St Mary Magdalene's, Dundee

Jonah — going places

One morning, Jonah was reading his newspaper when his telephone rang. Brr...brrr... He picked it up. "Jonah here." At the end of the phone, a familiar voice said: "How are you? Are you keeping well?" Jonah smiled happily. It was nice to think God wanted to talk to him. It made him feel important. "Very well indeed," he said. "As you know, I eat a lot of seafood. Tuna.., octopus... shark... The oil is very good for you."

"Well," said God, "you won't be able to get any of that stuff where I'm sending you. Nineveh is in the middle of a desert. A place surrounded by sand!" That didn't sound like a good idea. Jonah looked closely at his map. No. It was miles away.

Jonah said: "Haven't you got anyone else you can send?" "No," said God, "it's a very difficult job. I want you to go to Nineveh and tell the people of that city that I'm very angry with them. I have seen their wickedness and I intend to punish them. In fact, in four weeks time, I intend to destroy their city!" Jonah was alarmed. "The whole city? You expect me to go and tell them that?"

God said: "You'll be doing them a good turn." Jonah didn't agree. "They'll kill me!" he said. "Ah well," said God, "it's a risk we all have to take." He paused. "So I'd be glad if you could get on your camel and set off right away! I'm expecting you to be there in ten days time." "Ten days!" exclaimed Jonah. "Well, sooner if you can. Bye!"

This all came as a terrible shock to Jonah. Up to now, God had only asked him to do small things. In his own country... in his own town... He feared that this was going to be the end of a beautiful friendship.

Jonah and the great fish

When it was dark — and he hoped God was not looking — Jonah packed his suitcase. He had already looked up the timetable for a boat to Tarsus! He could pretend he was going to Nineveh. But, in reality, he was running away. If God did find out where he was, he could always pretend he had lost his way. But he was a coward. He was frightened of going to Nineveh. He had noticed that the steamship — the "SS Leaking Bucket" — would be leaving the harbour at midnight. By daybreak, he'd be on the high seas. God would never find him!

Next morning, there was no sign of Jonah. Not at his house; nor riding a camel. God immediately guessed what had happened. Jonah was doing a "runner". He sent hundreds of angels out to look for him and, within the hour, one of them reported that Jonah was sitting in a deck-chair on a boat heading for Tarsus — wearing sunglasses! As if God would not notice!

God said to himself: "You won't get away from me that easily! If I say you're going to Nineveh, to Nineveh you will go!"