For a sermon I preached recently on Jonah, I stole a page from Matt Mikalatos’ new book and told the story of Jonah as though it happened today, rather than 3,000-ish years ago. The result, called The Dove, is below. (“Jonah” means “dove” in Hebrew.) I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And if you want to download it, you can get a PDF here.
On September 12, 2001, the word of YHWH came to Dove Mittaison: “Get up and go to Al Qaeda headquarters. Announce that I’ve found them guilty because of how evil they are.
Dove did get up, but instead of heading to the Middle East, he decided to get as far away from YHWH as possible. He drove to Cape Canaveral, where the space shuttle was about to head to the International Space Station. He booked passage on it, hoping space was far enough from YHWH to get him off the hook.
Once on the space station, though, everything went wrong. YHWH breathed a cosmic wind over the station. Capsules decompressed. Radiation leaks. Rogue fires. The station was falling apart, and no one could figure out why. The Chinese astronauts were begging Buddha for help. A Muslim was petitioning Allah, and a Hindu Lord Siva. Even the atheist Russian cosmonaut was praying to every god he could think of.
Meanwhile, Dove had strapped himself into a bunk and was sound asleep. The station commander went to find him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he’ll listen and spare our lives.”
Out of options, the crew drew straws to see who had offended the gods and was inviting this inexplicable devastation. Dove drew the short straw. “Tell us what’s going on,” they demanded. “Who are you, really? Who do you really work for? Are you a spy? Who is trying to destroy us?”
I am an American, and I worship YHWH, the god of the universe, who made every planet, star and space itself.
The astronauts were terrified when they heard this, because he’d already told them he was running away from YHWH. “Why did you flee?” they demanded. And since the station was closer to total destruction at every moment, they asked “How can we make this stop? What should we do to you?”
“Toss me out the airlock,” Dove said, “and the station will return to normal. I know all this calamity is my fault.”
Instead, the astronauts worked harder than ever to keep the station together. But the cosmic wind was too violent. They knew they weren’t going to last much longer. Finally, they wept and prayed to YHWH, Dove’s god:
“Great YHWH,” they pleaded, “don’t destroy us for this man’s sin. And don’t hold his death against us. Great YHWH, you’ve brought this cosmic storm on him for reasons only you know!”
Then the astronauts put Dove into the airlock and evacuated him into the cold dead waste of space. The station was immediately returned to normal, the cosmic wind gone. The astronauts were awestruck by YHWH’s great power. They spent the next week in prayer and fasting, promising to serve YHWH for the rest of their lives.
In the meantime, YHWH had arranged for an alien spacecraft (space whale?) to rescue Dove. Dove was inside the mysterious craft for three days and three nights.
Then Dove prayed to YHWH his God from the hold of the spacecraft:
I didn’t see another way out, so I cried out to YHWH and he answered me.
Adrift in the icy depths of Hell, I shouted and you heard me.
You cast me into the depths of space, into the heart of darkness,
And death’s icy fingers stole the atmosphere from my lungs.
Though you were still there, the air was gone.
Then I said, “I have been tossed out of your sight; how could I possible worship with your people again?”
The cold of space leached the heat from my bones
And the vacuum stole my breath away.
The icy fingers of death dragged me into Hell itself.
I drifted into that land of icy flames, its gates closing around me forever.
Yet you returned my life to me in that Abyss.
Oh YHWH, my God!
As my life seeped out of my lungs, I remembered YHWH, and my prayer came to you on the throne of Heaven.
Those who trust their lives to idols have abandoned their vows to you, their relationship with you.
But I will worship you – I’ll give you my whole life and every song will sound grateful. I’ve made vows, and I’m a man of my word.
The power to rescue belongs to YHWH!
Then YHWH instructed the spacecraft (space whale?) to leave Jonah, and it deposited him near a network of caves.
The word of YHWH came to Dove a second time: “Get up! Go to Al Qaeda, that fearsome organization, and announce to them the message I give you.” So Dove set out to find the caves where Al Qaeda was hiding out. The cave system was extensive – it took Dove the better part of a week to explore it all. But explore the caves he did – coming across many men, women and children by the end of the first day. As me met them, he called out,
Forty days and Al Qaeda is defeated!
The people of Al Qaeda believed Dove. They declared a fast and dressed in funeral clothes, mourning their sins. When the news reached Osama bin Laden, he rose from his command center, removed his clothes, dressed for a funeral and sat in darkness. Then he made a proclamation throughout the whole Taliban network:
By the decree of bin Laden and his generals: No human being or animal, no man, woman, child, goat, mule or dog shall taste anything. They shall not eat or drink anything, even water. Dress every human in funeral clothes. Dress every animal in funeral clothes too. And let us all call on God with all our hearts. From this moment forward, every single person is repent from your evil paths and from the violence in your hearts.
Who knows? God may repent and change his mind. God may repent from his fierce anger, so we aren’t destroyed.
When God saw what they did, how they repented from their evil habits, God changed his mind about the devastation he had said he would visit on them. And he did not do it.
This turn of events displeased Dove; he was furious. He prayed to YHWH,
O YHWH! Isn’t this what I said while I was still in my home country? That’s why I fled to space in the first place. I knew you are a gracious God – quick to show mercy, slow to show anger. I knew your faithful love is excessive and overflowing. That you’ll find the smallest reason not to send punishment. Now, YHWH, please take my life from me. Being dead is better than living this world.
YHWH responded, “You’re awfully morally superior. Are you sure it’s right for you to be angry?”
Dove didn’t say anything. He just stormed out of the cave system, into the desert and found a bit of shade. He decided to wait out the 40 days, to see what would happen to Al Qaeda.
YWHW God chose a bush, made it grow big and tall so it shaded Dove from the harsh sun, made his wait more comfortable. Dove was happy, grateful for the bush. But at dawn the next morning, God chose a worm, caused it to attack the bush so it withered and died. When the sun rose, God prepared a hot, dry wind from the east and the sun beat down on Dove’s head. He became faint, miserable. Dove asked if he could die again. He said, “Being dead is better than living this world.”
But God said to Dove, “You’re awfully dramatic. Are you sure it’s right for you to be angry about the bush?” And Dove said, “Yes. Angry enough to die.”
Then YHWH said, “You’re so hung up on this bush, which you did nothing to find or cultivate. You certainly didn’t cause it to grow. It appeared in a night and disappeared just as quickly.
“Shouldn’t I be hung up on Al Qaeda, that terrible group? They represent hundreds of families, thousands of people who wouldn’t know the right choice if it bit them, and who knows how many animals!?”