The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016
Joppa, Anyone? – Jonah (3)
Joppa, a city in Israel, places a small but significant role in the biblical drama. It hosted two significant characters at two significant points in their careers. Joppa was a way-station for Jonah as he sought to evade the Lord’s call to preach judgment on Nineveh (Jonah 1:3). And it was also the place where the apostle Peter received vision from the Lord declaring all foods and all peoples were clean (Acts 10).Both men faced the same issue. Neither was prepared to see God’s grace extended to the Gentiles, the pagans, “those” evil people. Jonah was afraid that’s what God was up to and turned tail in the opposite direction as fast as he could go. Peter believed that Judaism was the way to God and turning Jewish was what a Gentile needed to do to find God. One was resistant to extending grace to “them”; the other unaware that it could be done without going through Judaism.
Acceptance and welcome of the outsider – the neighbor, the stranger, and even the enemy – is always an issue ripe for Lenten reflection. No one is ever as open and welcoming as they believe they are. One church I served boasted of its openness and welcoming nature when I arrived. A year or so later a couple of rough-around-the-edges blue collar families began attending and ultimately joined that church. I told my wife that this would be a real test to the church’s openness. It did not go well. Our middle/upper-middle class church had all kinds of difficulties accepting and welcoming these folks. Some even left the church over it. Many were angry and upset for good while. As I said, none of us is as open and accepting of others as we think we are.Joppa is the crucible of wrestling with God over this matter. We can flee through Joppa and beyond to escape having to deal with it. Or we can wait there and subject ourselves to the work God needs to do in us to make us more into that kind of people. The kind of people (Jews/Christians) who, Fred Craddock suggests, would happily embrace the outsider (Gentiles) and sit down to a feast of pizza with ham, pepperoni, sausage or whatever other unclean toppings they might bring!
Joppa is that place where we either flee or embrace God’s call to extend the same grace we have received in Christ to “others,” “them,” “those people.” You know who they are in your life. I know who they are in mine. Joppa names God’s call for us to go and lavish on them the mercy God has lavished on us. What we you do at Joppa this Lent?