Minister’s Message: The depths of God’s love

Jonah wasn’t expecting a whale, but one found him anyway

By Joshua Gorenflo

A few weeks ago I took the cruise out of Seward for the first time to get a glimpse of our beautiful peninsula from a perspective I’ve not seen before. Creation came out in all her splendor. The sun warmed my face, even as the wind took my breath away. At one point the boat idled out in calm waters and we were told to keep our eyes peeled for orcas.

As we scanned the horizons with anticipation, I was reminded of the biblical prophet Jonah. Our boat was expecting a whale and never found one. Jonah wasn’t expecting a whale, but one found him anyway.

It’s a funny story, Jonah’s. Here’s this guy who is told by God to go and share good news to his enemies, because God wants to do something new, something hopeful for people who have been oppressive, and He wants to use Jonah to do it. But Jonah isn’t having it, so he takes a ship in the opposite direction, fast as he can go.

Here’s where it gets good.

A storm hits, the crew cries out for their lives, and Jonah volunteers to get thrown overboard in order to stop the madness. I suspect he thinks he’ll just die out in the sea, which still beats the alternative of having to carry out God’s command. Instead, God sends a giant fish to swallow Jonah and all his reluctance, carry him back East where he’s meant to go and spit him up on dry land. Probably to his chagrin.

Jonah sort of gets his act together and actually does what God tells him to do, but he isn’t happy about it. In fact, once he goes through the motions, he finds the nearest hillside, pops some popcorn, and awaits the oncoming wrath of God to take place. It doesn’t happen and Jonah asks for his money back. God gives him a plant to shade him in his wallowing and Jonah throws a fit when the plant withers, revealing how much more Jonah cares about this plant than he does a whole city of people. The story ends with God asking Jonah an open-ended question that kind of seems like He’s asking it to all of us reading the story.

Waiting for those whales out in Resurrection Bay, it was far too easy for me to connect with Jonah. I feel every bit as confused about God’s directive for my life sometimes. I know what it is like to turn in the opposite direction, only to be brought around to the path I have been trying to avoid all along. I still find myself wrestling with God about all the wrong things. I am gaining proficiency in missing the point.

Yet while the story of Jonah often gets associated with whales, it is actually about a God who loves and cares for all people. Even enemies. Even us, in all our reluctant, disobedient obstinance. And not even the depths of the sea will stop His pursuit.

Joshua Gorenflo and his wife, Kya, are ministers at Kenai Fellowship, Mile 8.5 on the Kenai Spur Highway. Worship is 11 a.m. on Sundays. Streamed live at

More in Life

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: This and that

Organizations are running out of people to keep them going

This Al Hershberger photo of his good friend Hedley Parsons was taken in Germany in 1945, after World War II had ended. Parsons and Hershberger came to Alaska together a few years later, and in 2010, when Parsons was interviewed for this story, he may have been the last person living who had actually attended George Dudley’s messy funeral
This parting was not sweet sorrow — Part 2

The funeral was scheduled for 2 p.m. on May 5, and spring break-up was in full, sloppy bloom at the Kenai Cemetery

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
A copy of “People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska” stands in sunlight in Soldotna on Friday.
Off the Shelf: Community history project a colorful portrait of hometown

The book features the work of students at Moose Pass School and integrates further stories pulled from a community newspaper

The Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra performs. (Photo courtesy Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra)
Anchorage orchestra group to visit Kenai Peninsula for 10th annual tour

Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra will play four shows from May 30 to June 2

Minister’s Message: Boasting only in Christ and the Cross

The Reverend Billy Graham advised every president since Truman during his lifetime

Corn cheese is served alongside grilled beef, kimchi and lettuce. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Planning barbecue with all the bells and whistles

Expect kimchi, lots of side dishes, piles of rice, marinated meat for the flame and cold fruit for dessert

Noa (voiced by Owen Teague) in 20th Century Studios’ “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)
On the Screen: New ‘Planet of the Apes’ expands, brings new ideas to franchise universe

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” tells a story that feels more rooted in fantasy than the post-apocalypse vibe of its predecessors

A mural depicting imagery and iconography of Kenai brightens the entryway of the Walmart in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Visible art raises people’s spirits’

Local artist’s mural introduced as part of Walmart renovations

Former North Kenai resident George Coe Dudley, seen here during the winter of 1950-51, was a hard-drinking man. His messy funeral in 1967 in Kenai echoed his lifestyle. (Photo courtesy of Al Hershberger)
This parting was not sweet sorrow — Part 1

“Dudley was an easy-going, laid-back sort of guy, always laughing and joking, as well as hard drinking.”

Most Read