The Story of Jonah, a Big Fish and Making Good Choices
The Book of Jonah
Props: The Congregation
Divide the congregation into four groups, such as those sitting on the right side of the sanctuary, those on the left, the children and the choir. Before beginning the story, instruct each group to make the sound or movement you give them each time they hear their assigned word. The words are color-coded in the script.
God (green) - Ask the organist to strike the first chord of the Halleluia Chorus, and have the choir sing the first, "Halleluia!." If this is too complicated, ask the choir or a group of the congregation to sing the first three words of "Holy, Holy, Holy!" Be sure to clue in the choir in advance.
Jonah (blue) - The people in this group raise their hands each time the word "Jonah" is read, as if volunteering for a task.
Nineveh (orange) - The people say, "Beep! Beep!" like taxis in a big city.
Ship (yellow) - The people rock back and forth as on a ship in a storm and sing the words, "Sailing, sailing!"
Now read the story and have fun!
One day long ago, God spoke to Jonah, "Up on your feet and on your way, Jonah!," God said. "I need you to go to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to the people there. They're in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer. Something needs to change."
But Jonah was afraid to go to Nineveh. Jonah got up and decided to go in the opposite direction from Nineveh, to the town of Tarshish. He was running away from God.
Jonah went to the port and found a ship scheduled to sail to Tarshish. He paid the fare and boarded the ship, joining the others also going to Tarshish--as far away from God as Jonah could get.
But God sent a huge storm at sea. The waves towered over the ship. The ship was about to break into pieces! The sailors were terrified. They called out in desperation. They threw everything overboard that wasn't nailed down to lighten the ship. Still, the storm raged and the ship was tossed on the high seas.
Meanwhile, Jonah was down below in the hold of the ship, taking a nap. He was sleeping through the whole thing! The captain of the ship found Jonah and woke him up. "Pray to your god," the captain said. "Maybe your god will see that we're in trouble and rescue us.
Then the sailors said to each other, "Let's get to the bottom of this and find out who on the ship is responsible for this disaster."
Well, eventually Jonah 'fessed up that he was the problem. He had chosen to run away from God instead of going to Nineveh. The sailors said to Jonah, "What are we going to do with you--to get rid of this storm?" Jonah told them to throw him off the ship, into the sea. The sailors didn't want to do it, but it seemed tossing Jonah overboard was the only choice they had. They said a prayer to God, and tossed Jonah off the ship. Immediately, the sea was quiet.
The sailors were impressed. They were no longer terrified by the sea, but were in awe of God. They worshipped God on the spot.
But God wasn't finished convincing Jonah that he needed to go to Nineveh. God sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah. The fish gulped up Jonah whole! He lived in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. Finally, Jonah had had enough. He turned to God in prayer. From the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed to God. He prayed a long prayer, thanking the Lord for God's goodness and constant care. Then, at the end of the long prayer, Jonah said,
"I'll do what I promised I'd do! I'll preach to the people of Nineveh."
Then the fish coughed up Jonah on the seashore.
Next, God spoke to Jonah again. "Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. Tell them to make good choices and change their behavior! They are in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer."
This time, Jonah made a good choice himself! He went straight to Nineveh, this time obeying God's instructions.
When Jonah arrived at Nineveh, he preached God's message. The people listened, and made the good coice to follow God always. The End.
Let's Pray: All Loving Creator, help us to make the good choice to be your faithful people. Amen.
The telling of this story is adapted from Eugene H. Peterson's Bible translation, The Message.