Wrestling With the Bible: God Is Not Nice

the helix nebula photo from NASA

The Helix Nebula, NASA photo

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I like to think of God as nice.

Nice as in helping out with some extra wine at a wedding when the host’s supply runs out. Nice as in “Suffer little children . . . to come unto me.” Nice as in forgiving everybody’s sins, Jacob’s, David’s, an adulteress’s, mine.

In the 2 Kings passage, a chariot and horses of fire descend to the earth as the prophet Elijah is taken up to heaven in a powerful whirlwind. It’s all the loyal Elisha, standing by his mentor till the end, can do to hold his ground and keep his eyes on the disappearing Elijah.

In the Mark passage, Jesus invites three of his disciples to accompany him to a mountaintop, where they are subjected to an unearthly theophany.  Jesus’ garments dazzle. Moses and Elijah appear. A cloud overshadows the disciples. The voice of God booms. The disciples are terrified.

What I like about the nice God is, it’s very human. I can understand it. What discomfits me about the other God, the God of whirlwinds and dazzling garments and big voices echoing from the heavens is – it is beyond my ken. It is reaching into my world from an alien place that may or may not be hospitable. And that God is frightening.

Like Peter, I want to tame the fierce God into niceness – build little dwellings for Jesus, Elijah and Moses. Domesticate them.

Can they be domesticated?

LECTIONARY: Last Sunday after the Epiphany, The Transfiguration

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

“As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.” – 2 Kings 2:11-12

“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.” – Mark 9:2-8

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© 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Barbara Falconer Newhall. and www.GodsBigBlog.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog's author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that full and clear credit is given to Barbara Falconer Newhall and www.GodBigBlog.com with appropriate and specifc direction to the original content. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA. The Psalms are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. Material originally published and copyrighted by the Oakland Tribune is posted here by permission. WordPress theme adapted from Thematic Theme Framework