Tue, 10 October 2017
(Jon.4:1-11; Ps.86:3-6,9-10,15; Lk.11:1-4)
“Your kingdom come.”
“You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish.” How beautifully Jonah speaks of God’s blessed compassion on His people. And how poorly he is able to accept and live that grace. The Lord’s forgiveness extends now to the ends of the earth; let us not be loathe to offer it unto all.
In our first reading, Jonah is angry with God for His mercy in forgiving Ninevah, the pagan empire and enemy of Israel. But the Lord teaches Jonah that He watches over these, too, not only Israel, signaling His universal call to salvation (which shall be fulfilled in the teaching of Christ). By comparing the city of Ninevah to the plant “that grew up over Jonah’s head, giving shade that relieved him of any discomfort,” the Lord instructs us that not only does He care for all nations, but indeed that all nations have a holy call, a blessed purpose, in which God Himself takes pleasure and comfort. He has raised all the nations and each is called as a member of His kingdom.
This word should give us great understanding of the graciousness of our God, and great joy in knowing that we are called by Him: “You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.” We can join with David in his prayer, knowing that God will “attend to the sound of [our] pleading” even as He does this blessed king of Israel; even as He listens to His chosen people, so He listens now to us, for the walls of division have been cast asunder and His love now extends to all.
But we must not be as Jonah shows himself to be today. We must “forgive all who do us wrong” or the Lord will not hear our prayer to “subject us not to the trial.” If we harbor anger, it will mean our death; and the Lord will send “a burning east wind” and a sun to beat down upon us, too, to draw us from the hardness of our hearts and the condemnation we breathe in our souls. Our vision must be that of God, who sees that sinners “cannot distinguish their right hand from their left,” or as Jesus says from the cross, “They know not what they do.” And so we, too, must forgive.
Let us join in prayer today, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s kingdom may come to earth. Let us rejoice that His reign extends to all. For it is the Lord’s desire to “forgive us our sins,” and it is His will that all find refuge in the shade of His presence. And so we partake of “our daily bread” here in His Word and in His Sacrament; and so we live the kingdom of God.
O LORD, let our prayer rise up to you, the Most High,
who are merciful and kind and forgiving toward all
and hear us when we cry out to you.
YHWH, you are abounding in kindness toward all, a gracious and merciful God desiring to show clemency to sinners, to lead them from the death upon their souls to a holy life in you. For this what can we do but praise you? What can we do but say: let thy will be done!
But how often we keep your mercy from others, dear God; how often we expect it for ourselves yet refuse to share it with those who seek it from us. This is not your will. In this your kingdom does not come. For where forgiveness is withheld, your love does not exist; and where your love does not exist, you are not present.
Let us not die in desolation, O LORD, beneath a scorching wind and a burning sun. Open our hearts to share your compassion and we shall find relief from all the trials we bring upon ourselves by our lack of pity, by our condemnation of others.