The Commemoration of Jonah
September 22, 2009
The Lord be with you
Every Christian church sets aside some days as special. Some have more and some have fewer, but we all do it. Easter is the most recognized and was the first day so recognized by the Church. Other days commonly recognized by most, if not all, churches include Good Friday and Christmas. These special days are called Feasts, Festivals and Commemorations. Each denomination or local church decides which of these special days they wish to recognize. These days are part of the liturgical or church calendar or year. These days recognize special events or individuals. When the recognition is of a person the day assigned is usually their death date (i.e. the day they entered into heaven).
Lamb of God Lutheran, along with her sister congregations in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, continue this ancient tradition. We recognize more such days than some churches, and fewer than others. Yesterday, September 21, was the Festival of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Today is the Commemoration of Jonah. If such days fall on a Sunday special readings are often used instead of the readings normally appointed for the day. If such days fall in the middle of the week some churches will have a special worship service (at Lamb of God we don’t). On such special days we are reminded, not only of the individual saint, but that we are part of the Universal Church that extends not only in space but also throughout time. In other words, Jonah, Matthew, and so forth, are still part of the Church. So I will now provide a peek at two saints that are part of the Universal Church of which all Christians are a part of; Matthew and Jonah.
St. Matthew, also known as Levi, identifies himself as a former tax collector, one who was therefore considered unclean, a public sinner, outcast from the Jews. Yet it was such a one as this whom the Lord Jesus called away from his occupation and wealth to become a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13). Not only did Matthew become a disciple of Jesus, he was also called and sent as one of the Lord’s twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). In time, he became the evangelist whose inspired record of the Gospel was granted first place in the ordering of the New Testament. Among the four Gospels, Matthew’s portrays Christ especially as the new and greater Moses, who graciously fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and establishes a new covenant of salvation in and with His own blood (Matthew 26:27-28). Matthew’s Gospel is also well-known and beloved for its record of the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12); for the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and the Our Father (Matthew 5-7); and for the institution of Holy Baptism and the most explicit revelation of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:16-20). Tradition is uncertain where his final field of labor was and whether Matthew died naturally or a martyr’s death. In celebrating this festival, we therefore give thanks to God that He has mightily governed and protected His Holy Church through this man who was called and sent by Christ to serve the sheep of His pastures with the Holy Gospel.
Jonah was a singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament. He was the son of Amittai and was born about an hour’s walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Ninevah, the capital of pagan Assyria (Jonah 1:2) His reluctance to respond and God’s insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah’s name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (Jonah 1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. Jonah’s three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41)
These descriptions are taken from Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert