Epiphany 3: Jonah’s Blessing

Jonah's BlessingImage: Jonah’s Blessing © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures for Epiphany 3: Jonah 3.1-5, 10

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh,
according to the word of the Lord.

–Jonah 3.3

To appreciate what a marvel it is that Jonah finally goes to Nineveh, and to understand what it took to get him there, it is crucial to know what happens prior to this passage. This is one of just two readings the Revised Common Lectionary gives us from the book of Jonah, completely missing the gorgeous prayer of Jonah in chapter 2, so this is a great chance to revisit Jonah if it’s been a while since you’ve read this petite but powerful book. Important, too, to know what comes after this passage—that Jonah does not come away feeling warm and cozy about God, who stirs Jonah’s anger not by being less merciful toward Nineveh than Jonah imagined, but more.

Plus, reading the book of Jonah in its concise entirety invites us to contemplate just what sort of God we follow, who in a time of peril would send provision in the form of a great fish, and who stuns us by being more full of grace than we ever imagined.

In what strange quarter might you find refuge this week? How will you keep your eyes open for the God who is bent on drenching us with mercy in unaccountable measure?

Jonah’s Blessing

It comes as small surprise
that you would turn your back
on this blessing,
that you would run
far from the direction
in which it calls,
that you would try
to put an ocean
between yourself
and what it asks.

Something in you knows
this blessing could
swallow you whole
no matter which way
you turn.

Hard to believe, then,
that every line of this blessing
swims in grace—
grace that, in the end,
even you
will find hard to fathom
so swiftly does it come
and with such completeness,
encompassing all
it finds.

What to do, then,
with such a blessing
that depends so little
on us
and yet asks of us

What to do
with a blessing
that comes with
such strange provision,
every inch of it
looking like something
that will draw us
into our dying?

Trust me when I say
all it wants
is for you
to fall in,
to let yourself
find yourself
engulfed within
the curious refuge
that it holds

and then to go
in the direction
it propels you,
following its flow
that will bear you
where you desired not
where you dreamed not
yet none but you
could land.

– Jan Richardson

Blessing of Song: For a bonus blessing, I want to share Gary’s marvelous song “Jonah’s Prayer.” You can listen by clicking the arrow on the audio player below. [For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the audio player, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook site, where you can view the player in this post.] The song is © Garrison Doles from his CD House of Prayer.

For my reflections on this week’s gospel lection, begin by clicking the image or title below.

Epiphany 3: Blessing the Nets

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Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Jonah’s Blessing,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

6 Responses to “Epiphany 3: Jonah’s Blessing”

  1. Jeanne Conzemius Says:

    Thanks for the message.

  2. Hilary Campbell Says:

    I used your inspiring words as part of my sermon yesterday, Jan. https://revhillersblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/epiphany-3-jonahs-blessing/ Many thanks.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Hilary, thanks so much! I’m grateful for the chance to read your lovely and thoughtful sermon. Thank you for sharing it with us. Blessings!

  3. Amy Says:

    Your beautiful words inspired art of my own. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us.


    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Ooooohhhh, Amy, that’s marvelous! Thank you so much for sharing your art! What a beautiful image. Blessings to you!

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