I've been meditating for the past week on the book of Jonah. I went through it six times. Well, ok, so I haven't been in intense Biblical study, I've been hanging out with John.
John is an old friend with YWAM Canada's Word To Life Theatre Arts based in British Colombia. This was his forth year coming to Modesto for a little tour. John presents the scriptures through creative storytelling and Jonah is one of my favorite's so far.
John shared "Jonah - God said Go" at a couple of churches, a recovery group, a bible study, a retirement home, and a community youth group. We had a great week and I had the specific privilege of seeing all of them. John's presentation is funny, disarming, inviting and insightful. It was fun watching the different groups respond to John and the scripture. John's performance puts the old story in historical context and brings the message right back to us.
Why is it that we make people, dearly loved and longed for by God, our enemies? We can be so quick and reactionary to wish judgment on other cultures, nations, peoples, classes or even individuals. How easily our own comfort and ideas about who is in and who is out can get in the way of what God wants to do through us.
At the end of the story, Jonah is angry that God had compassion on the wicked, repentant Ninavites and he sulks under a shade vine that God causes to wither. And Jonah even pouts about the vine. And God speaks...
"You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"
And that is the question that ends the story. And I think about Modesto, about gangs and the thug culture so prevalent here, about drug addicts and dealers, about prostitutes and johns, and even about how easy it is for our churches to miss the point. And I know that God loves us all. He is concerned with this great city.
And part of the message came to me through John himself, not just the story. This was his least lucrative trip yet. John does not charge a set price for a performance, but gives guidelines and trusts God that he will be provided for. Of course, most of the places I can book him into do not have a lot of money or resource. I even talked to him a week before he came to ask if he wanted to cancel as there just wasn't a lot of paid performances.
But he came anyway, to serve, connect and share his gift wherever he could. We had a great week together.