Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year B

Inspired by Jonah 3:1-5, 10

“Jonah began to go into the city, going a days’ walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.” Jonah 3:4-5 (NRSV)

Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the country that had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel around 732 BC. They did not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were not God’s chosen people, and they were understood to be outside of God’s covenant. Jonah’s proclamation was, from their perspective, a message from a ‘foreign’ god, and there was no reason to believe that they would or should take it seriously.

Yet they did take it seriously. Very seriously. When they heard the Word of God, all in the city repented and turned from their evil ways, hoping that God would have mercy on them. Hearing the Word of God had a profound impact on their actions.

How much of an impact does hearing the Word of God have on your actions? Many of us feel so privileged to be forgiven Christians that we don’t put much importance on the Word of God. We don’t let the bible influence our behaviors, or let a powerfully proclaimed sermon that speaks directly to our hearts really change our lives. In truth, many of us are more likely to allow our local weather forecaster influence our day to day living than the Word of God.

Yet as Christians we have encountered the Word made flesh; therefore that Word should be the most important influence in our lives. God desires us to live fully; those in Nineveh understood that, and heeded the Word from a God they’d never known. Those of us who have encountered the risen Christ and call ourselves by his name should do no less.

Let us pray. Merciful God, you have given us your Word as a gift. Help us to listen and to heed, that we may enjoy the fullness of the lives you have given us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.