BY REV. DAVE SIMONSON - IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CHRUCH OF SPIRIT LAKE
How often have thought or said, "What a year we've had?" How has it been for you? Are you holding up? As I listen to people, there are many responses to 2020 and the changes that COVID-19 has thrust upon us. Where does this fit in our history, or even the history of all people?
One thing that was taken away this year has been our free will, our self determination. America is a place of freedom. Our country was founded on religious freedom. People came here to worship without the government telling them how. We have not been so free in 2020. The reality is that much of our freedom has been limited for the sake of safety. The duration of these limitations is very unexpected. Our lives, the day-to-day things we do are determined by the day. As our lives are determined by outside factors, what can we learn?
Let me share the story of a man that was forced into a situation of which he was very much opposed. There was a man by the name of Jonah. He was asked by God to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah did not like the people of Nineveh. Think of the people that irritate or aggravate you. Maybe it's your school's biggest rival. Jonah did not want to go to those people.
He was so opposed that he went in the opposite direction. He got on a boat and headed for Tarshish. As he was traveling on the boat, a large storm came. The men on the boat inquired with each as to who was responsible for the storm. Eventually they got to Jonah, who was running from God's plan for him. He told the men to throw him into the sea. Jonah had acknowledged that he worshiped the God who created the wind and the sea. Jonah was willing to sacrifice himself to save the others in the boat.
God had an unexpected plan for Jonah. God sent a large fish to swallow Jonah. For three days and nights he remained in the belly of the fish. While Jonah was in the fish he prayed and aligned himself with God. Then the Lord had Jonah vomited onto dry ground.
Jonah then went to Nineveh. He told people of Nineveh that God would overturn them in 40 days. As soon as Jonah proclaimed the warning, the people of Nineveh heeded the warning all the way to the king. The whole country showed their remorse, and God relented. God would not overturn them. Because God did not punish them, Jonah was very upset.
God was patient with Jonah and eventually taught Jonah to put his trust in God. The same is true for us today. God is leading us to follow and trust in him. As Jonah prayed in the belly of the fish: "In my distress I called to the Lord, he answered me." When we call to the Lord, he answers. May 2021 be a year to call upon God, and may we live as He leads.
God Bless 2021.