeared when Jesus was baptized.

And at one point when the Pharisees challenged Jesus, He said no sign would be given except the Sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah was three years in the belly of a great fish, Jesus would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. In the end death loses, sadness loses, sorrow loses.

In the Roman catacombs where the early church met… most common story recorded on those walls was the story of Jonah

When you've reached the bottom God will meet you there. Brad said, "I will meet you at the bottom. I will meet you at the cross." Joy wins.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What Is Your Nineveh?

Summer is here for a few weeks and we're enjoying it. In his opening remarks Pastor Brad Shannon stated that he is starting a new series on the book of Jonah.

1. Brad mentioned that last week we unanimously voted to proceed with our church building project. When people ask what's happening, you no longer have say, “I’m not sure yet.” 
2. Aug 3, 9-Noon, Steve Berger is coming to conduct a seminar for everyone involved with Christian education

Chuck, Darlene, Brad and Carol led worship today and also sang Master of the Wind during our offering. “He can calm the storm, make the sun shine again; I know the Master of the wind.”

Scripture reading: Jonah 1

Pearl and Ruth Anne shared a drama, involving a seal, a chicken and a seashell… and a story about oceans, with a reference to Jonah. In the same way that we can listen to the ocean in a seashell, we can listen to God and obey Him.

What Is Your Nineveh?

Jonah 1:1 says “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah…”

Jonah was a prophet, not a priest. Priests served in the temple. Prophets are more of a thorn under the saddle for other people and they sometimes get around.

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against them. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, a cruel people of this time. Brad compared the people of Nineveh to Al-Quida or Nazi Germany. Not exactly the kind of place you want to go alone to preach against. Nineveh is located straight east of Israel. Jonah, however, headed west toward Tarshish. He was running from God.

Running from God is something we have all done. We know what God wants, but we don’t want to do it and we go another direction, to another place. This is our own personal Tarshish.

When he got on the boat Jonah paid a fare, indicating he had money. Tarshish was a different kind of city, a wealthy city, not a military city like Nineveh. Tarshish’s reputation for wealth might be similar to today’s Wall Street or perhaps Cayman Islands. The very name evokes money.

As the boat was en route, "the Lord sent a violent wind…” The actual word means “great.” Nineveh was a “great” city. The great God sent a great storm.

Even the professional sailors on the ship were nervous with this storm and started throwing things overboard. They were in a panic, and it says each one was praying to his own god.

Meanwhile Jonah was sleeping in the bottom of the boat. The captain shakes him awake. “What are you thinking? Get up and pray to your god.”

After drawing lots, the ship’s crew turns to Jonah. “What have you done?”

Jonah testified that the one true and “great” God was behind this. He does it reluctantly but as a necessity. Interestingly enough, Jonah’s failure is what brings these sailors to faith.

Ultimately Jonah tells the sailors that the only way to stop the storm is to throw Jonah overboard, but they do everything they can to avoid having to do this, out of compassion for Jonah. But the storm is too strong and finally they recognize they must yield. They look to God and pray that they will not beheld accountable for killing this man.

The pivot point here is that Jonah had reached his end and would rather die than keep running from God. As soon as he is thrown overboard the sea becomes calm.

There is always a price in running from God. 

In the end the sailors worship God. God was working in ways that Jonah could not even fathom. He was running from God yet God turned even this into an event for His own glory, redeeming Jonah's disobedience for a higher purpose.

"It’s never too late and never too soon to quit running from God," Brad said.

Wherever you're at, Jesus always has the same invitation: "Come running to Me.:

Afterwards we celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.