Today is the third Sunday after Epiphany. The lectionary readings for today contain an excerpt from the Book of Jonah, one of only two such appearances in the entire three-year lectionary cycle. The Book of Jonah is part fable, part folklore, part poem, part satire, and a whole lot of theology.
At a time in our national life when we may be called to go to Nineveh, to the places of challenge and trial, we, like Jonah, may wish to flee in the opposite direction as far as we can go. Against that inclination stands this text—a reminder of the expansiveness of God’s mercy and of the call placed before us to go into those places of discomfort and confrontation to proclaim God’s purposes.
And so, with that in mind, here, once again are three pieces to reflect on. The first, a sermon on the Jonah story as part of a series reflecting on familiar (or purportedly familiar) Bible stories from Sunday school in a new light. The second piece is a translation of the entire text of Jonah, done in preparation for the sermon. In the translation I endeavored to preserve some of the original Hebrew phrasing that is often buried in translation (such as the repetitive use of great as an adjective). The third is a reflection on the “great fish” of Jonah’s tale and the call to be fishers of people that Christ extends.