Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 328: Jonah 4; Psalm 119: 33-72; Matthew 22

In the midst of conflict, or contest for dominance, one tactic many use to secure advantage is in managing to claim control of the narrative, the story. That means being able to hold on to what people are saying about the events relating to the conflict, as well as to manage how they are saying it. The hope is that if you can control the narrative for an effective and protracted length of time, then you will be able to dictate the outcome. You get to say what victory/winning looks like. You get to define what losing looks like. You may even get to write the history after the fact, codifying and concretizing the "baddness" of your opponents and the "goodness" of your cause.

We must admit, though, that the idea that we can control any ultimate outcome is at best a conceit on our part, and at least folly. We may be beyond certain that we know how a story should unfold, who should be defeated and who should be justified...but no matter how sustained the spin on the facts, the real and deep truths of our journey need to be revealed before we can obtain reconciliation with self, other and God. 

Jonah is certain that he knows just how things should work out for Nineveh. He is so certain that he walks out into the desert and sits down opposite the city to stubbornly wait on God's previously promised judgment to be exercised. Nineveh should fall, how else could what he has gone through be justified? Weeks at sea, days in the belly of a fish, bound by the Spirit to proclaim his message of doom on the sin of a city that had en-kindled God's wrath...THEY SHOULD BE OBLITERATED! NOW!

And yet, they are not destroyed. They are spared, saved. Blessed, even, by God's forgiveness. And what counsel does God offer Jonah? A withered plant that might have been shade to him as he sat stewing in place at God's extension of mercy. Jonah is willing to lament the death of a plant, but not the incipient demise of a whole people and all the chattel in their midst? Jonah is willing, as too often we are to be right, rather than righteous.

The denouement offers us an object lesson in how we might form response when narrative slips from our control, and it isn't found out in the sun, under a withered plant. It is found in God's justice and mercy, in God's blessing and grace.

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