In the opening scene of the musical “Wicked”, the question is asked “Are people born wicked or is wickedness thrust upon them?”. This question is being asked in relation to the “Wicked Witch” (made famous in the Wizard of Oz) and “how” she became wicked. In watching the play you actually find out that she is, in fact, not the wicked one (more on this later). This scene came to my mind as I considered the readings for today. The people of Ninevah were living “wicked” lives, not following the Lord or His laws, and so He chose to send Jonah to preach a message to the people to come back to Him. What wickedness were they living? There were probably as many answers to that question as there were people in Ninevah at the time. Probably the same things we see all around us today. But, I have to wonder, how much was it that the people had just wandered? Wandered away from following the One who called them? Wandered from praying, attending church, loving their neighbor, helping the poor? I’m sure there were other things more wicked than those I mention, but could wandering, just forgetting, becoming apathetic, almost be worse? Worse because it is so easy to slowly drop into?
What I love about this scripture is that Jonah goes through the city preaching that the people need to turn from their wickedness, and scripture tells us that the people repented! God saw the turning of their hearts and He did not destroy them as He had planned. Seems a little harsh to hear about a God who had planned to destroy all of Ninevah….
But the readings of today are a call. A call to each of us to turn from the ways we have wandered away from the Lord and His ways and return to Him. As the Psalmist says “Guide me in your truth and teach me,” (Psalm 25) showing our need to be taught, to be called, to be challenged – challenged to follow after the Lord a little more closely. We see in the gospel reading Jesus call Peter and James and John and they leave their boats and nets behind and follow Jesus. They could have “visited” Jesus on Sundays, or when He happened to be in town preaching, but Jesus asked them to follow Him completely. Jesus makes that same call to us – “follow Me”. Will you say yes? Will you choose to turn from the ways you have wandered away from God and allow Him to teach you? To call you deeper and further? It may not be easy! It may mean walking away from a “boat” or a “net”. But whatever it may mean, St. Augustine believed that it was worth it when he said “to fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement”. Are you ready for an adventure? Because a God who loves you completely is calling you to completely give yourself to Him and allow Him to teach you, lead you, guide you and, most importantly, bring you to Himself. As the play “Wicked” comes to an end, Elfaba (considered the Wicked Witch) speaks of “defying gravity” as she speaks of wanting a different life than what she has known. She wants to experience love, family, truth and goodness. Elfaba spoke of the desires of most of our hearts…which can only be met in the heart of God.
So as you hear the words of these readings, consider the word “call” in your own life, called to something more, something deeper, something richer. Defy your own gravity of what holds you down or back and believe that our God will be with us, leading us in the path He has called us to.
“In Your kindness remember me, because of Your goodness” (Psalm 25)