Art of the possible
Genesis 12, 1-8, Romans 4, 1-17, John 3, 1-1

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, or strength and our redeemer.

I want you all to think back over the last week, over the last 7 days. Do you think in that time that you have done anything impossible. The logical among you will say, "Of course not, if it were impossible then we could not have done it". But this rather depends on your definition of the impossible.

Maybe you have cooked your supper in a microwave oven. There is a high probability that you watched a television programme. Maybe you have used the telephone or the internet to communicate with someone on the other side of the country or the other side of the world. Maybe you have been walking around with a false hip joint or knee joint. Perhaps you drew some cash out of the bank using a hole in the wall cash dispenser or paid for your groceries at the supermarket using a credit card.

I spent much of the last week abroad on business - in Japan . I flew to Tokyo on Wednesday morning and got back last night - Saturday - just 3 days later having spent 2 full days in Japan thanks to the miracle of modern jet travel.

All of these things would have been considered impossible at one time. 200 years ago, no-one would have believed we would be talking to each other at opposite ends of the world down telephone wires or that I could travel to Japan in just 12 hours. 100 years ago, colour television would have seemed a ludicrous idea. 50 years ago, the internet would have been a fantasy better suited to science fiction than science fact. The impossible has become possible.

Who knows what impossibilities for us today will become possible with the passing of time and the accumulation of knowledge. An answer to world poverty? The end of wars and terrorism? Equal rights for all, regardless of gender, creed or colour. What miracles are there in store for us and our children and grandchildren as the 21 st century unfolds. How much of the impossible will become possible.

So the art of the possible depends on your perspective. From our perspective, trapped as we are in this moment in time, at the start of the 21 st century, we take for granted, television, computers, space travel, genetic engineering and a shrinking world. We fantasise about time travel, feeding the world and stopping war. Who knows how our perspective will change in 100 years from now.

2000 years ago, Jesus met a man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee who appeared hungry to learn the new doctrine that Jesus preached. He said to Jesus that he believed that Jesus had come from God because of the great miracles that Jesus had performed. Jesus told him that no man could enter the kingdom of heaven without being born again and poor Nicodemus could not understand this statement. He couldn't understand how someone could be born again. "It's impossible". He couldn't understand what was possible with God so he assumed it was impossible.

Nicodemus is so flummoxed by the unexpected nature of Jesus' images and the possibilities of his promises, that all he can keep stammering is "How is it possible?"

How is it possible to be born from above when our physical birthday is long past?

How is it possible for us to see and to enter the kingdom of God ?

How is it possible for sinful men and women to enter the kingdom of heaven?

How is it possible for mortal creatures such as ourselves to attain eternal life?

The answer to the question, "How is it possible?" is that we have got an impossible God. A God who makes the impossible, possible if only we could have faith. Jesus sums it up for Nicodemus in that one memorable verse that we now use as part of our regular liturgy. He tells Nicodemus,

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life"

All things are now possible because God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Jesus is God's commitment to doing the impossible.

When I was a child, I remember a thought that used to frighten me. I used to look up at the sky at night, at all the stars, those millions of suns and planets, those galaxies that stretched forever into limitless space and I used to wonder about the God that created all of that. I tried to relate it to my human knowledge of time and space and the bit that used to frighten me was the thought that God was infinite. He had never come into existence at some point in time but was always there.

I suppose it frightened me because I could not get my childish brain around that concept. To be honest, my adult brain can't manage it either but it no longer frightens me. If we try to get our feeble minds around that concept of God as infinite we just get more fogged and befuddled and lose any hope of knowing God as a person. But God is there to rescue us. God gives us the planned focussing of himself in a human being, the person of Jesus Christ.

If we accept that one simple fact, that God became man in the person of Christ, then so much of that mystery that so worried me as a child disappears. God has substance and form. More importantly, we recognise that this great and infinite God whose hands flung the stars into space cared enough about us to send his Son to die for our sins so that we might know eternal life.

Let me finish with a couple of stories about impossible situations; one to amuse you, I hope, the other to make you think. A man who was terribly overweight went to see his doctor. "Doctor he said, I've tried everything to lose weight but it's impossible". "No" said the doctor, "nothing is impossible. I have a method that I guarantee will work. I want you to eat normally for two days, then skip a day, eat normally for a further two days then skip a day and keep repeating that pattern for two weeks. I guarantee that you will lose at least half a stone."

Two weeks later, the man returned and to the doctors amazement he had not lost half a stone, he had lost 3 stones. "That's amazing" said the doctor, did you do what I told you and eat normally for 2 days and then skip a day?". "Yes" said the man, but I thought I was going to drop dead on those third days". "Really?" said the doctor, "From hunger you mean" "No" said the man, "From the skipping!"

The other story is of a man walking along a road with his son when they came across a large rock in the middle of the road. "Do you think if I use all my strength, I could move that rock?" asked the boy. "I'm sure you can if you use all your strength" replied his father. The boy pushed and pulled and grunted and groaned but the rock didn't budge. "You were wrong" the boy said, " I couldn't move it" "Ah", said his father, "That's because you didn't use all your strength - you didn't ask me to help you"

How often do we face the seemingly impossible in our daily lives and how often do we forget to use all our strength by asking God for his help.

Tom Crotty