And nothing will be impossible

For the sake, as he sees it, of the ones he preaches to, the preacher is apt to preach the Gospel with the high magic taken out, the deep mystery reduced to a manageable size. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it will be moved and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matt. 17:20). “Come, O blessed of my Father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 35:24). “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). The wild and joyful promise of the Gospel is reduced to promises more easily kept. The peace that passeth all understanding is reduced to peace that anybody can understand. The faith that can move mountains and raise the dead becomes faith that can help make life bearable until death ends it. Eternal life becomes a metaphor for the way the good a man does lives after him. “Blessed is he who takes no offense at me” (Matt. 11:6), Jesus says, and the preacher is apt to seek to remove the offense by removing from the Gospel all that he believes we find offensive. You cannot blame him because up to a point, of course, he is right. With part of ourselves we are offended as he thinks by what is too much for us to believe. We weren’t born yesterday. We are from Missouri.

– From Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale by Frederick Buechner

I don’t know why or how I met him. Maybe we were on one of our well-meaning outreaches and I gave him food; or maybe he asked me for money and I, being the sheltered product of an Asian American upbringing, a confused faith and suburban childhood, didn’t have the heart (or balls?) to ignore him. But he was sitting on a low wall on Channing, it was sunny, I know because even now I can see the light filtering down through the trees above us. He was ragged and dirty, in the way of Berkeley homeless who aren’t just kids who don’t want to live at home anymore, and I thought he was crazy. I must have told him I was a Christian, or he asked because I looked the part, and so he was going on and on about how he’d been in ministry and what he believed. Then he said, “It’s true, you know, about faith. I used to pray, I could pray right now, and that tree there, would bend over and touch the tips of its branches to the ground.”

Maybe he was crazy, but I’ve never quite been able to shake the feeling I had then. I thought of mustard seed sized faith and mountains. And I thought of my own faith, that was more like the kind that gets tossed to and fro by the waves, than the kind that lets you walk on them.


~ by justinhong on January 29, 2015.

One Response to “And nothing will be impossible”

  1. Thank you for reminding me of the beauty in the struggle!

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