Foreword (2022): The Sign of Jonah
By Josh Seligman
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This foreword to Foreshadow 2022 begins with a song about the prophet Jonah (told from the perspective of the vine). This is because Jonah's story illustrates various dimensions of our theme of vocation.
Some dimensions are quite obvious. Jonah receives a prophetic call from God to 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it' (Jonah 1:1). Jonah tries to run away but finds God in pursuit. God also calls the Ninevites to turn from their evil and live fully in God's love and mercy for them (4:11). The song above even suggests that the vine is called is to teach Jonah of God's concern for Nineveh and all life.
But the story gives deeper vocational insights. In the middle of Jonah's flight, the sailors ask him who is responsible for the storm. They ask who he is, where he is from and what he does for a living. But rather than identifying himself primarily by his occupation or lineage, Jonah confesses that he is a worshipper of the LORD, who made the sea and land (1:9). Jonah accepts responsibility for the storm due to his disobedience to the God he claims to worship, the God who has power over the world. More deeply, Jonah recognises that he belongs to God: his deepest vocation is to worship the Lord.
It is at this point that Jonah realigns his life with God's purposes. The sailors reluctantly throw him into the sea, as he requests, the storm stops and the sailors themselves worship God (1:16). In the belly of the great fish, Jonah continues worshiping God with a psalm (ch. 2). Confident that God will restore him, Jonah recommits himself to God (2:9).
In the context of vocation, purpose and identity, we might ask ourselves the same questions the sailors ask Jonah: 'What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?' (1:8).
How would we respond? Like Jonah, how might identifying ourselves foremost as worshippers of God change our lives?
I share the above description of Jonah to give an example of the conversations Foreshadow will be exploring this year. Although I expect we will discuss aspects of vocation beyond worship, prophets and being wrapped up in seaweed for three days, I hope it illustrates the general direction in which we will be heading.
I am left dwelling on the image of Jonah in the belly of the fish, offering his life to God. There, Jonah rediscovers his deepest calling. In the words of theologian Alexander Schmemann, '"Homo sapiens," "homo faber" . . . yes, but first of all, "homo adorans." The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands in the centre of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God.'
Jonah in the belly of the fish, the 'centre of the world', becomes a sign and foreshadow of Jesus, the great High Priest, who offered himself to God through the belly of death for three days in order to reunite the world with God. Jesus paves the way, showing us how and empowering us to become fully human, fulfilling God's purposes for us. It is in offering ourselves to God that we receive new life for ourselves and others.
The title of our theme this year is 'Called Forth: Vocation and Faith'. This theme organically grows out of the content we shared last year. For example, in 'The Comfort that Comes to Those Who Mourn', Tim Harvey describes some of his challenges and aspirations as a pastor, while in 'A Mother's Loss and the Father's Love', Kelcey Ellis writes about what adopting a foster child has taught her about the fatherhood of God. In our Forecast episode 'Listening Inwardly', Scott Stevens explains how he feels created to compose music, and in 'The Physician's Role Is to Care', Matt Jackson integrates his work as a doctor with his faith. These are just a few examples; you can find all of last year's work on our Contents page.
As before, new work will be posted on the Foreshadow website every Monday. Included will be writing and art of a different era (our Foresight series). I invite anyone to contribute to our theme by submitting writing, art or music; you can find submission guidelines here.
Regarding Forecast, Will Shine and I are preparing more episodes and interviews that follow our theme. We look forward to launching these soon. In the meantime, you can find our previous episodes here.
If you haven't already, I encourage you to sign up to our newsletter. I will aim to send this newsletter out every Monday, as usual, but if I am delayed, especially over the next month or so, this is likely because of the baby that's on the way. Even if I don't send a newsletter on a certain week, I still intend to post new work on the main website every week, so you can check the website regularly for updates.
Thank you for reading and supporting Foreshadow. I look forward to journeying with you this year through our exploration of vocation -- whether that involves a trip to Nineveh or faithfully serving God wherever we are.
Josh is the founding editor of Foreshadow and a co-host of its podcast, Forecast.
1/6/2022 06:22:37 am
Wonderful! Oh, How Prose and Song has helped seal the Faith and strengthen the integrity of the believer in Love and Life
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