Sunday, January 25, 2009

Epiphany 3

Epiphany 3
January 25, 2009
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
A lesson in Repentance

Introduction: All three lessons for today deal with the issue of repentance. Each says individually and collectively “it’s time to repent!” In our Old Testament reading we have a threefold act of repentance: Jonah, Nineveh and God – a trinity of God, others and self. What is repentance? It is more then mere sorrow over sin. It is a complete turn-around. It is a change of mind. It is the beginning of a new life.

Who needs to repent?

1. You do – like Nineveh – Vv. 1-2 A message came to Jonah from the Lord a second time. He said, "Go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce to its people the message I give you. Repent! Remember the 5 “R’s” of repentance…

1. Responsibility – we own up to our sin.
2. Remorse – we are heart sorry.
3. Repair – we attempt to fix what we’ve broken - inasmuch as we are able. Some things can not so easily be repaired, a life, one’s good name, a reputation.
4. Repeat not! – We don’t return to visit!

Note: These four steps; leading to repentance, come from Dr. Laura Schlesinger, she’s a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. She suggests; quite convincingly, that this is all we need to right a wrong. Yet, one component is missing. A 5th step is necessary; the final step, which separates Christians from the rest of the world; a step, which turns from following rules to establishing a relationship with God Himself. The 5th step necessary:

5. Reconciliation - through Christ alone! This we find in the message of the cross. St. Paul would remind us, “I determine to know nothing among you except for Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Transition: Who needs to repent?

2. Others – like Nineveh – Vs. 5 The people of Nineveh believed God's warning. They decided not to eat any food for a while. All of them put on black clothes. That's what everyone from the least important of them to the most important did. This past week we witnessed the inauguration of our nation‘s 44th president. I pray that we as a nation will succeed under his administration. But how do we measure success? Is it found in a robust economy, high employment? As Christians are called to be in the world but not of it - that means we are called to be living in America, but not to live by the current American mindset especially if and when that mindset often will run contrary to God's Word.[1] This past week we also witnessed the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade. Will abortion on demand be overturned? As I see it, not in the near future. But we as individuals can do our part in standing for life issues and in defense of those who can not speak, for themselves [the unborn], and for us to be advocates for those whose quality of life is in jeopardy or whose life is in danger. Daily we must be a people of prayer, asking the Lord to spare us from peril, praying for Him to direct us, to give order to our days.

Transition: Who needs to repent?

3. God – Yes, God repented - as He changed His mind from judgment to mercy. - Vs. 10 God saw what they did. They stopped doing what was evil. So he took pity on them. He didn't destroy them as he had said he would. This verse is the heart of the Gospel. God didn’t destroy the city of Nineveh. He had pity on them. God has had compassion. He has taken pity on you and me. Christ bore our sins in His own body that we might die to sin and now live unto righteousness. He has taken your sin and in His suffering death and passion given you a new life.

Conclusion: Because we sin we need another chance to obey God. Jonah was given that second chance. In this we see we have a gracious God. As God gives us yet another chance to do better, it is incumbent upon us to give others when they sin against us another chance to make good and to do better.
[1] Thanks to Pr. Eric Brown’s insights on his blog

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