“Jonah: Wake Up” by Rev. Cody Sandahl – June 5, 2016

Rev. Cody Sandahl
Rev. Cody Sandahl
"Jonah: Wake Up" by Rev. Cody Sandahl - June 5, 2016


This week we are focusing on the rest of Jonah chapter one, where the sailors find Jonah asleep, they figure out why God is mad at Jonah, they throw him overboard, and then Jonah finds himself a somewhat fishy ride.

Wake Up

And this part of the story of Jonah reminds me of when I was in seminary, and I was living in the seminary-owned apartments. These apartments were not-so-affectionately known as the Leper Colony because they weren’t with the other housing, and they were in pretty rough shape. It had another important geographic feature. Let’s say that this, Point A, is where the sketchy people lived in that part of Austin. And let’s say this, Point B, is the park where a person could purchase drugs. The line between Point A and Point B runs right through the parking lot of the Leper Colony. For some reason that didn’t make it into the seminary’s housing brochure.

So my first month at seminary my car was broken into for like a dollar in change in the cup holder. They looked through my CD’s, too, but concluded my rocking collection of Christian tunes didn’t merit theft.

A few months later I was in my bed. I didn’t have early classes that day so I was sleeping in a bit. Now I’m a cheapskate so I had my window open rather than run the AC, and that was a key detail because I suddenly heard so loudly it could have been in my room, “Hey!” I was a little startled, but I resolved to go back to sleep. Then I heard that same, female voice scream, “That’s my car!” My eyes opened but I didn’t move. Then it dawned on me that I recognized the voice of my fellow seminary student. And then there’s that whole Point A to Point B drug path thing. And I remembered my car had been broken into. And then my groggy eyes shot open and I flew out of bed, out the door, and downstairs to the parking lot to find a man in my colleague’s car, robbing it. He claimed it was his car, but for some reason we weren’t buying it.

After I arrived as backup, he got out and sauntered off very slowly. And that’s when I realized I was shirtless and shoeless but thankfully had my shorts on.

What does that have to do with Jonah? That first “Hey” that woke me up – I had two initial ideas. #1 was to go back to sleep. #2 was to get up, close my window to keep out the noise, and then go back to sleep. It took the second shout and even then a little processing time for me to realize someone might be in trouble and need help. I was asleep while another needed help. I was dead to the world in need.

And that is the phrase used to describe Jonah sleeping in the middle of this terrible storm that threatened the ship. It says he wasn’t just asleep, he was like a dead man. He was out cold. Dead to the world. And his immediate world was in need.

Have you ever wanted to look the other way? Have you ever wanted to ignore or explain away another person’s problems? Have you ever wanted to close the windows and go back to sleep?

I meet monthly with a group of Littleton pastors to pray for each other personally and for God to do mighty things in our city. This past week we prayed for some of the common trends or themes we saw in our community. And three of them were hunger, housing, and busyness. Hunger – there are people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. Housing – it’s nice to own a home when the home value is skyrocketing, but what about poor people living in our city when rents keep skyrocketing, too? What about refugees being resettled here and the agencies can no longer find a house for them? And busyness – saying “I’m busy” seems like a badge of honor, but what about when we’re too busy doing our own thing to actually get to know people? The Good News of Jesus Christ can’t be shared if we’re too busy to develop new relationships. When was the last time you met someone new for coffee or lunch or a new couple over for dinner? Too busy? Are we dead to the world’s problems? Are we asleep while the sailors around us fight against a raging storm?

Waiting Until It Affects Us

Now the next part of the story is interesting. The sailors cast lots – kind of like throwing dice – and Jonah’s number comes up first. Now the sailors would’ve all had their own local gods, and the general thought was that this kind of storm must have been sent by an angry god. So they’re randomly selecting who has to go first to reveal how they might have offended their personal gods – this is like telling a group of strangers what your worst sins are. Unsurprisingly, no one’s volunteering to go first.

Then Jonah tells them he has offended the Lord. And the text says he had already told them – before the storm – that he was fleeing from God. That’s fascinating, because it means they didn’t care when he first told them. It was only when the storm raged around them, when it affected THEM PERSONALLY – only THEN did they care. And how human is that?

