One day in second grade the teacher was asking her students what they wanted to be when they grew up. The children gave the usual answers – doctor, nurse, firefighter, teacher, baseball player, astronaut. But as the teacher went around the room she noticed that little Timmy, who was usually the most vocal and active of the students, was just sitting there quietly, looking very serious. “Timmy,” the teacher asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Timmy gave big sigh, furrowed his brow and said, “Possible.” “Uh, I’m sorry,” the teacher said, “What did you say?” Timmy took a big breath and said, “When I grow up, I want to be possible.” “You want to be ‘possible’?” the teacher asked, mystified. “What do you mean, you want to be ‘possible’?” “Well,” Timmy sighed, “My mom always gets mad at me and says I’m impossible, so when I grow up I want to be possible!”
Like little Timmy and his mom, we all struggle with the impossible, in ourselves, in others and in situations. Sometimes it is a relationship with a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, a boss or co-worker that seems impossible. We have to deal with medical conditions, our own and others’, which seem impossible. We have financial situations that seem impossible.
Last Sunday we presented our new parish pastoral plan that hundreds of us helped to create over the past year through the sharing of our needs, hopes and dreams and through our prayers. It contains some big things that seem impossible – evangelization to increase our membership, greater commitment to discipleship and stewardship by all of us, increased giving so that we can afford to expand our staff and remodel Markey Center and meet our growing needs and realize our hopes and dreams.
What do we do with all these impossible situations?
Mary of Nazareth, a first-century peasant girl in an obscure town in Palestine, also faced some impossible situations. She lived in a very dangerous time and place controlled by military and political forces that were far beyond her influence. The future was uncertain, and it was impossible that someone like her could have any impact on that world. Then, one day she is visited by an angel. Impossible! Who would believe her? And the angel tells her that she is to be the mother of the Son of God, with no human father. Impossible! He also tells her that her cousin Elizabeth, who is way too old, is now six months pregnant. Impossible! And then he tells her one more thing: Nothing is impossible for God.
Mary, who had faith in God, accepted this. She accepted that what was impossible for human beings is possible for God. But this is much more than simply believing that God can do things that we can’t do. Mary understood that with God we could do things that we can’t do. With God, we can do the impossible!
Well, this is a beautiful and lofty theological concept, but how does it work in real life? This spiritual truth is useless to us unless it takes on flesh and blood in our daily lives, in our impossible situations. How do we bring the power of God into our powerlessness?
The answers are right around us. These Advent banners hanging here in our sanctuary are not just for decoration. They proclaim to us how God turns the impossible for us into the possible with God.
Faith. First of all, it takes faith. Faith is more than just belief. Faith is putting our belief into practice. For example, we can believe that airplanes can fly – and never fly! Faith is getting into the airplane and betting our lives on our belief that airplanes can fly. It’s the only way to fly!
In a similar way, it’s not enough to just believe that nothing is impossible with God. We have to act as though nothing is impossible with God. We have to have faith that our impossible situations are possible with God.
This leads us to hope. If we have faith that God is going to get us through the impossible, then we have hope for the good outcome that God will empower us to create.
Hope gives us joy, spiritual joy that surpasses understanding, what our senses and mind tell us. We can have joy in the midst of our impossible situations because of the hope given to us by the good God in whom we have put faith.
Then there’s the greatest of all these, love. Love is both the journey and the destination. The way through our impossible situations is always the way of love. When in doubt or confusion, choose the way of love. Choose to do the loving thing. Choose the love that we have committed ourselves to. Choosing love leads us to God who is love and to loving communion with others.
I want to leave you with one final image. How many of you don’t know how to fly a plane? Me neither. Now imagine if a friend took you up in his private airplane, but then became very sick and unable to fly the plane. You’d be in an impossible situation. What would you do? Well, panic and prayer come to mind first, but hopefully you’d be able to call the control tower and ask for help. (We’ve all seen this one in movies, haven’t we?) With the guidance of a pilot in the control tower who was familiar with the plane you’re in, you could safely do what seemed impossible to do – fly and land the plane.
When we find ourselves in impossible situations of life, we need to call the control tower and ask for help. We have to put our complete trust in God and let God guide us safely through. And God will, if we allow him to.
This is the life of discipleship. We look for God’s guidance in prayer and in prayerful reading of scripture. When we can’t figure it out on our own, we seek the counsel of others who can help us. And, God may or may not send us an angel to guide us. But God will always send us his Holy Spirit if we ask.
But actually, we need to do this always, not just when we’re in trouble. And perhaps we wouldn’t have quite as much trouble if we allowed God to guide us always.
That’s what we celebrate in Mary’s life. In the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances, she allowed God to guide her safely through. And look at her now! Her journey strengthens our faith, gives us hope and fills us with joy and love.
Let us recommit ourselves today and every day to allowing God to guide us safely through the impossible, as he did Mary, into his kingdom of faith, hope, joy and love. For with God, nothing is impossible!