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25 January 2015
posted by Canon Dakin on 26-01-2015

Nineveh was the capital of Assyria.  In the year 597 the Assyrians destroyed Jerusalem and took people off into exile. Seventy years later the exiles returned to start rebuilding their ruined city. You may guess that the Assyrians were not then their favourite nation. The story of Jonah is not history - it is just a story which was meant to remind the Jews, after the exile, that all people are God’s children for whom he cares. Jonah is given a mission to go and preach repentance to the Assyrians. His response: That lot! Not on your life!  And he boards a ship to take him in the opposite direction.  God sends a storm.  Jonah ends up in the sea being swallowed by a big fish and spouted out on land near Nineveh. He gives in and goes into the city preaching repentance as God directed. The Ninevites respond. They have a heart for God.

The Reformationcreated enmity between Christians. It was not a simple matter of religious difference. Politics were in play. Elizabeth was facing a Catholiccoalition, France, Spain and the Papacy, intent on invasion. English Catholics suffered suppression as a potential fifth column. The Government’s suspicions were not without foundation. There were plots to have Elizabeth replaced by the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. Tensions ran high; the slanging match was quite vigorous.  So we hear one Catholic say of Protestants: “...they are more grievous enemies of Christ and much more to be hated than Jews or Turks”.  Prejudice was deep and enduring.

Times have changed. There has been a gradual movement towards reconciliation and cooperation.  There is a week between an ancient feast of St Peter on Feb.18 and the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, Feb. 25th, which has begun to be observed as a week of prayer for Christian unity. It was the idea of Fr Paul Wattson while he was still an Anglican. He and his community were subsequently received into the Catholic Church and this Week of Prayer is now observed by manyChristians across the world. This afternoon we are invited to the Methodist Church in Victoria Road to echo Our Lord’s prayer that we all might be one. That prayer may refer to the Apostles. If it refers to a future still to come we can influence the timing of its fulfillment

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