Finding God in our second chances #sermon #jonah

There aren’t too many people who know exactly what Jonah experienced in the guts of that fish. And there aren’t too many people who can appreciate what it feels like to be spewed out of a fish onto the dry land. In a metaphorical sense, in a figurative sense, many of us can perhaps understand it.

But it seems that a man named Paul Templer can understand Jonah in a very concrete sense. In London’s Guardian newspaper this past week, Mr. Templer offered a first-person account of an experience he had on the Zambezi river in Zimbabwe. The title of the newspaper piece was this: “I was swallowed by a hippo.”

Paul Templer owns a business that takes clients on tours of the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls. And many times over the years he has seen a particular, grouchy two-ton bull hippopotamus in the stretch of river he often travelled – a bull hippo that occasionally went after tourists and guides in a half-hearted kind of way. Continue reading

Praying from the belly of a fish. #sermon #exile

How do you pray from the belly of a fish?

At one level it’s a pretty basic biological question – and a basic biological problem.

In the belly of a fish, there isn’t any air.

In the belly of a fish, you’re wedged in tight, unable to breath.

In the belly of a fish, you can’t even speak.

So how do you pray from the belly of a fish?

To push these biological questions further, we have to ask whether anyone can actually survive in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights – let alone pray there. Could a person survive even one day and night in the belly of a fish?

What we’re asking at the outset, of course, is whether we should think that this ancient prophet actually got thrown off the side of a sailing ship – whether he actually ended up in the guts of a fish. On the face of it this seems unlikely for the simple reason that after three days and three nights in such cramped quarters he would he would have been good and dead. That isn’t to say that the creator of the universe could not have worked some miracle in this situation – couldn’t have preserved his life in that context. Continue reading

fear and faith appearance (Jonah Series 2/8)

The boat is heaving on the waves – at one moment riding high on the crest of a wave – and the next moment plunging downward into a great trough. Water is coming across the bow and into the boat. Everyone on board is soaked and exhausted. Everyone is afraid.

And then, all of a sudden, in a flash, it’s over. The wind stops blowing. The waves stop their pounding. The boat stops its rising and falling. There is peace and calm.

Yet astonishingly, in this moment of peace, in this moment of calm – all those  on board the boat are suddenly afraid. The sea is suddenly placid, but in this new moment those on board live with a new kind of fear.

As we did last week, this morning we have to ask. Which boat are we talking about? From everything I’ve said so far, we could either be talking about the disciples in their boat on the Sea of Galilee or about the sailors on that ship of Tarshish on the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading