At the risk of sounding like someone who shouldn’t be operating heavy machinery, I’d like to take this opportunity to admit that as I look at scripture ever more extensively and deeply through the comic lens, the character who I keep finding myself likening to God is...(again, this is at the risk of sounding like I shouldn’t be operating heavy machinery)… Herman Munster.
That’s right. Herman Munster.
You probably know who I’m talking about even if you can’t begin to agree with me. He’s the lovable, befuddled Frankenstein who heads the tv family additionally peopled by vampires, werewolves and a poor ugly child who most closely resembles Marilyn Monroe.
Herman is a skewed, kooky monster who doesn’t have much of a sense of just how powerful he really is. When he has temper tantrums (which is often, as he is still just a big kid at heart), he causes plaster to fall; when cars careen into him he’s completely unfazed. Perhaps the following video provides as good a description as any of what I’m talking about, and why it’s all so delightfully funny.
We enjoy watching an outrageous superhuman in an ordinary circumstance treated ordinarily while acting outrageously superhuman. It sends the message, in a good way, that anything, especially extraordinary spiritual power, is possible and in the most surprising places and ways.
This is the message that the God of the Bible sends, in more ways than perhaps He or His narrative even knows. While the Bible may proudly claim that when God hits the ball it soars beyond the ballpark, what that ball really does is go so far and so fast it lands in some field 1000 years earlier than when it left the bat. Before balls were invented. That sort of crazy thing.
In Genesis we hear of God’s “second” covenant: there will be a line of descendants from Abraham more numerous than stars in the sky or grains of sea sand. This is an outrageous and outrageously comic promise on its own merits, especially because Abraham is soo old when this covenant is effectuated. No wonder he falls on his face laughing hysterically when he gets the news (and, I’m guessing, needs a holy hand to help him up afterwards because by age 100 his back and knees have gotten that bad….).
What the text doesn’t tell us, and probably never knew, was – is – that the descendants of Abraham are going to be a number greater than even that which comprise the Jewish race (which is already an already miraculously massive number, and the one to which we assume the text is referring). In addition to the Jewish nation, from Abraham and Sarah will also come the Christian one, as Jesus is also a descendent of Isaac. That’s millions of more stars and grains of sand than anyone – maybe even God – was anticipating needing inclusion in the brazen promise made to old Abe back in Genesis 17.
Add to this the additional plenitude of descendants that come from the sanctioned liaison of Abraham and Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar in Genesis 16 – the enormously enormous nation of Islam – and you have more Abrahamic descendants than Carter has pills or Jimmy Carter has majorly significant ex-presidential peacemaking projects. (I know I’m being a bit facetious here; but why not make a fuss about all the great stuff this our almost Abrahamic-aged ex-prez has done?)
No matter how you slice it, God’s promise to Abraham of abundant descendants is Herman Munster-sized and even then some. It’s ordinary and beyond extraordinary. The power of God transcends even the biblical imagination! Maybe it even transcends God’s own!!
That’s amusing in its extraordinariness, and also delightfully hopeful for our world. If we can let it tell us that the power that that Presence brings is beyond what even It thinks is possible, and that power is productive and good, what do we have to be afraid of in letting it in to our lives and into our relationships and families and intractable wars? It’s a power that is wild and moves as it will- we can’t predict how its fecundity will manifest – but we can trust it will be amazing!
And make us laugh with surprise and delight. Sort of like this clip!