Can you think of a time you’ve run away from something?
Last night I felt something at the bottom of my sleeping bag. I grabbed it expecting to find my torch. But it wasn’t a torch. It was a hot dog sausage someone had hidden there…I was so shocked I jumped up and literally ran out of my tent.
What about you? On this camp field I have seen lots of running away from spiders, and I’ve definitely seen people running away from their washing up!
If we think back to the start of Jonah’s story, he was also running away. Running away from God’s instruction to preach to Nineveh. Jonah decided to escape to Tarshish, which was in the opposite direction.
But as they sailed, a huge storm came up and the sailors were terrified for their lives. They began to question why this disaster had happened and asked Jonah which god he worships.
The bit about the storm and the big fish is the most famous part of Jonah. Probably because a man falling off a boat into a fish’s mouth makes for great material in Sunday School.
But what does the ancient story mean for us as young people thousands of years later?
We hear that in response to the sailor’s fear, Jonah tells them to throw him out of the boat. Let me repeat that – Jonah asks to be THROWN OUT OF THE BOAT! Its unbelievable!
Its such a crazy idea that the sailors initially refuse to do it, and they instead try to row back to land. But in the growing storm, with no options left, they reluctantly throw Jonah into the sea below.
And what happens when Jonah is thrown out of the boat? Well, God makes two miracles happen.
Firstly, the sea is calmed. The all-consuming storm is transformed into calm waves. The sailors and their boat are saved from the storm, and even decide to worship Jonah’s God.
And secondly, the Lord provides a huge fish to swallow Jonah up and save him from drowning. His faith in the Lord is repaid – he is saved!
Jumping out of our boats
So what does this story of Jonah’s jumping out a boat mean for us today? Well I think this story is telling us that just as Jonah asked to be thrown out of the boat into the storm – we also need to jump out of the boat.
Much like Jonah, many of us are also running away from God. We run away from listening to him, praying to him, thinking about him, loving as radically as he does, or from treating our neighbour as ourselves.
Or maybe we are running away from other things. Maybe its running from facing our fears, or running from forgiving a friend, or we are running from those trying to help us.
Storms we face
And like Jonah, so many of us are surrounded by storms. Internal storms of worry and fear and doubt and anger. And we see a world beyond us which looks increasingly stormy: of inequality, wars, climate change and a news cycle filled with pain.
What does God want us to do? I think He says JUMP OUT OF THE BOAT. God wants us to jump into the ocean which may seem scary or dangerous or worrying, and get out of our comfort zone.
Jonah was perfectly comfortable in the boat – he even managed to fall asleep! But by jumping out into the sea of uncertainty, and with faith that God would somehow save him, he changed his and the sailors lives forever.
I would love to give a quick example of a way Christians have jumped out of the boat in faith.
I am just finishing a gap year where I have lived for 12 months in a community called L’Arche.
L’Arche run communities for people with and without learning disabilities, living together. So this year, I have lived with some people doing gap years, and some people with a learning disability, who are called Core Members.
One Core Member is called Jonathan and his bedroom has been next to mine all year. We’ve become great friends – we go swimming together, he loves to make me cups of tea, and despite my name being Danny, he has decided to call me Daddy!
Joy and challenges
I’ve had to jump out of my boat this year. It’s been a year full of joy but also of immense challenge. I’ve left the comfort of the Kuhrt household, I’ve had to learn ways of talking to people who cannot talk, I’ve helped people go to the toilet, I’ve been woken up in the night, I’ve seen medical emergencies. It’s not felt like the easy option.
But by jumping out of my comfort zone and, with faith God would protect me, my life has been changed. I’ve made amazing friends like Jonathan, I’ve felt loved in a completely new way, and I’ve never felt so close to God. I needed to jump out of the boat!
What is your boat?
So that’s a way I’ve jumped out of the boat this year, but what about you? I wonder if there are situations where we should dive into discomfort to calm our storms or the storms around us.
Maybe its forgiving a friend after an argument. Or its deciding to stand up for the guy in your class. Maybe its saying “yes I’m hurting and I need help.” Perhaps its making steps to protect God’s creation, or helping the poor. Or maybe its diving deeply into faith – of taking the plunge in believing in Jesus this week. God is calling you out of your comfort zone!
And we can jump out of ours boat because we believe in a God who through Jesus on the cross has jumped out of the boat already.
So, what boat do you need to jump out of?