Faith + Open: In Lent we focus on repentance, renewal and community. A beloved story from the Old Testament that is often drawn upon in this season is that of Jonah and the big fish. Jonah is a prophet who runs away from God’s command to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. He spends three days (note the same span that Jesus is dead) before being released from the fish. Jesus uses the metaphor of Jonah being in the fish for three days for his own death and resurrection. Read the whole book of Jonah as a family either in one sitting (it is not long) or in two or three installments. It is found on page 190 of the Spark Story Bible. Begin your devotion time by lighting a candle and a prayer.
Faith + Share: For adults: Was there a time when you know you ran from God? Why did you “hide”? Or how did you “hide”? We don’t all physically run away, sometimes we choose activities that keep us from God. What are the things that keep you from a close relationship with God? TV, food, work, hobbies? These things in and of themselves are not bad but when they keep us from devotion, worship and service they can be an obstacle. The old trite saying is true that we sometimes have to hit rock bottom (or get swallowed by a whale!) before we know that we need God to save us and we need to remember our identity as God’s child. Has someone ever told you something or asked you something that made you realize that you were in need of confession and repentance like the Ninevites? How did you react?
For children: Sometimes it’s hard to do the things that God wants us to do. Have you ever tried to be nice to someone who was not being nice to you? What did that feel like? Hard, easy, scary? Jonah felt that it was too hard to go to Nineveh to tell them that God wanted them to say they were sorry for the things they had done so he went on a boat instead! But God had a big fish swallow him and Jonah knew that he had to listen to God. So Jonah went to Nineveh (after being spit out by the fish! EWWW!) and told the Ninevites to say they were sorry to God. Jonah still wanted the people of Nineveh to be punished by God though. But God forgave them instead! This surprised Jonah! God forgives us even when we may not deserve it! Have you ever been forgiven by someone even when maybe you didn’t deserve it? When?
Faith + Serve: Just as Jonah was sent to proclaim God’s love to people he didn’t know in Nineveh, so we too are sent to tell people all over the world that God loves them! One way that we do that in the ELCA is to help people in malaria infested countries receive nets to protect them from mosquitoes. For only $10 a net can be given to a family and can save a life! For Lent have a change jar on a kitchen counter or some other prominent place. Every time you pray for a meal or pray at church, or anywhere, put some change in the jar. Have a family goal of 2 or 3 nets for the six week period!
Faith + Blessing: Anytime someone leaves the house offer this blessing: No matter where you go, God is with you!