When you ask someone about Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, images of beads, Bourbon Street, and various debachery accompanies the vision. We think of the "greatest party" on earth, central to New Orleans, but did you know it's a celebration all over the world.
Mardi Gras, is actually a French Term that referes to the Carnival season before the church calendars Lenten Season. Lent begins in tomorrow on Ash Wednesday where the traditional fasting from some sort of life luxery reminds of the sacrifice God calls for all of us to be a part of, even since the Old Testament.
In Fact, if you want to read some crazy lenten stories, ready Lamentations, or for that matter; just read any of the major church fathers as they suffered through the condition of following God through their lives.
My favorite today is Jonah.
We all know the sacrifice Jonah made as he lept on the boat heading for Ninevah, ready to convice those evil people about God, right? WRONG!
Jonahs began by heading the furthest away from Ninevah, Tarshish. Tarshish is the land most far out of Jonah's Godly direction. It is the end of the world. And we know why Jonah left.
It wasn't simply to create a good story.
Ninevah was inhabited by the most evil people in the world to date. The Assyrian army was known for raping, burning, and the committing the most awful human rights violations we know of. They lined up dead people along the side of the road to make sure visitors knew, "If you mess with us, you might wind up like those people."
Ninevah was a brutal place.
We all know the storm, the fish, and then finally the arrival. But many of us forget Jonah's declaration that changed everything. "Forty more days and Ninevah will Be overthrown." And the whole of the kingdom turned to God. 8 words, and the Ninevite Kingdom was changed. Can you believe that?
The King called for a fast, the teachers were throwing ashes on their heads, and the people were in repentance. Jonah must have been the happiest prophet in the land right?
Jonah 4 reads, "But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (v.1-4)
The story of Jonah isn't about a big fish.
The story of Jonah is about someone who saw God in some strange view.
He fashioned in his mind as a God dictator, ready to destroy anyone who moved to the right or the left, but actually God was the one who forgave.
He forgave the most violent empire of the day.
He moved His wrath from certainty to certain peace.
He gave people a way to repent, and the original Greek it acually says, "But God Repented." (v.3:10) Imagine that for a minute, God repented?
The story of Jonah is about a prophet that thought he knew God, but ultimately was so focused on his own agenda, He missed God's promise.
It's about a snobby religious man who thought he knew the best way, mainly to destroy the Ninevites; and actually missed God's heart of compassion.
The Lamenting Jonah did was for his own purpose, not necessarily to know God.
So I guess I'm writing to encourage you today…
As we enter this lamenting season, maybe instead of focusing on how we think God should work through our tireless sacrifices, let's try and search for the heart of God no matter where we might find it. Who knows? We might even find Him sitting in the courtyard of the Evil Ninevite King, ready to forgive someone around you.