Nothing is impossible with God
- Posted on Dec 19, 2011
Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said unto him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.” Luke 1: 11-13
Yesterday our diocesan intern, Sanford Groff, preached a barnburner of a sermon about answering the call of God’s angel. Sanford talked about how terrifying the angel Gabriel must have been to Mary and then proceeded to recount the terrifying calls of Zechariah (see above), Mary and the people of God. I never really thought of how the angel Gabriel might be terrifying to behold. Then yesterday our offertory hymn was Hymn 265 (Hymnal 1982) and I found myself singing these words: “The angel Gabriel from heaven came, his wings as drifted snow, his eyes of flame.” Wings as drifted snow sounds like a peaceful and kindly angelic presence. Eyes of flame is a bit more disturbing. But it makes some sense since a call from God in our lives–a seemingly impossible call from God–contains both the calming peace of God AND the stirring flame of God’s Holy Spirit. Paradoxically, a call from God is unsettling and deeply serene all at the same time.
Sanford went on to preach about how we turn aside from God’s impossible calls in our lives. The impossible calls that come when we are just minding our own business in our everyday, ordinary lives. Since yesterday, I’ve been thinking about the seemingly impossible calls in my own life—calls that we all answer and calls that are particularly our own. Learning to walk is a call that virtually all of us master as a toddler…but think about it, isn’t it a miraculous thing to learn to walk as an infant? Although I can’t remember the urge to walk, might it not seem impossible at first? Leaving home for a full day of school is a seemingly impossible call for a 6-year old. Learning to read. Learning to write. Learning to cross a street and to drive a car. The miraculous calls just keep coming as we move into adulthood. Getting married. Having a baby. Buying a house. Doesn’t it seem impossible at some early point in every call? As young children and young adults, we see possibility everywhere. When an angelic presence in our hearts and spirit calls to us to a new possibility, we may be a bit afraid, but we often give it a try.
But as we age, we often learn to turn aside from those angelic summonses. We turn aside from the snow-white wings and especially the fiery, penetrating eyes. We start to look for disappointment and failure instead of hope and possibility. Maybe the hard-knocks of life do this. Maybe we grow tired of disappointment. Whatever the reason, we learn to live into fear. We make a habit of avoiding any new idea. Somewhere along the line, we give up on those angels. We give up on believing that God has a plan for each of us. A plan that involves building God’s Kingdom with God’s everlasting love. We settle for the Kingdom of this world. We just try to hang on another day.
Yesterday Sanford reminded us that we not only do this with our lives, but in the lives of our beloved communities. He challenged Memorial to remain that dramatically and radically prophetic community that Memorial has been for decades. And Sanford challenged us, in these unsettling economic times, not to settle for just staying open, but to live into a vision where Memorial opens its doors in new and dramatic ways. It’s a conversation worth continuing into Christmastide and the Epiphany season. It involves enfolding each other in those snowy angel wings of God’s love and stirring our souls with those fiery eyes of the Spirit. That can be frightening if we tried to do it alone, but together, new calls are born.
This Christmastide, where might God be calling you to cast off fear and say YES in your life and in your community of faith. Remember NOTHING is impossible with God