Journey with Jonah: What's More Important?

Well today brings our journey with this most inept prophet to an end. The image on today's blog is one of Jonah in the Sistine Chapel. with him under the shelter of the short-lived plant and a fish nibbling on his leg... Given his longing for judgement to rain down on Nineveh, I find it interesting that his painting is perched just above Michelangelo's troubling "Last Judgement" that he painted some 30 years after the chapel ceiling, including dear old Jonah.... Was the artist saying something to the princes of the church who at the time it was painted would have entered opposite the Last Judgement and have seen Jonah and this frightening tableaux (which I am told includes images of a few of his opponents in the Vatican within it)? I don't know, and I won't get into this today in Belfast South, but sometimes I think that artists understand Jonah better than preachers... There is perhaps too much of him in many of us...

(Jonah comes in gasping and covered in sun-block)
I just don't believe it! A few weeks ago I was drowning in water... Now I'm gasping for it... Any chance of a drink? (Takes drink) Ah! That hits the spot!
Anyway... Did you get my postcard, from sunny Nineveh? Dreadful place! Give me Belfast any day. But you'll never guess what happened after I wrote the postcard... There I was, I'd done what God had asked me to... I'd told the Ninevites exactly what God thought of them... I didn't miss them and hit the wall, let me you! I told them they had 40 days before God was going to destroy them... And you should have seen their faces. They knew their number was up. I'd really got to them... They started weeping and wailing, and did the old sack-cloth and ashes bit. Its always the same; tell people they're doomed and they start on about how dreadfully sorry they are... Well, I said, it’s too late... 40 days and you've had your chips.
40 days later I pack my bag and head out into the desert to the east of the city, and sit myself down on a hill to watch the fireworks...
And nothing... I knew it. I knew that once God saw all their tears and heard how "dreadfully sorry" they were he would change his mind. Too soft, that’s what he is.
I sat there all day in the shade of a bush... furious with God... well could you blame me... Why did he bother with all that palaver about the big fish and everything only to have me go to Nineveh and make a liar of me? Why didn't he just let me drown? I told him! I didn't miss him and hit the wall either. Just let me die, I said, there's no point in living any more. And I went to sleep.
But as if that wasn't bad enough, the next day when I woke the bush I'd been sitting under was dead... and the wind was whipping up a sandstorm, and the sun was beating down... And that was it, the final straw. How dare God treat one of his servants like that, and yet let the Ninevites off scot free! If that's how he treats his friends its little wonder he has so few of them! The only comfort I had was one, single, solitary bush, and he had let it die. Just let me die too, I said...
And all God said was "What’s more important? Plants or people?"
I really don't know what he meant...

Selah

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