Monday, October 17, 2016

Jonah, Casting Lots, and Politics

The Rev. Nancy E. Gossling

It’s not about you. It’s not about them. It’s not even about us. It’s all about God.

I’ve been reading the book of Jonah lately. Not because I’m fascinated with the prophets or the belly of whales, but rather because it happens to be the assigned Hebrew scripture for the daily office. I’ve read Jonah many times. I find it easy to jump over lines or skim the passage. I know this drama, I think. I know the players, the story line, and even the ending. Full stop.

One day this week, the story caught my attention in a new way. We are neck deep in the run up to our presidential election, and between scandals about Hillary Clinton and her emails, and Donald Trump’s alleged sexual predatory behavior, many of us, myself included, are tempted to despair. What is happening to our country and the political leaders in our government? Like Jonah, some of us are tempted to board a “proverbial ship” and sail in the opposite direction.  Like him, I too want to flee to another country, but given the state of our global community, where would I go?

Scripture can be read on many levels: literally, metaphorically, morally, and spiritually. This story is literally about tensions between Jews and Gentiles. Metaphorically it is about death and resurrection. There is a moral imperative for us to make right choices, to do the right thing, and to repent. Spiritually, the message claims that God is sovereign over all creation and creatures, including whales and bushes.

When I think of the state of our political landscape, I am tempted to point fingers; except I don’t have enough of them. I am disgusted by immoral choices, by corrupt political leadership, and by divisions as broad and deep as the ocean upon which Jonah sailed. Respectful and meaningful dialogue is thrown overboard. The sailors cast lots to place blame, which today we call voting.

The Blameless One speaks in the end. I am God of all gods, and ruler over all people and landscapes. I have the power to save you from death and recreate your life. I am a God of both judgement and mercy. So repent. Turn to me. Do not fear. Make right choices. Trust in My Goodness whether you find yourself sailing on stormy oceans, in the belly of a whale, in cities that are threatened with total destruction, or sitting under the bush and stewing in your own anger.

I know this drama, I think. I know the players, the story line, and even the ending. Full stop.