Rev. Melissa Drake, Southwest District Superintendent
January 24, 2021

Scripture: Jonah 3: 1-5

Theme: We improve our relationship with our neighbors when we see as God sees.


Epiphany is the season of good ideas and learning how to see how God sees.

  • As an example, the wise men could not go back the same way that they came. With the glimmer of light came a new understanding. Likewise, Anna and Simeon were other witnesses of dark and unknowable things coming to light. They recognized that the messiah was present in Jesus.
  • Similar to the season of Epiphany, Jonah is another story of “Seeing How God Sees.” Nineveh was the absolute worst as far as the Israelites were concerned. Never once do we hear a good thing about these folks. Jonah would rather do anything than have to go to “those people.” Yet, when Jonah was in the belly of the whale, isolated and alone, he began to realize that maybe there was something worse than going to Nineveh? He begins praying through the Psalms, eventually listening to the Lord’s commands. But through the internal struggle, Jonah was still caught up on how the Ninevites were the worst. He would still rather die than have them receive God’s mercy. In the end, the story illustrates that the heart of the God of Abraham is always reaching out in compassion and restoration, even to Jonah himself.

From author Anne Lamott: you can safely assume you’ve created God in your image when God hates all of the same people as you.

  • Just as throughout all time, we are living in a world of fear of the other. “If the other side is armed, I better be too,” and the destruction of the “other side” is the only way back to what is good, true, and right. To be able to sort through these thoughts and engage differently takes serious and intentional work. Amidst a global pandemic crisis, is it any surprise that our survival coping mechanisms and fears are keeping us from seeing how God sees?
  • God’s ability to shine a light into our darkness is the message of epiphany.
    Jesus came refuting everything we thought we knew about God. Where we expected judgement and exclusion, Jesus enacted mercy and embrace with unconstrained hospitality. Likewise, in the story of Jonah, God’s glory and loving kindness is shown to people who are the worst. But Jonah is still mad. Even when Jonah is the only one left acting badly, God shows him the same grace and compassion so he can see as God sees.

Take Away and Call to Action:

  • Let us take a page out of Jonah and start with a snack and a nap to change our perspective. Unplug from the idea of playing sides in order to have space to imagine God loves us all the same.
  • The work before us is to reach out to our neighbors, regardless of the signs in their yards.
    Putting goodness into the world through hospitality and forgiveness means we have met Emmanuel and have been changed for the better. Our challenge is to be good to our neighbors by bringing them bread, shoveling snow, picking up garbage, or a simple greeting. What would it do to Council Bluffs, our state, and our nation to have that type of goodness in the world?

Acts of Kindness

Have you recently reached out to your neighbors to offer a word or act of kindness?  Or have you been the recipient of another’s kindness?  Please share your story with us by completing the form below.