On Sunday morning at First Pres we began a new sermon series studying the Old Testament book of Jonah. In addition to getting all of the fish puns out of the way in week 1, we also had a chance to think about how we respond when God leads us to do something difficult. If you missed worship on Sunday, you can listen to the message here.
God called Jonah to leave his home and go to people of a different race, different nationality and different religion, and to serve those people by sharing God’s message with them. But Jonah didn’t want to go. We learn in Jonah chapter 4 that the reason Jonah ran away from God’s assignment in chapter 1 is that Jonah didn’t care about the people to whom God was sending him.
Jonah had what we might call a “motivational problem” with being a missionary for God. God had a missionary outreach program he wanted to launch, and Jonah wanted no part of it.
Part of my prayer for our congregation over the next weeks is that God will deal with the apathy that exists in our hearts towards people whom God intently loves. If we are honest, all of us will discover that we have motivational issues when it comes to obeying God’s command to love our neighbors. Like Jonah, it may be because we feel ourselves more righteous or more deserving than our neighbors. It may be that we are comfortable in our lives and don’t want to sacrifice in order to meet our neighbor’s needs, or it may be for other reasons, but all of us carry with us some level of indifference toward the challenges, sufferings, and oppression of those around us.
One way to invite God to soften our hearts and help us to have a missionary passion toward our neighbors is to see the work that God is already doing in our community.
This coming Sunday, May 5th, right after worship, you are invited to hop on a bus and travel with others from church to meet with a number of our local mission partners on a First Pres Prayer Tour. The tour will give us an opportunity to learn about some amazing partner ministries and to pray for their ongoing work in our community. I have been on this kind of a prayer tour before and it’s powerful to hear the stories of God’s work and join together in prayer for them. It will also be a great way to begin thinking about your own heart, your own hesitancies, your own passions, and where God might be inviting you to go in his name, just as he called Jonah to go to Nineveh.
For more information about the Prayer Tour and for registration information, click here. (https://firstpresge.org/missions-prayer-tour-on-sunday-may-5-2019/)