oday’s readings focus on repentance, an obvious topic for Lent, and in fact we are now one week into our Lenten observance. I was quite familiar with the story of Jonah and Nineveh, having encountered it in Sunday School, and even acted it out on a “muppet tour” with the Baptist youth group in the church in which I was raised. Similarly, Psalm 51 is familiar, in particular the verse “Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise,” from the opening verse at Morning Prayer.
Readings focused on repentance could be viewed as negative, as originating in sin. However, these passages strike me as joyful, even as they are penitential. The psalm says this directly in verse 13 (“Give me the joy of your saving help again”), and I picture the king and people of Nineveh all coming together to repent joyfully in community, rather than each individually at home.
I confess I did not recall the passage from Luke where Jesus speaks about Nineveh, but his words “something greater than Jonah is here” also give the people hope if they turn from their sins. Just as Nineveh was saved from calamity, we are saved from calamity through something greater, which is Christ. I like the joyful perspective on Lent that I find in these readings.