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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sackcloth

"Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God." Jon 3:8

Sometimes there is a line in the scriptures that both amuses and startles us. The book of Jonah tells us that when the King of Nineveh heard Jonah's warning that his huge city would be destroyed unless he repented, he not only put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, he ordered the cattle to be dressed in sackcloth as well. Even as I write I am trying to picture the scene. The text suggests, however, that Jonah was neither impressed nor moved by the king's show of repentance. Jonah didn't want the the people of Nineveh to repent. He wanted them punished, but God was impressed, which is all that matters.

God knows our hearts, and while most of us are not inclined to make a show of our repentance and dress our animals in sackcloth, we can be sure that when we turn to God with sincerity and sorrow, God hears our cry. Perhaps even more important, the text reminds us, God hears the cries of our enemies, and the challenge to rejoice in their repentance is before us everyday.

Lent is a "big" time for Christians, and we have to think "big" as well. Niniveh, after all, was so large a city that it took three days to walk across it, and while this might be a figure of speech to help us understand how daunting if must have been for Jonah to be the prophet God called him to be, it reminds us that God thinks "big" for us and about us, and we do not have to live in fear.

Lent is a good time to think about our attitude towards the many undocumented immigrants in our nation, even those who are willing to do the most menial of jobs for the chance to stay here and make a life among us. Lent might also be an appropriate time to pray for fundamentalist Muslims, many of whom seem bent on destroying our nation. If God can hear the cry of the people of Nineveh, surely he can hear us when we allow ourselves to dream "big" in prayer and faith.

Today, set your imagination free for God's work.

What are you willing to do to seek God's forgiveness?

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