But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. 3 At this point, Lord, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.” 4 The Lord responded, “Is your anger a good thing?” 5 But Jonah went out from the city and sat down east of the city. There he made himself a hut and sat under it, in the shade, to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a shrub,[a] and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. 7 But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died. 8 Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint. He begged that he might die, saying, “It’s better for me to die than to live.” 9 God said to Jonah, “Is your anger about the shrub a good thing?” Jonah said, “Yes, my anger is good—even to the point of death!” 10 But the Lord said, “You ‘pitied’ the shrub, for which you didn’t work and which you didn’t raise; it grew in a night and perished in a night. 11 Yet for my part, can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (Common English Bible)
“Friends Don’t Let Friends…A Lent Alongside Jonah,” Week Five
Jean Winsor’s story is one of those that you do a double-take upon hearing. Not the first part—that part is sadly increasingly common, the part where she got laid off from her job of 12 years and couldn’t find work for over a year. The next part, though, is:
Her jobless benefits expired at the end of December. She wore extra layers to keep warm in a bid not to run up her electricity bills and contemplated selling her living room furniture to make her monthly mortgage payment of $481.
That’s when…Lee Bissell…read about her plight and offered to pay Winsor’s mortgage for a month. Bissell is not a millionaire with thousands of dollars to spare. In fact, she is a federal worker living in Herndon, Virginia, supporting a sick husband, a 15-year-old daughter, and an 8-year-old son.
What resonated with Bissell was that Winsor had worked as a home health care aide for 12 years before losing her job. Bissell’s 64-year-old husband is struggling with end-stage dementia, and aides like Winsor have been a godsend. Bissell wanted to express her gratitude by helping one health care aide in need.
And I love what comes next, what Lee says when asked to quote for this article: “I don’t know that I can do it again. But in that moment, it felt right. I feel really blessed I can do something like that and not worry about paying my own bills.” And that’s what this is all supposed to be about. Feeling strong enough and blessed enough to actually love your neighbor even when your own battle that you’re fighting is all-consuming. In the midst of a sick husband and two children, a wife and mother found the deep empathy necessary.
We are wrapping up this five-week sermon series today, because believe it or not, next Sunday—Palm Sunday—is the last Sunday of Lent! Traditionally, the forty days prior to Easter Sunday make up the season of Lent, and those forty days correspond to the forty days that Jesus spent fasting and being tempted in the wilderness. Lent is a season whose primary themes, then, are largely about denial of selfishness and repentance from our own past selfishness. And really, there is no better story about selfishness in Scripture than that of the prophet Jonah. Sure, you have individual stories about selfishness in Biblical heroes like Samson and David, but none of their stories involved getting belched out of a giant future sushi roll. And really, selfishness is what defines Jonah, even more so than any other Biblical character. He is the original prodigal, the original heir who renounces his Father hundreds of years before Jesus tells us His parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. So for Lent this year, we will be reading through, verse-by-verse, the entirety of the Jonah narrative. It’s only four chapters long, so going verse-by-verse has definitely been doable in a five-week series.