Coming from Texas, I was certainly surrounded by people affected by immigration policies. I was aware of the fact that there were issues. But then one of my coworkers was having trouble renewing his work Visa, and he was going to be deported to China. While his wife and daughter – who was born here – would remain behind. Suddenly immigration policies became real to me. Then I became friends with a guy from Canada who had come here legally but stayed much longer than he was allowed. He could only work under the table, only be paid in cash. Since he couldn’t easily switch jobs he was often taken advantage of by the business owners. When he got hurt on the job, he had no worker’s comp, no insurance, and that eventually led to his deportation. Immigration policy is complicated. I knew that it affected real people in surprising ways, but I didn’t FEEL it – I didn’t really CARE – until it affected my friends. Kind of like the sailors on Jonah’s ship.

Have you ever ignored a problem or an issue until it affected you personally?

Caring for Our Community

But here’s the thing – God takes it all personally. He cares. He cared enough to reach the sailors – to bring them to faith – even through Jonah’s disobedience. He cares. He also wants us to care. And he wants us to do something about it. Jesus said in John 14, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

So let’s wake up. Let’s not be dead to the world like Jonah was. Let’s not ignore problems and issues until they affect us personally. Let’s care. That’s one of our major goals this year – to get more hands-on in serving our community.

We’ve already done that this year. Many of the churches at my pastors’ prayer meeting were in conversation with the city on how we could work together to make a difference. And we were asked to work with Project ReCycle to donate bicycles to 5th graders from Field, East, and Centennial elementary schools. Since we already tutor kids from Field during the school year our mission committee chose to donate about half the bikes needed for the kids from Field and other churches filled in the rest. A month ago the kids got their bikes – they got a bike fitted to them, they got a helmet, a lock, and they got a party thrown for them by all the churches. One family we talked to had walked several miles to get there because they didn’t have a car but their daughter earned a bike and she was so excited. The principle of Field told me that the bikes made a big difference in the school, because the kids had to improve grades and show respect to their teacher to earn the bike. Over 90% of the kids did it. We worked with other churches to help kids who needed help. We helped the schools. And we got to show the families that their community cares about them and their kids. If it hadn’t been so stinking cold that day it would’ve been perfect.

We’re going to help the hungry and the lonely in our community this Tuesday at the free community meal. As we mentioned last week, the church has really stepped up for this. We have the volunteers, we have the funds, we have the supplies, we have the menu, we have the plan. Now we just hope the hungry or lonely show up to enjoy a nice, sit-down meal. We’re going to use real plates, not disposables, because they’re real people who matter, they’re not disposable to us. God cares. We care. If you want to get in on the fun next time talk to Lynda Kizer about volunteering for the next community meal on September 13.

Lastly, two Sundays from now we will have a new intern starting with us for the summer – Joshua Seideman. He’s coming primarily to help us expand our relationships with local mission partners. To find new ways for us to make a hands-on difference in our community. We’ll see what comes of that. Perhaps we’ll find new ways for individuals or groups to volunteer. Perhaps we’ll put together a serve day to get a bunch of us serving around the city on the same day. Perhaps we’ll find a new long-term partner. We’ll see. As you get to know him, know that his main role is to help you make a difference in our community.

We want our community to know that we’re awake. We want our community to know that we care. We want our community to know that God cares. And we want to do something about it.


Sisters and brothers, what do you care about? What problem do you feel personally? Where are your eyes open and your heart stirred? Jonah first ran away from what God cared about. Then Jonah tried to sleep through the problem. Then Jonah waited until the dice roll made him do something. To get back on track he had to ride in the belly of a fish for three days. That’s not on my to-do list personally.

So let’s do better. Let’s wake up. Let’s not be dead to the world like Jonah was. Let’s not ignore problems and issues until they affect us personally. Let’s care. And may we step forward to do something about it rather than waiting for the dice. Where does God want you to wake up? Where does God want you to step forward? How can we do it together? Amen.