Third Sunday After Epiphany
|Jonah 3:1-5, 10||Belief at Nineveh||355: Depth of Mercy
357: Just as I Am, Without One Plea
365: Grace Greater than Our Sin
372: How Can We Sinners Know
378: Amazing Grace
|Psalm 62:5-12||Assurance in God's strength and love||191: Jesus Loves Me
475: Come Down, O Love Divine
580: Lead On, O King Eternal
|Mark 1:14-20||Response of the Fishermen||436: The Voice of God Is Calling
438: Forth in Thy Name, O Lord
|1 Corinthians 7:29-31||Living for the world to come||732: Come, We That Love the Lord
733: (We're) Marching to Zion
It seems like there are some Bible stories that everyone knows. Jonah's adventure with the "great fish" (often called Jonah and the whale) is one of them. If you ask how Jonah came to be inside the fish in the first place, though, there aren't as many who can answer. If you ask where he was going, even fewer know. Then ask what happened when he arrived. A few people will know. That is sad, because that is the most important part of the story.
The thing that happened at Jonah's destination can be summed up in a single word--grace. Grace happened! It happened at Nineveh. It happened on the far end of the world from where Jonah wanted to go. It happened in a city where Jonah didn't want to be. It happened to a people who were destined for destruction, but they heard God's message and repented. When Jonah complained that God showed mercy to these people, God said, "Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" I have heard one minister suggest that "people who cannot tell their right hand from their left" are children, upon whom God bestowed His grace and mercy.
The writer of this week's featured hymn was Julia H. Johnston. Johnston knew about grace. She saw and experienced it all her life. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, she served as director of Sunday School in her church for over 40 years. She was also president of the Presbyterian Missionary Society of Peoria for 20 years. From the children in her care to stories from the mission fields, imagine the examples of grace that she would have flooded her world! As a blessing to us, in her "spare time" she wrote over 500 hymns. As you read the following words, ponder the grace bestowed on Jonah, on the people of Nineveh, on children, on people in the mission fields, and on us where we are today.
|1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
|2. Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
|3. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.
|4. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?
Just like the people of Nineveh, we all need grace today. May we thirst for it and be cleansed. May we also be always anxious to share it with our neighbors, our nation, and our world.
God bless you--
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|