Whitefield Academy Blog
Junior Homily by Mary Grace Wilson
Every year at Whitefield Academy, students in the junior class write homilies and present them to the entire upper school. Read below junior Mary Grace Wilson’s homily from this week, drawing on the example of Jonah and remembering when she too ran from the Lord as a middle schooler worrying about transferring schools.
Do you all ever go to the grocery store with your mom or dad? And while you guys are walking around your parent turns to you and says, “ Hey can you go grab some broccoli for dinner tonight?” You are a little disappointed because you don’t want to get the lame vegetable they sent you for, but at least you have a task they called you to do. On your way to the broccoli, you spot a glowing aisle full of delicious candy. The candy is way more exciting and it is an easy place to get to. So of course you turn down the candy section and get lost in it. But then you hear it, your parent asking you, “What in the world you are doing here?” You can feel them shaking their head in disappointment. You try to make up some excuse but you know the only way of fixing this is to say sorry and that you will do it right the next time. Your mom or dad gives you a second chance to go get the head of broccoli. You complete the task with a sour attitude because you didn’t get the pack of gummy bears you wanted.
I do this a lot when I go grocery shopping with my mom. I am the daughter who runs to the candy instead of the vegetables my mom wanted me to go to. So was the prophet Jonah, which is what I will be talking about today. Jonah resisted the Lord’s call like I resisted my mom’s command to go get the vegetable. My verses are from Jonah 1:1-3 which say,
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
The overarching theme of the book of Jonah is God’s grace. Jonah was called by God to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. These people were incredibly wicked which was why it would be an insanely difficult journey for Jonah. Instead of listening to God he tried to flee the presence of the Lord by jumping on a boat heading far away from Nineveh. On the boat ride, a horrible storm appeared and Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish. In the belly of the fish he prayed to the Lord and promised to do what God had asked him to do if he could just live. So the fish threw up Jonah, and he went on his way to Nineveh. He gave a short sermon which led the people to repent.
Jonah was angry, though. He did not want the wicked people to receive God’s compassion. Jonah wished to die because he was so angry with the grace God gave to his enemies, and that is why he disobeyed the Lord’s call in the beginning. Yet God shows grace to people who disobey him and repent. God showed mercy to the people of Nineveh and he also showed mercy to Jonah. Therefore, we can take comfort in the fact that God is gracious. We can also take comfort in the fact that the Lord pursues us and has a call for us, which is what I will be focusing on this morning.
A verse that can help us understand the verses I previously read from Jonah is from 1 Corinthians 7:17.
Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.
Jonah was called to do something by God and resisted, but we see in 1 Corinthians that we should solely live a life of which God calls us to. If God commands anything from us, it is our job to listen to his call. It may be a difficult task but as Christians we are called to listen to it. Jonah could have had many reasons to flee from Nineveh, one being that it was one of the most dangerous places for him to share God’s word at the time. However, we see in the end of Jonah that he resisted not because of the danger but because he did not want God to show mercy to his enemies in Nineveh. We need to no longer resist God’s call no matter the circumstances. Instead of running in the opposite direction we need to face it head on with joy.
In 2 Timothy 4:3 it says:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
We surround ourselves with an environment of things that we want to hear. We run away from God’s plan for us if it is not what we want. Jonah went as far west as possible, leaving Nineveh distant in the east. He tried fleeing from God’s presence, resisting the Lord’s call. Yet, God sought Jonah out again until he did his duty.
Personally, I’ve resisted God and did not listen to his call for me to come and start at a new school. When I heard I would be attending Whitefield for middle school I broke down crying, begging my parents to not make me go. I was told to pray about it and to wait and see how God would show up in new places. But I refused to accept Whitefield, I would not listen. I wrote papers trying to persuade my parents to not make me come here, made petitions, tried the silent treatment, but none of it worked. I ended up at Whitefield, and guess what…I loved it! When my parents asked me if I wanted to stay for high school here I laughed. “Of course! Where else would I go? I said , “I have the best friends and teachers here.”
I refused to listen to God’s plan for me that summer when I found out I was coming here. I tried to run and hide and I surrounded myself with friends who agreed with me. I thought I had a better plan than what the Lord had and was not willing to hear what He had to say. I resisted God’s plan; we all resist God’s call at some point in our lives and surround ourselves with people who tell us what we want to hear. God’s plan is always the better choice. It was difficult to start at a new school, but without Whitefield I would be a completely different person. It is special when the Lord calls you to do something, so we must look to it with open arms instead of running away.
In our everyday lives we see opportunities to do what we know needs to be done. For example, this year a lot of the high schoolers ate outside behind the Annex for lunch. This means that the crazy rowdy freshmen were outside. After they were done eating they would go over to the balance board on the team building course and try to tackle each other off of it. They were playing King of the board and it looked like they were going to kill each other! Honestly, it looked pretty fun, but once I saw a tiny little freshman girl get launched into the grassy area, I felt called to advise them to take it down a notch! In all seriousness there are things we can do daily that we are called to because of our love and devotion to God. In the hallways when we see someone getting teased in a really unfriendly way, we can jump in and tell the person teasing to step back. When someone hurts another’s feelings by what they said, that’s when we have an opportunity to approach them and explain to them that their words have power and we are supposed to be saying encouraging things. It can be difficult for sure and really uncomfortable, but we are called to live a life glorifying God.
