My Sermon Journey – Brooding on Jonah


Photo by Matt Alaniz on Unsplash

My second assignment for preaching class is to preach on prophecy.  Y’all, prophecy scares me.  It is intimidating for me and always has been.  It’s an understatement to say that I’m dreading this sermon.  To add a little complexity, I’ve got two guest preaching gigs and I want to use this sermon for both of those.  So, to some extent, it has to be a little generic in its context.  For better or worse, I’ve decided to preach on the last part of Jonah.

And now I’d like to invite you on a journey of the kinds of things that go through my head when I’m preparing a sermon.  This is what is called the brooding phase.  It’s the very first phase that involves
just me and my Bible.  No commentaries, no outside help of any kind.  I usually write 2-3 pages of anything that comes into my head about the story.  I read it in different versions and try to see if there are any differences in the words used between them.

What follows are some of my thoughts on this story.

Just like Deadpool is the anti-hero of the Marvel Universe, Jonah is the anti-prophet of the Bible.  God called him and he ran away without saying a word.  Found himself in the belly of a large fish, cried out to God, was vomited out on to land, and finally went to Nineveh where he gave the shortest prophetic statement ever.  And then when the people repented, Jonah got mad at God.

I’m preaching in chapter 3, verse 10 through the end of the book.  The ending that isn’t an ending.  Just an unanswered question from God to Jonah.  I don’t know about you, but this is not the ending that I was taught in Sunday School.  I actually looked at a couple of children’s Bible storybooks and most of them included a nice, tidy ending in which Jonah repented of his sins and went on his merry way.

But that’s not what’s in the Bible.  We don’t get a resolution.  Have you ever watched a movie that doesn’t have a resolution?  You get to the end and then the credits start rolling.  And you’re left wanting to throw something at the TV or movie screen.  Can you imagine if the original Star Wars trilogy would have ended with The Empire Strikes Back?  And whatever happened to Truman after he walked off the set of The Truman Show?  And for the love of all that is holy, does the spinning top ever stop spinning at the end of Inception?

Some questions I asked during my brooding time…

  • What, as humans, make us inherently need resolution?  And why does the story of Jonah not provide a satisfying resolution?  What is God trying to show us?
  • Why did Jonah hate the Ninevites so much?  Do I hate anyone enough that I would be mad if God forgave them?
  • What if the purpose of Jonah is to show us how ridiculous we sound when we lose focus on what’s important.
  • Why did God keep pursuing Jonah after he was repeatedly disobedient?  Is Jonah missing the point that he was just as disobedient as the Ninevites?

On the next post, I’ll be sharing what I’ve found in commentaries.  This work helps me to understand more about the story and usually points me in a direction for the sermon.

What thoughts and questions do you have about Jonah?  Has this story played a role in your life?  I’d love to hear what you’ve got!

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