Whenever the story of Jonah comes up in scripture I can help but think of Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail” and the scene when the knights meet resistance as they try and over take a castle. They start yelling, “Run Away! Run Away!”
The section of the story of Jonah we hear this morning is after he’s been swallowed (and spit out) by the big fish (not in fact, a whale). This section makes it sound as if Jonah is a dutiful prophet, willing to do God will. Actually, at first he ran away, unwilling to do the Lord’s will. But no matter how far he ran, even if he was plunged into the ocean, he couldn’t escape; he couldn’t run away from God and God’s desire that Jonah be a prophet for the people of Nineveh.
Even after everything took place, after everything Jonah experienced he didn’t learn very much about the true nature of God. He just didn’t get that God loves everything that God made, including the sinful people of Nineveh and the bug that eats the plant that shades Jonah.
So, if Jonah, a prophet of the Lord, is a coward, unable or unwilling to acknowledge God’s love and mercy, we can, from time to time be so too. As you know, God’s mercy isn’t exclusive to the people of Nineveh or bugs. God loves Jonah.
In fact (and this is the Gospel), God loves each of us, even if we act cowardly, or without love or mercy ourselves. God wants us to learn the same message he had for Jonah. Every created thing was created for love. God will not turn God’s love away from anything or anyone God created. No matter how far we run, no matter how much we deny it, no matter how unbelievable it seems: God’s love is inescapable.