The first part of obeying God’s call is listening to what he wants us to do. When I hear testimonies about how people have heard God speak directly to them I am in awe but I also can be discouraged. I have never heard the Lord directly say to me, “Mary Grace go do this for me.” But the Lord speaks to people in different ways. We can hear God’s call through Bible studies, Sunday sermons, or from daily devotions. For me, being in a supportive Christian community has helped me hear what God commands me to do. We have a really special community here at Whitefield. We get to dive into the Word daily and discuss passages with brilliant teachers and peers. I have grown so much in my faith through the help of Whitefield. I have had many chances to talk to teachers about questions I had from my morning devotion or talk about morning Bible readings.
I would like to encourage everyone here to step back and look at the amazing communities that you have in your life. It may be Whitefield, your youth group, sports, cousins. Whatever it is, fully invest and dive into the Word with your group. Being a part of a group where we can talk about God and his desire for us can be incredibly helpful in listening to God’s call. It is easy for us to run away when we hear God’s daunting calls, but with faith and trust we must at least attempt God’s commands for us. It is easier to walk away from awkward situations than to do something about it.
I have an uncanny ability to do this. When I feel conflict coming or see something I know needs to happen but will be incredibly difficult, I slowly disappear. This is so not smart. Just like Jonah, I hide away and try to not do what I know needs to be done and what I am called to. And just like Jonah this comes back to bite me, EVERY TIME. Compressing the problem will only make it worse and running away will do the same. I have to trust and believe that doing the hard thing will be the best for all involved. God will keep reminding us that we need to do what he calls us to. Jonah was blessed and had another chance, and we are blessed to have this passage as a reminder to do what God calls us to no matter what fears or anxieties we have.
January and February are notoriously stressful months for Whitefield students. When we fall behind, we can relate with Jonah, feeling like we are stuck in the belly of a whale. What can we do to get out of this situation? Or in other words, how do we get out of the belly of the whale? We listen to God’s call, do not hide, and apply it to our lives. Here is a particular example so we can better understand. We see all throughout the Bible that gossiping is something we should not take part in. In seventh grade I was in a Bible study. We studied James with Mrs. Kinnan in the cafeteria for seventh and eighth hour electives on Fridays. James 3:5 says, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Through this girls Bible study I heard God’s clear desire for us to steer far away from gossiping, and that has stuck with me since. Instead of running away from passages that remind me of my sin about gossiping; I have to repent and work on myself to be better when I fall into the trap of gossip.
So how do I make a daily application of this call? It could be when I start to whisper or think about something negative I stop and remind myself of this verse. Or when I see some students huddling and pointing, that’s when it’s my job to go up and say something. Let’s try to understand God’s call, run toward it, and apply it to ourselves daily. Stepping out of our comfort zone and trusting it is for the best is incredibly scary, but we can achieve things that we never knew we were capable of. Trusting can be easier for some people, but for me I struggle with it. I struggle to open up and genuinely listen to people’s advice. For example, this year Mr.Selby had us write a declamation paper. I am not a gifted writer, and when he assigned me new homework that I wasn’t comfortable with I freaked out a little bit. I would ask him a million questions and double check that I was doing it right. A few times he asked me, “Mary Grace do you trust me? You have to trust me.” And so I had to trust him and believe that what he was teaching me was going to work out. And sure enough it did. My paper was great because he knew what he was doing. It didn’t make it easier for me to write the paper though, the style of writing was different from my other compositions. But, I had to trust him and step out of my comfort zone, knowing it was for a good reason.
It is absolutely terrifying to trust what God calls us to do. He can and will call us into uncomfortable situations, and we have to believe that it is for a reason. Once we build that trust and step out of the comfort zone like God calls us to do, we can grow to be better. Sometimes we need a little push and sometimes we need a big call to do things we never thought we could do. Through the hard work of listening, trusting, and applying all that we have learned we get to experience the joy of having a Father who loves us. This is such exciting news! Our Lord has expectations for us that we get to try and accomplish daily. Taking that first step out of your comfort zone pays off. Just like Mrs.Theiss was saying a few weeks ago, we have a heavenly Father who will love us and stay with us no matter how fallen we are. Keeping that in mind, it makes listening to God and trusting what he wants us to do, no matter how scary it can be, somewhat easier. We are called to serve our Lord and obey his commands and we can delight in this truth. Doing these things will grow our characters and make us more servant hearted. Doing what the Lord desires and not hiding from him will grow our relationship. We get to have so much joy in these things!
As I close, I would ask you all to consider what I have said today. Don’t be the kid who always hides from their parent’s call to go grab the broccoli. Trust that the Lord is calling you into scary and new places for a reason. Stand up for those around you because you know that the Lord calls you to. Let’s step out of our comfort zones and run toward God’s plan with an open mind. No matter how easy it may be to hide and take the easy way out, I encourage you all to think about Jonah and his story. The Lord is good and loves us so much. We should have so much joy in the fact that he pursues us and calls us to do big things! I hope that what I have said today will stick with you. And when we feel God calling us, we listen and obey it with courage
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