Wednesday, March 09, 2011

When the Worm Eats the Bush

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 950)
Psalms 95* & 32, 143  (morning)        102, 130 (evening)
Jonah 3:1 - 4:11
Hebrews 12:1-14
Luke 18:9-14
                              * for the Invitatory

NOTE:  Today's Ash Wednesday services:  7:30, 10:00, 12:15, 1:30 at Butterfield Trail Village, 6:15 in the Parish Hall, and 7:00 (with choir)

There is something that strikes with profound truth at the end of the story of Jonah.  Jonah has been engaged in great things.  He had been called by God to a prophet's work.  He tried to flee that call because of his prejudice against the Ninevites.  For a time his life was hopelessly lost in the belly of the fish.  He prayed for God to save him, and he was miraculously delivered and set back on the path of this great work.

We pick up the story today as Jonah begins his public preaching in Nineveh.  He speaks the prophetic word to a rebellious and erring people.  Amazing!  They listen, and repent.  Jonah had longed for justice, for God's decisive destruction of these enemies.  But justice took an unexpected turn with their repentance, and the great city was spared.  Big things.  Big events.

But it didn't turn out politically as Jonah had hoped.  So he pouted.  He sat in the desert sun outside the city to see, and hope, that God would come to the divine senses and destroy the city nonetheless.  "The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush.  But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered.  When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die."

The story rings true.  I see so many things in the world of Nineveh.  Big things.  Big movements.  Big injustices.  The Ninevites abound.  They flaunt the values of the prophets -- mercy, compassion, peace and justice.  They neglect our reponsibility to care for neighbor, especially the widow, orphan and alien.  They abuse power in the service of greed and in the pursuit of more power.  They promote violence.  Ninevites abound.

But if something close to me goes wrong.  A family trouble.  A crick in my neck.  A conflict or little problem I cannot solve.  A bad night's sleep.  I can become pitiful.  Angry.  Hurt.  Whatever.  Like Jonah.

"But God said to Jonah, 'Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?'  And he said, 'Yes, angry enough to die.'  Then the Lord said, 'You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow...  And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left...?" 

The hymn "God of grace and God of Glory" comes to mind, especially the repeated refrain, "Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour."  "Lo! the hosts of evil round us scorn thy Christ, assail his ways  From the fears that long have bound us free our hearts to faith and praise:  grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days."

Today is Ash Wednesday.  A day to take a moral inventory.  A day to confess and repent.  A day to acknowledge and remember our mortality.  A day to prepare.  A day to surrender to the wisdom of God, and to embrace the courage of Christ, in order to live more humbly and justly, especially on days when the worm eats the bush.



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 1:37 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Ash Wednesday Spirited Haiku

Dusty stars we are
sinner & saint, bright & faint,
seeking God's light-ning.


At 8:26 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks Janet.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home