I attended a somewhat unusual funeral recently. It was held at the local Baptist church, performed by a former pastor and the current one. Friends and family gathered in the church. There was music and praying, tears and laughter.
The unusual part was the scripture that the former pastor used to bring comfort to the family, the Book of Jonah. To refresh your memory or give you a first time synopsis: God calls Jonah and tells him to go preach to the people in Nineveh. Jonah promptly gets up and runs away from God. He tries to escape on a ship. God creates a storm that scares the daylights out of the other passengers, so much so that they throw Jonah overboard. God provides a fish to swallow Jonah. Is this a great story or what?! Jonah has time to think about things, sitting at the bottom of the sea in the belly of a fish. Jonah makes amends with God and the fish vomits Jonah out on dry land. God gives Jonah another chance to do what he is supposed to do, go preach to the people of Nineveh. This time Jonah does as he is told and does such a great job that the people of Nineveh repent and are saved.
There are all kinds of wonderful messages in this scripture, but maybe you are like I was, wondering how it would apply to a funeral.
The funeral honoree was Mike. He was born into a strong Baptist family 55 years ago. He heard the word of God from a very young age. But when he was able, Mike ran from the Lord. We agreed with the preacher when he said, "You know you'll be running into a storm whenever you run away from God." Mike's life was always stormy. He wasn't a hard core criminal, but he got into a lot of trouble. His mom and dad prayed for him throughout the years.
Earlier this year Mike's daughter almost died in childbirth. It was a wake up call, maybe like being thrown out to sea. The fish God sent to swallow Mike was pancreatic cancer. Faced with his own mortality, unable to work or do much of anything, Mike had time to think and listen. God gave Mike a second chance and he took it. The hospital staff who got to know Mike, told his family that he was a blessing to them. He made them feel like they were in the presence of God. I guess Mike's Nineveh was Memorial Hospital.
Mike's family is grieving but they also rejoice because they know for sure where Mike is. I will think of Mike, and smile, every time I hear the story of Jonah.