POSSIBLE OR IMPOSSIBLE
Rev. John Kha Tran
A minister was making a home visit to one of the younger families in his parish. A five-year-old boy appeared at the front door and told the minister his mother would be there shortly. To make some conversation, the minister asked the little boy what he would like to be when he grows up. The boy immediately answered, “I’d like to be possible.”
“What do you mean by that?” the puzzled minister asked.
“Well, you see,” the boy replied, “Just about every day my mom tells me I’m impossible.”
Belief and Faith
Please picture that we are sitting on bleachers under the big top having a wonderful time laughing at the clowns, watching lions and tigers jump at the crack of a whip, and gazing in awe as the acrobats perform. We are caught up in the excitement of the circus and join in with the crowd in thunderous applause after each act. The acrobats perform high above us in what seems to us as death-defying feats. Each feat seems greater than the previous one. "Ahhs" can be heard in unison after each act. Excitement is building as we continue to watch in anticipation of the next act.
A skilled high wire artist has accomplished so many marvelous feats that the audience has come to believe that he can do almost anything. The ringmaster addresses the crowd: "Ladies and gentlemen, how many of you believe that this daring man can ride safely over the high wire on his bicycle while carrying someone on his shoulders? If you believe he can do it, please raise your hand!" We raise our hands along with everybody else, a great silent chorus of belief. "Very well, then," says the ringmaster, seeing the almost unanimous vote of confidence, "now, who would like to be the first to volunteer to sit on his shoulders?"
The difference between belief and faith is a difference between staying in our seats or volunteering to climb the shoulders of the high wire artist.1
Jesus was walking around in Galilee and Jerusalem, performing many miracles. As Saint John reports in the Gospel reading, “When the people saw the sign Jesus had done, they said “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Many people were following him. They witnessed many of his extraordinary mighty acts. They believed that he could do anything he wanted to do. He silenced the learned and the experts of the laws. He never lost a single argument with these people. He taught with authority. They admired him. They believed in him and wanted to make him their king. But Jesus was not interested in their thinking of him. He had something else in mind. Their expectation was not Jesus’ expectation. Their thinking was only human natural thinking. What is human natural thinking like?
Three young men came from Rwanda to a Church in Nairobi for help. They looked tired and wore out. They said when war broke out in their country; they had escaped with only the clothes on their back. They had walked for weeks without a change of clothes with no place to sleep. They had often gone hungry, and they had no clue where any of their family members and friends was. They said they had found a room to rent for eight U.S. dollars a month. They did not need beds; they would gladly sleep on the floor. They were asking the church to help them with a month's rent, eight dollars and some money for food, a total of $12 a month. The pastor asked the three students to come back in a few days so he could meet with the church leaders. At the meeting the church leaders all agreed it was a great ministry. But someone talked about the budget. Someone said $8 was not a lot, but if you multiplied by 12 months, the next thing you know, it would be impossible. And someone else suggested a very Andrew-like idea. "Let's have a special project," they said. "Let's have a special offering. Let's tell the congregation about the situation, have these young men sing one Sunday morning, and whoever in the congregation is willing to help, could donate outside the usual tithing and offertory." The church leaders talked late into the night. Some were even concerned that so many refugees were in the city that the word would spread our church was involved in paying rent and buying groceries and we would be swamped with needs. Some wanted to keep church and revivals only a spiritual level. No picnics, no food, no dinner.2 That is natural thinking.
William Easum is a church leader who's dedicated his life work to helping churches thrive and engage in real mission. He thinks we ought to deal with things that get in the way of fullness of God and mission; he wrote a book called "Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers". The title says a lot! He begins the book's first chapter with this statement, "Established churches worship at the feet of the sacred cow of CONTROL." One of the most often used controlling statements we often heard over the years in any church is, "We can't afford it." That is merely the echo of Philip the disciple, who told Jesus there simply wasn't enough money to buy food for all those people. We don't have enough money. Or, there isn't leadership potential. Or, we're just ordinary folks. Or, we can't do it. Or, we like things just the way they are. Leave us alone! I think that's what we really mean whenever we say, "We can't afford it".3
We are all familiar with the human natural thinking. All of us are thinking along the line with Philip, “Two hundred days wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” In other words, “Lord healing the sick is one thing but feeding five thousand men and several thousand women and children with just five loaves and two fish is asking for the impossible.” Our life experience is telling us that this is impossible. The disciples’ vision was limited, but the vision of Jesus was limitless. Jesus is asking us today to let go of our limited vision of life and adopt his vision of life.
To Do the Impossible
Jesus Christ is asking you and me to join him in being partners in the impossible. He doesn’t ask us to do the impossible alone. He wants us to join him. We can learn from the little boy in the Gospel story. He was willing to share his five loaves and two fish, a very small meal, but Jesus was able to use that little donation to feed thousands of people. It took trust on the part of the boy to share the little he had. It took trust to give to God the little we feel we have to offer in terms of time, talent or treasure, but it works. God can do a lot with the little we are willing to give.
German Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller, named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in early July said, "we must ask ourselves sincerely: How can we speak about the love and mercy of God in the face of the suffering of so many people who do not have food, water, medical care; who don't know how to give their own children a future; where human dignity really is lacking; where human rights are ignored by the powerful?" The archbishop said that for the past 15 years he has spent a month or two each year in Peru or other parts of Latin America, living simply and getting to know people. In his travels, he said, "this is what I've experienced: You can be at home anywhere. Where there is an altar, Christ is present. Wherever you are, you are part of God's big family."4
Are you willing and ready to join Jesus to do the impossible in the world? The world is saying that to believe in the Bible and to embrace the Christian values in the modern world would be irrational. You have to agree with the world in order to be accepted. You have to be pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage in order to be accepted in the modern world. If you don’t agree, they will boycott you. The purpose of Christians in the world, however, is not to be accepted by the world, but to transform the world while we are doing business with the world. The thinking of the world is “What is in it for me?” or “What will I get out of it?” or “The more I receive the more I will be blessed.” That is the attitude which is destroying our society. Our Christian attitude is “what value can we contribute to transform the world?” “What sacrifice can we offer to save the world?” If that little boy only thought of what to get for himself, and did not give his five loaves and two fish to Jesus there would have been no miracle. Other people had to go home hungry. But because of his generosity a great miracle took place. That little boy was willing to give away what little he had and Jesus was able to do the impossible.
Can you join Jesus to do something impossible for the world?