#2: Cowering Below Deck

Jonah 1:4-6

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.’

It is surprising to learn that Jonah and his improbable story appears in the Quran.

It turns out that this prophet has transfixed generations of Christians, Jews and Muslims, not to mention innumerable atheists and agnostics. This is only fitting, as it is a book with a lot to say about the relationship between those of different faiths and even those with no faith at all.

Jonah has continued his flight from God, retreating below deck before fall-ing into a deep, deep sleep. Whilst all of the pagan hands are on deck furi-ously trying to rescue the situation, our man of faith cannot even bring himself to pray.

Throughout the pandemic we have seen God’s work carried out by an array of different people: medics, nurses, teachers, food bank staff and even the odd politician. Some of them are people of very different faiths, some of them will have little or none. Yet, each has been playing their own part in trying to save the ship in the midst of the storm.

Whilst it appears that people are leaving the Church in droves, too often it might be that it is the Church that is in full-blown retreat from the modern world. The spiritual life should not be siloed, nothing more than something ‘nice’ to do on a Sunday amongst ‘nice’ people whilst listening to ‘nice’ songs, reading ‘nice’ books and thinking ‘nice’ thoughts. People of faith should not recoil from the modern communities they were called to serve, but be fully engaged with them, knee-deep in the mess.

Many young people now describe themselves as ‘spiritual rather than religious’. Perhaps this is precisely how Jonah’s shipmates would have de-scribed themselves if asked.

Where has your faith taken you? Are you hiding in the hull of the ship, cradling a fragile faith? Or are you on the deck in the howling wind, praying to this un-predictable God? After all, in the words of the captain, maybe he will take notice…