20190519 Sunday Worship Sermon
“Throw me into the sea” (Jonah 1:11–17)
According to the Methodist Church Calendar, today is Heritage Sunday. It’s also called Aldersgate Sunday.
It is to commemorate the conversion of John Wesley who is founder of the Methodist Church.
It is true that the Methodist movement started with John Wesley, from his influence.
After his conversion, John Wesley started the spiritual movement that transformed the corrupted British society and church.
His movement was called the Methodist Movement and was the foundation of today’s Methodist church.
His journal witnesses that John Wesley experienced his conversion on May 24th, 1738.
If so, does that mean that he lived corrupted and sinful life before his conversion?
And one day, he thought “I shouldn't live like this” and decided to study theology and become a minister?
No, that is not true.
Even before his conversion, Wesley was a priest of Episcopal Church.
His father was a clergy and he was educated and nurtured in a religious family.
He also did spiritual movement when he was in college.
But that Wesley had converted.
When we think of the word “conversion,” we often think it is somewhat irrelevant to us.
Why is that?
The reason is we often think of “conversion” as the first step into our Christian life.
So, for us who are already living Christian life, we think that we already passed that initial step called “conversion.”
What do you think?
Do you think that you already passed the “conversion” step?
Do you think that you no longer need conversion?
As we can see from Wesley’s conversion, conversion not only applies when someone who does not know Jesus accepts the gospel, but it also applies when someone who’s already saved has not lived his life according to God’s will.
So, please do not forget that sometimes we may still need “conversion.”
What is conversion?
The word, “conversion” really means that you turn away from the road that you have been going and enter into new life.
So when we say that we converted or repented, it is more than thinking “Oh I have committed wrongdoing. I should ask for forgiveness.”
Conversion is more than a state of mind or thought.
It means the change of life, which requires our actions.
Getting rid of the life that I have been living and the things that I have valued and living a new life.
Conversion does not stop at getting rid of the old life, but it continues with living a new life.
Today, we read the book of Jonah.
God told Jonah.
“Jonah, listen to Me. Go to Nineveh and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”
However, Jonah hated Nineveh.
Nineveh worshipped the idols and it was full of sins.
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria and historically Assyria had constantly harassed Israel.
So, Jonah couldn’t stand Nineveh.
In fact, he might have wanted Nineveh to be destroyed.
He might have been delighted to hear that God would destroy Nineveh.
But, what does God say next?
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and make them repent.
So, Jonah thought, “There is no way that I’m going. I want these people to be destroyed. Why would I show them how to be saved?”
And Jonah headed toward Tarshish, which is exactly the opposite direction from Nineveh.
He boarded the ship heading to Tarshish, thinking that God would not know.
He even went down to the bottom of the ship as if he was hiding from God, and there he fell asleep.
But of course God knew where Jonah was.
There was a big storm, people on board the ship started to get scared and there was a huge commotion.
They started praying to their own gods.
However, these prayers were of no use.
To lighten the weight of the ship, people threw their possessions into the sea.
But, the storm continued causing chaos on the ship.
Then people started thinking, “there must be someone on board that sinned against his god and we are facing this storm because of him. We need to find him.”
And they cast lots.
And Jonah was selected.
Then they said to him, “Tell us why this storm has come upon us. Where do you come from? What is the reason for this storm?”
Jonah replied, “I am a Hebrew. I worship the Lord. This storm resulted from me.”
This is a big confession.
If I were him, I would have protested, “Hey, why do you blame me? I have nothing to do with this storm. This is nonsense!”
But Jonah didn’t do that.
Jonah knew that all the chaos: wind and storm, that they were faced with, had to do with him.
It was because he ran away from God’s command.
As the sea was getting more fierce, people began to get more nervous.
And they asked Jonah for solutions.
They thought that Jonah should know a solution because he knew the cause.
“What shall we do? Ask the God that you believe in.”
And what did Jonah say?
Jonah told them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will quiet down for you.”
But how can they do that?
Even though the lot fell on Jonah, how could they throw this person into the sea?
As they were hesitating, the ship headed further into the storm.
They had no other choice, so they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea.
And the bible says, “the sea ceased from its raging.”
Jonah boarded the ship to Tarshish when God told him to go to Nineveh just because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh.
Jonah had committed a sin.
He disobeyed God.
And the Bible describes it, “He ran away from the face of the Lord.”
When we do something wrong to someone, it is hard for us to look straight at their face.
Likewise, when we sin against God, we cannot face God and we tend to run away from Him.
We are afraid to face God.
Jonah felt the same.
When there was commotion on board the ship and people started talking about why it was happening to them, Jonah knew even before the lot fell on him.
He knew it was because he ran away from the face of God.
That was not the end of the problem.
When Jonah ran away from the face of God, the result impacted not only him, but also the rest of the people on board the ship.
Because of Jonah’s sin, everybody on board the ship heading to Tarshish were faced with a danger of death.
Today we are talking about conversion.
Why do we need to convert?
First, it is for me to live.
Yes, without conversion, I may die.
That is the first reason of conversion.
But we also need to convert and turn around because others may suffer because of our wrongdoing.
Jonah realized his sin, witnessing the suffering he caused others, and so he turned around.
What does it mean to turn around?
Jonah who was running away from God now stood in front of God and said, “God, I have sinned against you. I will pay my price so please save these people.”
If Jonah did not change his mind, even though the people on board the ship were in danger of death, he might have thought “It has nothing to do with me” or “I can’t die by myself.”
But Jonah didn’t do that.
He turned around and changed his mind.
When he turned around and changed his mind, he said “God, please save these people. You can take my life.”
And amazingly he said “Pick me up and throw me into the sea.”
That means he would die.
Everything will be gone and it will be the end for everything.
However, after his conversion, Jonah told them to throw him into the sea.
As such, conversion not only means turning to God, but also means continue walking the way of God, knowing that is the way of life.
After turning back to God, Jonah was willing to put his life in front of God.
He was willing to die.
He knew that was the only way everyone else will live.
Converting and turning back to God means willingness to say “Pick me up and throw me into the sea” as Jonah did.
If Jonah protested and said “This is nonsense. Why do you guys want to kill me? The God that I know would never do something like this. This is a natural disaster that has nothing to do with me,” then everyone including Jonah would have died.
But Jonah did not do that.
He did not struggle to hold onto what he has and just save his own life.
He was willing to turn around and cast his life into a new life.