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Lectionary reflections - Year A
Ordinary Time
Proper 20

Jonah 3.10—4.11
Philippians 1.21–30
Matthew 20.1–16

Did Jonah ever get the point? The author deliberately chooses an open ending. Jonah knows his God quite well, but that doesn’t mean he has to like him. He thinks God is ridiculously soft, but if God wants to make a fool of himself, that doesn’t mean Jonah has to join in. As Jonah shouts at God, we finally find out why he ran away from God’s commission in the first place: ‘I know you, God,’ Jonah shouts, ‘I’ll be preaching judgement, like you told me to, and then you’ll go and forgive the people, and make me a look a fool.’ And that is precisely what happens. In seconds, Jonah forgets how much he had relied on God’s loving forgiveness to get him out of the belly of the whale or, if he doesn’t forget, he doesn’t see why these characteristics should not be reserved only for Jonah. Why does God have to be loving and
forgiving to everyone?

Why does Jonah so hate the idea of God’s forgiveness for others? It surely can’t really be just about his own loss of face. After all, he has converted a whole great, sophisticated city to the way of the Lord. He must realize how he will be honoured and praised for it? So, no, this isn’t really about Jonah’s need to look big, but about his perception of justice. God should do what is just, and punish the wicked, otherwise who will ever take him – or his prophets – seriously again?

The people working in the vineyard, too, are a bit concerned about slipping standards...

Taken from Lectionary reflections year A by Jane Williams - Published by SPCK

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