I’d had it! I’d just celebrated yet another wedding without the smallest little envelope, one thanking me in the nicest possible way, with a little cash or check. What was it with this town? Weddings, funerals, baptisms! Nothing. Or Nada, as many of our folk would say.
When Elijah was treated this way by the Israelites, he called down drought upon the land. I’m not positive clerical stipends were his cause célèbre, but it was something like that. So I did like prophets of old. I got on the line and called God. The number, in case you need it, is 1-800-225-5463 or 1-800-CAL-LGOD.
“Usted ha alcanzado a Dios, Incorporado. Si usted desea hablar en Inglés, oprime el numero 2.”
What was this? Even God insists upon answering in Spanish? And why was Español the default tongue? Why did I have to push numero dos to hablar in Ingles? When someone finally came on the line, that was my first question.
“Sir, it’s very simple, and there’s no slight intended. It’s based upon per capita entry into heaven. English speakers, are not, as we say here, numerus unus. I put it in Latin, sir. Does that make you feel better?”
“Look here. I’ve got issues for God to address. I need answers. I don’t want to waste time with languages.”
“I understand, Sir. Please hold for you options.”
“No, I don’t want options. I want to speak with….”
“If you are calling about Brazil’s loss to Germany in the World Cup semi-finals, press 1. Your wait time is approximately two years. Wailing "por que, Jesus doce, por que" into the receiver will not hasten a response.”
“If you are calling about Tatiana Maslany not receiving an Emmy nod for Orphan Black, press 2. Your wait time is approximately six months, during which you may wish to take up reading.”
“If you’re a child trying to get across the U.S. Border, press three. There is no wait time. This has the Big Guy really riled up.”
On and on they went. I just kept punching zero. I would demand to speak directly with God. It worked. A real voice came on the line.
“Did you finish your oatmeal? What about your milk? You’re going to have a big day, you know.”
“Who is this? That’s God’s big concern? Did I eat breakfast?”
“This is Barbara Billingsley. I often help out when the lines are hot. You can’t imagine how many folk are concerned about things like, well, like Justin Bieber. They call in, distraught over what Justin’s just done, and I soothingly say, ‘The Bieb’s going be alright.’ The Big Guy believes it helps, coming from a motherly voice.”
“Well, yeah, that makes sense. Well, Mrs. Billingsley, I’m calling….
“Please. Call me Mom. What’s your concern? Problems with Wally?”
“No, people in my parish haven’t been very generous, and I’m thinking God should, you now, call down a plague, rough ‘em up a little. Nothing too serious. Just let ‘em know right from wrong.”
“Oh dear, Son. May I call you ‘Son’?”
“Sure, Mrs. Cleav…I mean, Mom.”
“That’s just not our way. We don’t hand out blessings and curses as though we paid for goodness and charged for orneriness.”
“But what about Deuteronomy, and all those prophets? To follow God brings life, to forsake God brings death.”
“Well, yes, dear. But that’s because God is life. God is the fullness of life, of truth, of beauty, why, of love itself. To turn away from God is like trying to bake a cherry pie without an oven. The oven doesn’t punish you for failing to put in the pie. It just doesn’t get baked.”
“I see. You’re saying that sin carries its own consequences. It doesn’t require God to step in by way extrinsic punishment.”
“When the Beaver and Wally fight, we’re all sad. Ward doesn’t need to punish anyone.”
“But isn’t it natural to read the events of our lives as sending a message? I’ve met confirmed atheists who suddenly ask what they’ve done wrong when calamity comes their way.”
“Of course it’s natural. But don’t ask and answer your questions too quickly. Every episode starts off well, moves to a crisis, and then ends happily, when the Beav has learned his lesson. That’s how it works in family sit-coms and in life, provided you watch the whole episode before you judge. When God picks up the remote, he’s very patient. He doesn’t channel surf.”
“Gee. That’s swell. Thanks for helping me see things a little differently, Mrs. Cleav….er, Mom.”
“You’re welcome dear. Now fix your collar. It’s a bit crooked.”
Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19 Romans 8: 26-27 Matthew 13: 24-43