Contrite Hearts, and Signs
Can it really be that simple? We are contrite, and God wipes out our sin? He doesn’t just forgive us, He actually wipes it out?
Yes, it can be and it is. Today’s readings, from Jonah 3:1-10; Ps. 51; and Luke 11:29-32 promise it. And I think sometimes that simple promise just isn’t quite enough for our human minds. Here again, we try to make things complicated. We even test God, in our errant human way.
I’ve grown fond of the saying that although the questions that surround us in this world are very complex, faith is very, very simple. The questions come from everything and all the hidden and open places of our minds. They are myriad, sometimes ugly, often tangled, and of course, we canget ourselves ensnared in trying to come up with the answers. But in the end, there is, for those biggest and most complicated questions, one simple answer: God. We often don’t like to admit it, but it is in faith – our belief in God – that the answers to those biggest and baddest questions get sorted out.
How does that lead us back into the message of today’s readings? It’s ….well, simple, really. Beginning with the story of Jonah and the message he was directed to carry to Nineveh, we can see it: Nineveh lay in the depths of its sin, and I see the sheer size of the city as symbolic of the complexity and tangles that sin creates to trap us. God sends Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh that their destruction is imminent. The people, and even their king, believe Jonah’s message, and they repent.
After all of the ins and outs of the story, it ends simply: God saw their contrition and did not carry out the destruction He had planned.
The one thing we can offer to God, of ourselves, is our contrition. Psalm 51 promises us that when we do so, He will not turn us away. That’s the simple comfort our souls need in a complicated world that constantly tempts us to sin.
And in the Gospel, Jesus brings it full circle. You want signs? Jonah was a sign to the people of Nineveh, and they listened. The queen of the South was a sign in hearing the wisdom of Solomon. You have had your signs. Stop complicating the issue, is what I think Jesus is saying. There is something greater here than Solomon or Jonah, He says. It’s in front of you. Believe.
And for all that His words in this Gospel reading are forceful, I don’t hear a threat in them. What I hear is the simple call of Jesus to all of us, especially now during Lent: a call to repentance and contrition. We are promised that God will not turn away that offering. It really is that simple.
Jesus, send Your Holy Spirit to speak in my heart so that my soul can rest in the simplicity of Your promise of salvation. Amen.