Preaching from Jonah last weekend this thought came to me but didn’t make into the sermon but I thought I should share it.
Churches often call themselves after the biblical character who is their patron saint. The figure from the Bible that they are sort of inspired by. I can imagine a congregation calling themselves St Barnabas’s because they want to be encouraging or Saint John’s because they want their congregation to be characterised by the same kind of love that earned John the nickname, the Apostle of Love.
However, I have never seen a church called Saint Jonah’s. I havent heard of a community of God’s people who have chosen the runaway prophet as their patron saint, but I think many churches act like they do. I think all too many congregations reflect Jonah in a very specific way. Here is what I mean
In Jonah chapter one, in the middle of a terrible storm that’s threatening to rip the ship apart and drown everyone in it the pagan captain goes looking for their passenger. He finds Jonah sleeping and rebukes God’s messenger for being unconcerned by the danger they were all facing and doing nothing to help. In the middle of the storm, they were literally all “in the same boat” but Jonah, God’s representative, didn’t seem concerned and certainly didn’t offer any kind of help. Jonah slept the sleep of indifference and apathy, concerned only about his own situation.
There are so many problems that we today as Christians are the in “the same boat” with, those who are different from us in our society. I wonder if we as God’s representatives now are doing any better than Jonah did? Do we really share a common concern with those in our country, communities and families for the problems that we are all facing? Are we doing anything to help our fellow citizens with the common problems we experience here in the Vaud? Do we even know what they are? Would they look at us, as the pagan captain looked at Jonah and then rebuke us for our indifference to and involvement in our common dilemmas?
Tim Keller comments about all of this “We deserve the critique of the world if the church does not exhibit visible love in practical deeds to address the common problems in society. The captain had every right to rebuke a believer who was oblivious to the problems of the people around him and doing nothing for them”
I cant help but wonder how many churches are just like Jonah asleep as a storm rages around him? Those around these churches in their community are facing pressing, dangerous and destructive problems but as God’s people they keep their distance and are uninterested and uninvolved in those problems? What about us at Westlake? What about you? What are we doing for those with whom we are “in the same boat” facing the same common dangers?