I love the VeggieTale movie about Jonah and the whale. In their version of the tale, you get a real feel for just how awful the Ninevites were. They were fishslappers. They literally walked around slapping each other with fish. They didn't need a good reason- they enjoyed being evil. And it was into that culture that God sent Jonah- albeit against his will. He sent his prophet with a simple message for the citizens of Nineveh- repent or die.
You can read this exciting story in the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. So what does it have to with Lent? Simply this: God was announcing (not for the first time and certainly not for the last) that He is a God of second chances. He gave those rotten fishslappers the opportunity to turn from their wicked ways- and they did. The grace that is shown to us through the sacrifice of the Christ was shown to them. And just as the Church is often suspicious of grace shown to real sinners, Jonah just didn't "get" how God could forgive those fishslappers. Grace seems so foreign to humans; we don't really understand it and we seldom give it to others. But as we see in this story from hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, God has always been all about grace for those who are willing to turn from their sinful ways. And that love for us found its ultimate expression at the Cross of Calvary. Thank you, LORD, for being a God of second chances...
There is pretty good chance that in the course of the coming week you will encounter a fishslapper. Remember the grace God showed the Nenevites. Remember the sacrifice Jesus made so that your sins would be forgiven. Share that grace with your world. Invite a fishslapper to join you in the warm, safe embrace of sanctuary in the arms of a loving God.
Because of Jesus,