Sermon: Lent 5 RCL B – “Divine Purpose”

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Boudreaux was stopped by a game warden in South Louisiana recently with two ice chests of fish, leaving a bayou well known for its fishing. The game warden asked Boudreax, “Do you have a license to catch those fish?” “Naw, ma fren, I ain’t got none of dem, no. Dese here are my pet fish.” “Pet fish?” “Ya. Avery night I take dese here fish down to de bayou and let dem swim around for a while. Den I whistle and dey jump rat back inta dis here ice chest and I take dem home.”

“That’s a bunch of hooey! Fish can’t do that!” Boudreaux looked at the game warden for a moment and then said, “It’s de truth ma’ fren. I’ll show you. It really works.” “Okay, I’ve GOT to see this!” Boudreaux poured the fish into the bayou and stood and waited. After several minutes, the game warden turned to him and said, “Well?” “Well, what?” Said Boudreaux. “When are you going to call them back?” “Call who back?” “The FISH!” “What fish?”

The Bible has several very good fishing stories in it. It begins with the creation chronology when on the fifth day God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures” and the fish were created. Then we have such wonderful stories as the miraculous catch of fish with the disciples and the time that Peter caught a fish with a coin in its mouth, but the biggest fish story in scripture is the one of Jonah and the whale. It’s a story that you hear as a kid in Sunday school, but after that it gets pushed to the side for what some would probably consider to be more intellectual teachings, but seeing as how I’m still 12 at heart, let’s review it.

Jonah had been called on by the Lord to go to Nineveh and to preach against the people for their wickedness, but Jonah did not want to go. He was very well aware of the wickedness of Nineveh and he would rather see the Lord destroy them as opposed to saving them. So, instead of going to Nineveh, he fled. Finally coming to the coast, he caught a boat in hopes of sailing away. However, due to his disobedience the Lord caused a great storm. All aboard were afraid for their lives and when they discovered that Jonah’s disobedience was the cause of the storm, they threw him overboard. Enter the big fish who swallowed him up. Scripture says that Jonah remained in the belly of the beast for three days, after which it vomited him up onto dry land.

Jonah got the point and went to Nineveh. The city was large: 120,000 people lived there and it is reported that it took three days to walk from one edge to the other. His message from God to the people was simple, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” What happened next was exactly what Jonah feared – the people repented of their wickedness and God relented. The people were saved, but Jonah went away angry and pouting. He wanted all 120,000 of them to get their due, but as the Sovereign Lord declares to the Prophet Ezekiel, “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone… Repent and live!”

What is interesting is that God did not ask Jonah for his opinion of Nineveh nor did he ask Jonah to go to the great city. The Lord didn’t say, “Jonah – buddy – if it’s not asking too much and if you feel like it, and by the way I’ll really make it worth your while, would you go to Nineveh.. and you know.. tell them to get their act together.” No. The Lord said in the first verse of Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it.” The Lord had a divine purpose for Jonah and the Lord was not concerned with whether or not Jonah wanted to participate in it or endure it or like it or even be happy about it. Why? Because that divine purpose was not about what Jonah wanted. It was about what God wanted. Jonah’s responsibility was limited to the submitting to and fulfillment of that purpose.

I was reminded of this story of Jonah after reading our Gospel. Jesus has made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and there are some Greeks who have heard about this Jesus and want to meet him, so they say to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip tells Andrew and then the two of them tell Jesus, “Hey, Jesus, there’s a couple of fellas here to see you.” However, for Jesus, the days of meeting and teaching are over, his hour has come. Instead of saying, “Bring them to me,” he replies, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say— `Father, save me from this hour’?—“Heck yeah! Let’s catch the next boat out of this two bit town and go to Hawaii.” No. Jesus said, “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”

Like Jonah, Jesus had a divine purpose and that purpose was the salvation of souls. But unlike Jonah, Jesus immediately submitted to his Father’s will without complaint. The suffering that Jesus was to endure was not anything to be happy about, it was going to be painful: spiritually, emotionally, and physically, but there was no anger in Jesus, no pouting, no running away. He was being obedient to the suffering to come, so that the world would be saved and so that his Father would be glorified.

Jesus had a divine purpose. Jonah had a divine purpose. So let me ask you this? Do you think you are going to escape without being called into God’s purposes? No. Like Jesus and like Jonah and like so many others, you have a divine purpose. Do you want to know what it is? I’ll tell you. It is the same as Jesus’ and Jonah’s. Your divine purpose is to be obedient to God and to glorify His Name. Like Jesus and Jonah the fulfillment of that purpose might not be easy. It might not be something you enjoy or even want to do. It may involve suffering, but we must remember that the divine purpose we have been given is not about us, it’s about God. For to God, there is a world out there that is crying out, “We would see Jesus.” We would see our salvation. And we are his instruments, the tools of his hands, that would make His Son known.

In the fulfillment of our purpose we may find ourselves repeating the words of Jesus, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—`Father, save me from this hour’?” And, like everyone – including Jesus – how you answer is up to you. It truly is your choice. You can say, “Yes.” You can submit and be obedient to God’s will and bring glory to His Name. Or you can say, “No.” You can run away, complain, pout, cry out, “O woe is me!” But I’ll tell you a little secret, like Jonah, in the end, you will fulfill God’s purpose. As the Lord says through the Prophet Isaiah:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

There are times when our lives seem to be spinning out of control… are spinning out of control. Like Jonah, the world may seem to be nothing but a storm and we are in the belly of the beast, but instead of becoming bitter and angry with God, take into consideration that the endurance of this storm might just be your divine purpose. Through that trial, by enduring, being obedient and submitting to God, your life becomes a testament to the work of God and you, through this strength bring glory to Our Father’s Name and show Jesus to the world, so that all people may be drawn to Him.

If, in the midst of that storm and your obedient submission you find yourself afraid, that’s OK. Even Jesus was distressed to the point of sweating blood and crying out to his Father. But instead of running, say with Jesus, “Father, glorify your name,” and know that not only will his name be glorified, but you will be as well, for as St. Paul teaches us, “When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

Fulfill you divine purpose. Glorify the Father.

Let us pray:
O God Father, may everything we do begin with Your inspiration,
continue with Your Help,
and reach perfection under Your Guidance.
With Your loving care guide us in our daily actions.
Help us to persevere with love and sincerity.
Teach us to judge wisely the things of earth
and to love the things of Heaven.
Keep us in Your presence
and never let us be separated from You.
Your Spirit made us Your children,
confident to call You Father.
Make Your Love the foundation of our lives.
Teach us to long for Heaven.
May its promise and hope guide our ways on earth
until we reach eternal life with You.

2 Replies to “Sermon: Lent 5 RCL B – “Divine Purpose””

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