Proper 20, Year A always takes me back to my senior year of high school. Every Friday morning, about a dozen of us who made up the core group of my Young Life club would gather at the Fletcher home for Bible study and monkey bread. Occasionally, we would spend the night there Thursday night, though the older I get, the more I can’t imagine how our parents let this happen. Anyway, on those Thursday evenings, we would hang out with Fletch and Julie’s kids (who are now way too old for my liking) and watch Veggie Tales videos. Mostly, we’d enjoy the Silly Songs with Larry best-ofs, but every once in a while, we would watch a real episode. Proper 20, Year A takes me there not because of any of the VHS tapes we watched then, but because of the 2002 release of the Veggie Tales Jonah movie, but you, dear blog reader, are used to reading long, useless intros by now.
My favorite part of both the movie and the Biblical book from which it based is the ending. Without so much as a spoiler alert, Sunday’s Track 2 lesson takes us right to the very end of the story. To recap, Jonah tried to escape God’s call to prophecy in Nineveh by jumping a ship to Tarshish on the other side of the known world. A storm comes up, presumably because of God’s indignation over Jonah’s failure, and eventually Jonah is thrown overboard where a fish (not a whale) swallows him alive and vomits him out three days later. A contrite and probably disgusting Jonah makes his way to Nineveh where he prophecies against their sins and retreats to a high place to watch God’s destruction.
Remarkably, the people repent of their evil (fish slapping, in the movie version) ways and in our lesson for Sunday, we hear that God decides to forego his wrath, which ticks Jonah off to no end. It is there, under the shade of a tree he did not plant, stewing over God’s grace freely offered, that I realize that Jonah is me. Jonah is all of us. It may not be so obvious as grumbling about the eleventh hour conversion of another, but each of us has a place where God’s grace catches us short, where God’s unending love seems wildly unfair to us. How often do we recognize God’s grace in our own lives while being unwilling to comprehend how that same grace might be made manifest in the life of another? Like Jonah, it can make us angry to witness God’s grace poured out abundantly on those whom we deem unworthy – angry enough to die – and in those moments, though we fail to recognize it, God pours out his grace on us, even in our undeserving. This week, I’m grateful for the reminder of fun times in high school, for silly videos, and most especially, for God’s never failing grace that is poured out upon me, even in my most undeserving moments.