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The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

January 24, 2021 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Epiphany

Passage: Jonah 1:43–1:51

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Date: January 24th, 2021; Third Sunday after the Epiphany; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • In our Old Testament reading we heard, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’”
  • The first time the Word of the Lord came to Jonah he hopped on a boat and headed in the opposite direction from where God wanted him to go - anything was better than Nineveh.
  • Nineveh was a great city.  One of the largest cities at that time.  It was the Toronto, New York, or Los Angeles of the ancient world.  
  • It was founded by a man named Nimrod, a bloody and brutal man who had a legendary reputation as a hunter and warrior - and the city lived up to its founder’s reputation.  
  • It was a violent and cruel city and a lot of sin and evil transpired inside of its boundaries.  
  • The Ninevites were the enemy of a Hebrew like Jonah.  
  • There was no way that he would want to go give them God’s message.
  • And so Jonah headed in the opposite direction to Tarshish.  
  • But just as Adam and Eve couldn’t run and hide from God in the Garden of Eden, so Jonah couldn’t flee from God on a boat.
  • The Lord kicked up a great storm on the Mediterranean Sea.  
  • The ship that Jonah was on was threatened and the other sailors on the boat all turned to their false gods for help.  
  • They threw cargo overboard to lighten the load, hoping that might help to keep them safe. 
  • While all of this was going on, Jonah was below deck, sleeping.
  • The captain of the ship went down and shook Jonah awake and told him to pray to his God for help.
  • Sailors in those days were a religiously superstitious bunch.  
  • Bad weather meant that someone onboard was to blame.  
  • So they cast lots (which was kind of like drawing straws or rolling dice) to see who was responsible for this storm that threatened their lives.
  • And the lot fell on Jonah.  
  • So, Jonah was thrown overboard into the sea by the sailors.
  • What happens next to Jonah is the story that most of us are familiar with. 
  • He’s swallowed by an enormous fish and he spent three days inside of this creature. 
  • After the three days -  the big fish vomits Jonah up on the shore.
  • And while Jonah is cleaning the fish’s vomit off of himself, God asks him a second time, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
  • This time Jonah wisely decided to listen to God’s calling - and he makes his way to Nineveh.
  • He made his way to Nineveh and proclaimed boldly to the people that unless they turned from their evil ways and repented of their sin – God would destroy them.  
  • Not a friendly or likeable message to say the least.  
  • This is not a good way to make friends.
  • But even more amazing than Jonah spending three days in a fish is the fact that the people of Nineveh listened!  They repented!  Even the king repented!
  • In fact they were so repentant that they fasted and put on sackcloth as visible signs of their repentance and mourning.
  • Here is another great example of the power of God’s Word! It never returns to him void - even in an evil place like Nineveh. 
  • All sin is turning from God to go our own way.
  • Like Jonah, when we sin, we flee in the opposite direction of where God wants us to go.
  • We go in the opposite direction when we neglect God and the gifts that he has promised to us through his Son.
  • We go in the opposite direction when we neglect our neighbours and selfishly focus only on getting what we want.
  • We go in the opposite direction when we think evil thoughts and do sinful things.
  • Like Jonah, we stubbornly and sinfully turn from God and flee in the opposite direction of his will.
  • Repent of your sin and believe in the gospel of God.
  • God is patient in his mercy and grace.
  • God is steadfast in his love and forgiveness for us.
  • God is persistent in calling us back to himself that we are reconciled with him and each other. 
  • God sent his servant Jonah to pursue the people of Nineveh, to call them to turn from their evil ways and receive his mercy - and they miraculously did!
  • His Word accomplished what he sent it to do for the people of Nineveh. 
  • And God’s Word accomplishes what he sends it to do for you.
  • God combined water with his Word of promise in your baptism to personally forgive your sins, rescue you from death and the devil, and to give you the gift of eternal life.
  • Through your baptism God accomplished his promise to you that, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).
  • God’s Word does what it says.
  • When you hear and receive his word of absolution for all of your sin – you are forgiven before God in heaven.  
  • You are completely cleansed of your sin and you are declared holy and righteous.
  • God’s Word does what it says.
  • When Christ Jesus says, “take and eat my true body, take and drink my true blood for the forgiveness of all of your sins” you are forgiven.  You are given the gift of salvation.  Eternal life is yours.  
  • God’s Word does what it says.
  • When his Word of blessing is spoken to you, “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look upon you with favour and give you peace” it accomplishes what it says.
  • God’s blessing is yours.
  • He keeps you as his beloved child. You are kept.
  • God’s light and life shines on you - especially in the darkness of all the difficulties, and stress, and challenges in life - his light shines on you.  He is gracious to you.
  • You have his favour.  He has given you everything you need for this life and for the next.
  • “I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord.  “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). 
  • God’s Word does what it says.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.   

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February 7, 2021

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

January 31, 2021

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany