Sermon March 1, 2015

A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Mark 8:31-38

I’m going to go with just five words this week. Just five.

Five words that we know well, and the first word is IMPOSSIBLE.

We begin with impossible because the promise that God made to Abraham and Sarah was, well, impossible. But before we get to the promise God made to a 99 year old man and his really old wife, let’s look at what Abraham had to do:

Walk before God, and be blameless.

I really had to wrestle with what those words mean.


Out in front of God. Where God can see you. That makes sense, but when I read the Gospel I think it means something else, too.

Something like walking in front of the parade, carrying the flag.
Something like living your life in a way that proclaims, this is who I am- a person who follows Jesus.

But when we follow Jesus, that implies- behind, in his footsteps.

Not out in front.

Except we know, really, the footsteps are not literally footsteps.

They are bible stories and lessons and verses that we take to heart.
They are creeds and examples from those who have struggled and prevailed before us.
They are answered prayers.
They’re all around us, but we have to look and gather them like manna in the desert.
They’re not usually a clear path out in front of us.

So really, we walk where we can’t see, trusting that God is behind us. And sometimes we don’t really trust. We just pray and hope.

Like Abraham, who had heard this very same promise once before.

So before any of God’s impossibilities had to become possible, Abraham had to do the difficult. Walk in front of God, and he had to do what was impossible- walk blamelessly.

The Hebrew words mostly means complete- confident and sure, but it does also mean without blemish.

Walk in front of God, looking ahead not back, and somehow stay in step.

That’s a nice trick if you can do it.

But if you can, God will do the impossible.

Stir up the loins of a 99 year old man, stir up the womb of his really old wife. Bring life where there was nothing, nada, zippo before.

Die on a cross, rise from the dead.

Impossible, that’s for sure.

Then we add a second word. NEVER.

Never. The word Peter probably said to Jesus.

Jesus, that will never work.
Jesus, that will never happen to you.
Jesus, you should never talk like that.
Jesus, kingdoms never come THAT way.

Nope, they never do.

So we try another word. MAYBE.
Maybe God wants me to do the smart thing.
Maybe God needs me to jump start this thing.

That’s what Abraham tried a time or two.
That’s what Sarah tried more than once.
That’s what their grandson Jacob tried over and over again.

That’s what we try, almost every day.
I do, anyway
And even saints, like Bonhoeffer.
They try it, trusting in the grace of God if they’re wrong.


Heavens, that’s what Peter tried more times than he could keep track of.
And some people think that’s what Judas was doing.

Maybe God forgot.
Maybe something happened
While God was trying to do the impossible.
Maybe I need to do this myself.
Maybe I need to do something else.

Lots of maybes get said in church,
But all of them get said by the people who are supposed to be out in front of Jesus,
Throwing down palm branches and cloaks.

None of the maybes get said by God.

Not the Father, not the Son, not the Holy Ghost.

So maybe we’re impatient.
Maybe we’re not bold enough.
Or maybe we’re too timid.
Or maybe, as Jesus said to those who didn’t believe in the resurrection,
We don’t know the power of God.

Nobody did, in either of the scripture lessons.

Not Abraham, not Sarah,
Not Peter, not any of the other disciples,
Not anybody, until after they saw what it could do.

Not anybody, until a child was born to Sarah.
Not anybody, until Jesus carried that cross to Calvary.
Not anybody, until they found an empty tomb.

None of us, though we tried.

And then we said, INCREDIBLE.

Incredible, what God just did.

Incredible, what God can do
Without our help,
And incredible what God can do
With our pathetic help.

Incredible what God can do,
When we think it’s impossible.
Incredible what God can do,
When we think it’s exactly the wrong thing to do.

Incredible what God can do,
With a 99 year old man
And his really old wife.

Incredible what God can do,
With an innocent man,
Killed on a gory cross.
Incredible what God can do,
With a borrowed tomb.

Heavens, and it’s REALLY incredible
What God can do
With blustery, boastful, foot-in-his-mouth Peter.

Incredible what God can do
With a grumpy, uncoordinated, sometimes confused
Always frustrated
60 year old bachelor pastor.

Incredible what God can do
With a handful of faithful people.
God started out with two, Abraham and Sarah.
Jesus started out with 12-
One of them a clout named Peter
One of them a thief named Judas.
One of them a twin named Thomas.

Incredible what God might do
With a tiny congregation
That hardly anybody notices.

Incredible, what God could do with YOU,
No matter how hard you think you’re struggling
Just to keep up,
Just to keep our head above water,
Just to keep the smile on your face,
Just to keep the tears from flowing,
Just to keep from giving up
And giving in.


But how does God do it?

With the last word
That is the first word
In everything about God:

God was faithful
While Abraham was still saying impossible
While Abraham and Sarah were thinking maybe
While Abraham was still saying never,
While Abraham was still trying to get out in front
Of wherever God was going.

God was faithful.

99 years and then some more-
Why, anyone with any sense would give up
But God kept going
And God was faithful
God did the impossible.

And blameless?

Let’s put it this way:
This church is no full of sinners-
We’ve got plenty of room for more.
And so does every other church in town.

We’re not blameless.
Our guardian angels hang their heads.

But Jesus, he was faithful
He died for sinners worse than we can imagine
Even when Peter said

That faithfulness is what saved us,
Made us blameless,
When it was impossible for us to do
All by ourselves.

Faithfulness. Period.

That’s what did it
When God did the impossible.

Faithfulness. Period.
That’s what brings us here,
To this table,
In front of God.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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