That’s the one about the whale, right?

We just finished up our basic series. We started by exploring our image of God.

Images are important. The Bible uses a lot of images for God. If we only approach scripture with our favorite image, say the one from the Sistine Chapel of the bearded guy, then we miss the image the Bible is bringing, say a hen gathering her chicks (Luke 13:34).

We then took a look at a poem to get a sense of how it moved and how the meaning changed and led us to a new place of understanding. We looked at the possibility of each word and how we started to intuitively pick up who was speaking, even when the speaker wasn’t directly listed in the text.

We then spoke about what the Bible is for us. How some want every word to be the Word of God and rooted in history. How others factor in the human element in both the writing and the interpretation, and how there’s a whole swath of people in between those positions.

Then we looked at Jonah. Jonah isn’t like any of the other prophets. There’s no attention paid to context and history. The only person named is Jonah, not even the King of Nineveh is named. The book starts quickly, runs for 4 action-packed chapters and then ends with a question. It’s the only book to do this. This has led many rabbis and Christian scholars to conclude that this is a parable. It’s not historical like the other prophets.

Yet this book is read at Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

We looked at the movement of Jonah, how he is called to rise up and go east and instead he heads west and goes down into a boat. This is a story about going down and God raising us up.

We looked at Jonah’s prayer and how he didn’t really own up to his actions of not following God’s commands. We looked at his half-hearted witness and how it caused the biggest conversion in the Bible. He is the most successful prophet in scripture.

And he’s mad about it.

For him, the Ninevites aren’t worth saving. Jonah wants ownership of God and be assured of his place in God’s opinion. Yet God is the God of all the earth and all the peoples.

We can be like Jonah. We don’t want God to offer forgiveness to those who we know aren’t part of our faith or tradition. We even get jealous if they are outside our race, class, nationality, gender, etc.

Jonah’s story is our story. It’s a great little book that has a huge impact on how we view God, the Bible, and even ourselves.

Go give it a read! It takes about 20 minutes or less. Check it out, seriously. Then you’ll see it’s way more than just about a whale. And the whale isn’t a whale… it’s a “big fish.” Whale is something we bring to the text in our post-Pinocchio world. See? Image matters.

Tomorrow is our last class in the basic series! It’s a Q&A session! Hope you’ll join us. Come hungry and we’ll feed you at our potluck at 6:30 p.m. or just come for the class at 7 p.m. in Fellowship Hall!

For more on Jonah, check out this podcast.

There’s also this take on the story which is pretty awesome!


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