Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I did not have time to write my journal yesterday, because I was invited to update my ministry in a senior citizens’ fellowship in the morning. By the time I returned to office after lunch, I was scheduled to attend some meetings which took up almost the whole afternoon. That’s why I prefer to do my devotion first thing in the morning; otherwise I will have difficulty to find time to meditate. Again, this is not just a ritual to make me feel religious but a need to be recharged like eating a healthy meal.
"Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked. "Yes," they replied. He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" (Matt 13:51-52). For years I have searched the scriptures for help in pursuing my life as pastor or Christian leader. Time after time I have come upon rich treasures, but somehow I missed the book of Jonah. I missed, which turns out, three of the most provocative and amusing pages in the scriptures for my purpose as minister.
The Jonah story is sharply evocative of the vocational experience of minister or Christian leader. Story incites story. Story-tellers swap stories. As I tell this story among my friends, listen to them tell theirs, and in turn tell a few of my own, the stories develop images and metaphors that give shape to a spirituality adequate to shepherding ministry. Stanley Hauerwas argues [Vision and Virtue], convincingly to me, that if we want to change our way of life, acquiring the right image is far more important than diligently exercising willpower. Willpower is a notoriously powerful engine on which to rely for internal energy, but a right image silently and relentlessly pulls us into its field of reality, which is also a field of energy.
The book of Jonah is a parable at the center of which is a prayer. Parable and prayer are biblical tools for bringing a sharp personal awareness of truth to people whose spiritual perceptions are dulled by living habitually in an overtly religious context.
The moment we drift away from dealing with God primarily (and not merely peripherally), we are no longer living vocationally as Christian leaders, no longer living in conscious, willing, participatory relation with the vast reality that constitutes our lives and the entire world around us. The storm either exposes the futility of our work (as in Jonah) or confirms it (as in Paul). In either case, the storm forces the awareness that God constitutes our work, and it disabuses us of any suggestion that in our work we can avoid or manipulate God. Once that is established, we are ready to learn the spirituality that is adequate to our vocation, working truly, easily, fearlessly, without ambition or anxiety, without denial or sloth. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear you vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it (Philippians 3:15-16 The Message).
The book of Jonah to me is a metaphor of how God wanted to impart a vision to His servant who was reluctant to change his paradigm or mindset. Sometimes Christian leaders like pastor could minister within the little box of our theology, which come with various blind spot and prejudice. Even though he knew that God was merciful, Jonah could not accept the fact that God would love people like even his enemy in Nineveh. But God used different circumstantial factors attempting to change his mindset. Jonah exercised willpower to do what God commanded him to do in Nineveh, and it brought blessing to the people there. Imagine if Jonah were to go to Nineveh with a renewed vision, it would bring many folds of blessings to both the hearers and the preacher. Hope you will open up to God as He intend to renew our mindset and value system each day for His glory, and for the well being of all those around us.
Love you for His glory,