Luke 1.18, 34, 37
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
“…no word from God will ever fail.”
Reflection: In the Face of the Impossible
By John Tillman
Luke plunges into visionary tales of the impossible and people who, to one degree or another, expressed doubts, reservations, and fears, and felt themselves unqualified for the task.
Madeleine L’Engle, in her book, Walking on Water marvels at how often God gave glorious visions and impossible tasks to those who were ill equipped.
“We are all asked to do more than we can do. Every hero and heroine of the Bible does more than he would have thought it possible to do, from Gideon, to Esther, to Mary. Jacob, one of my favorite characters, certainly wasn’t qualified. He was a liar and a cheat; and yet he was given the extraordinary vision of angels and archangels ascending and descending a ladder which reached from earth to heaven.
In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, Nathanael is given a glimpse of what Jacob saw, or a promise of it, and he wasn’t qualified, either. He was narrow-minded and unimaginative, and when Philip told him that Jesus of Nazareth was the one they sought, his rather cynical response was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And yet it was to Nathanael that Jesus promised the vision of angels and archangels ascending and descending upon the son of man.”
God’s chooses to do the impossible with the unqualified, to frustrate the wise with the foolish, and to overthrow the strong with the weak. He subverts the systems we rely on and reminds us that our competence is an illusion and his grace shown through us comprises all that is good in the world.
We face the impossible, like Zechariah, when the world sees us as cursed and broken.
We face the impossible, like Mary, when the world strives to keep us powerless and vulnerable.
In the face of the impossible we are forced to keep our faith where it always should have been—on God. We are not qualified, but, L’Engle concludes, God will be glorified.
“In a very real sense, not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.“
Prayer: The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. — Psalm 86.4
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.
Genesis 47 (Listen – 5:03)
Luke 1.1-38 (Listen – 9:26)
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.
Read more about Ready to do Good
Can we really be expected not to counter-attack those who attack us with falsehoods? We tend to answer Paul by saying, “Sorry. That’s not possible or practical.”
Read more about Accepting Jesus
Her body returned to dust,
Like all who lived and died.
But that part she gave to him,
Is incorruptible! Eternal! Alive!