“Do the Impossible”
June 18, 2017
By John Partridge*
Genesis 18:1-15 Matthew 9:35 – 10:8 Romans 5:1-8
Have you ever been asked to do the impossible?
On this Father’s Day, I suppose it’s fair to ask all of you fathers, just how intimidated you were that first time someone put a tiny baby in your arms and you realized that you were responsible for their life. Did that seem to be a nearly impossible task at times?
One of the challenges facing our president and the Congress of the United States is to find a way to control spending, increase income, or in some other way, or combination of ways, to balance the budget and reduce not only our annual deficit, but to begin to repay the tens of trillions of dollars of our debt before our nation defaults on its obligations. While some politicians might argue about the necessity of repaying our debts, most politicians, from both major parties, would likely argue that doing what I just described, as an impossible task. Some mathematicians have already argued that it may soon be mathematically impossible to get out of the hole that we are digging for ourselves.
While this is obviously worrisome, many of us understand what it means to be told that something is impossible. Most of us, at one time or another have been asked to do things that were close to, if not totally impossible. We were frustrated when our bosses asked us to do too much with too little or asked us to convince a client of something we knew they wouldn’t like. But many of us also know of couples who have been told that they could not have children, and then did. We know of people who were told that loved ones would not survive, and then did. But no matter how it happened, we are all well acquainted with what it means to face an impossible task and this is the theme that we find woven throughout today’s message. We begin with the story of Abraham and Sarah found in Genesis 18:1-15.
18:1 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
“There, in the tent,” he said.
10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
Sarah is not afraid of the difficult. When three visitors come to their encampment, Abraham sends her to get three seahs of flour and bake bread and, chances are, that when we read this we are unimpressed. But we should be. If we take the time to read the marginal notes in our bibles, we discover that three seahs of flour amounts to about 36 pounds and so would make at least a similar amount of bread and perhaps even considerably more after accounting for all the other ingredients. Imagine not only making thirty six, but perhaps even fifty, loaves of bread, but mixing and kneading them, by hand, and then baking them over an open fire. While we know that Sarah had servants and almost certainly didn’t do this alone, this was a huge job and probably took the better part of the day to accomplish. Sarah was not intimidated by hard work or by a difficult task. But when she hears the Angel of God say that she will bear a child, when she is already well past the age when women have children, Sarah recognizes the impossible when she hears it. By some accounts Sarah was already almost one hundred years old, the very idea of her getting pregnant and having a baby at that age was so completely preposterous that when she heard it, she laughed at the idea. And even though she had not laughed out loud, and even though she had kept her thoughts to herself, God knew her thoughts.
And God’s question for Sarah was simple.
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Clearly, this is a rhetorical question. Whenever anyone asks a question such as “Is anything impossible for God?” obviously we are intended to understand that the answer is “No.”
The God of creation, the God who spoke the universe into existence, is a god who does the impossible.
But what does that have to do with us?
What difference does it make, in my life, or in the life of the church, that we worship a god that does the impossible?
And in order to answer that question, let us first turn to the words of Romans 5:1-8, Paul says this:
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For our purposes today there are two things that I want to point out. First, we have peace with God, through our faith in Jesus Christ, and second, that the Spirit of God has been given to us, and through him God’s love has been poured into our hearts. I also want to take a moment to consider what Paul says in verse six as he says, “When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Think about that. What does he mean by saying “when we were still powerless?” From the context of what Paul has written we can understand that we, the ungodly, were powerless at the time when Jesus gave his life to atone for our sin. But by saying so, Paul is also communicating that we are no longer powerless, and if we are no longer powerless, then we might wonder what power we now have that we did not have before. And the answer is one that Paul has already given to us when he said, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
We are no longer powerless, because the Spirit of God has been given to us and the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.
We are not powerless because God lives within us.
And with that in mind we come to Matthew 9:35 – 10:8, where we find Jesus sending his disciples out to continue the work that he had been doing.
9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Jesus gives his disciples the authority to drive out impure spirits, to heal disease, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, to rescue the lost sheep of Israel, and to proclaim the coming of the messiah.
All of these things are difficult.
Some would say that many of these things are impossible.
But the followers of Jesus Christ have been given the power of the Spirit of God that lives within us and we have been given the authority of Jesus Christ to do the work that he has given us to do.
Not only do we worship the God of the impossible, not only is our God the god who does the impossible, but that same God has equipped us and called us to do the impossible through the power of the Spirit of God that lives within us, and through the authority of Jesus Christ that has been given to us.
Jesus said, “proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Go, and be good fathers to your children and to the children that you know that don’t have a father of their own.
Go and heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widows and the orphans, preach the Good News
Go, and do the Jesus thing in the Jesus way.
Do the impossible.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at email@example.com. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.