Impossible Possibilities

CrossOver reflection for Week Two • Beginning December 9, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 15

by Rev. Donna M.L. Pritchard


Okay, question number one – it’s a “fill in the blank” kind of question. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s _____________________!  That’s right – Superman!

That one may have been a little too easy. So question number two – who teaches us that with great power comes great responsibility? Yes – Spiderman!

Finally, number three. Tell me who this sounds like – Stop a bullet cold, make the axis fold, change their minds and change the world? This one is a little trickier, but the answer is of course, Wonder Woman!

Ah, superheroes – we are all familiar with them, in part because we’ve grown up with them. We might even think we know all about them. For instance, we know that they all have some sort of amazing, and often superhuman, abilities. Perhaps it is X-ray vision, or the power of flight. Maybe they are super strong or super-fast, or have the ability to become invisible at will. They have some amazing abilities, which are combined with an agenda that has something to do with justice and fairness. Our superheroes even seem to maintain a moral code which goes beyond the ordinary level of commitment.

But there is something else these superheroes all have in common, something which I like to call the ability to live out “the art of possibility”. The superheroes of fantasy, fiction, and even of real life all somehow manage to see possibilities where others see only the impossible.

In a way, the season of Advent calls to the “superhero” in each of us, because it asks us to see possibilities where others may only see the impossible. Certainly that was true for Mary, the mother of Jesus, and for her cousin Elizabeth. (See Luke 1:5-45) It is easy to discount their stories of miraculous pregnancies and the babies that spring from them. After all, isn’t it impossible for an old woman, well past child-bearing age to conceive? And a virgin… come on! We all know it is impossible. But as Brian McLaren puts it:

But what if that’s the point? What if the purpose of these stories is to challenge us to blur the line between what we think is possible and what we think is impossible? Could we ever come to a time when swords would be beaten into plowshares? When God’s justice would flow like a river – to the lowest and most ‘god-forsaken’ places on Earth? When the brokenhearted would be comforted and the poor would receive good news? If you think “Never – it’s impossible!”, then maybe you need to think again. Maybe it’s not too late for something beautiful to be born. Maybe the present moment is pregnant with possibilities we can’t see or even imagine. (We Make the Road by Walking, pg.68-69)

We can – each of us – choose to live a new way, seeing what is possible instead of focusing on what we find impossible. We can trust in God’s presence when we can see it and even when we cannot. We can focus on abundance rather than scarcity, on hope instead of fear, and on rejoicing rather than despairing. My friends, God does not expect us to be super-human. But I believe God is inviting us to become super-heroic, seeing possibilities where others may only see what is impossible.

The Christmas story would go nowhere without Mary’s willingness to do just that. Consider, if you will:

Is there anything about your church right now that feels “pregnant with possibility”?

Who do you think can help you to see possibilities where you may only notice the impossible?

Prayer for the day:

Amen, God… usually we say it at the end of our prayers. But today, I say it right up front, in the beginning, to remind me of Mary and Elizabeth, of all those heroic ones who help me see beyond the impossible and remind me of your possibilities every day. Amen… “So be it”… with me this day.


Rev. Donna M.L. Pritchard, Senior Pastor of Portland First UMC, believes that faith ought to be a pathway to joy!  As a pastor, she helps create a deep sense of joy in spiritual growth, compassion, and social justice ministries. When not working, Donna loves spending time with her two adult daughters, walking her Corgi, laughing with friends, painting silk, playing the piano, traveling and reading “just for fun”.

Donna also serves as Chair of the Western Jurisdiction’s Leadership Team, and as a member of the Commission on a Way Forward for The United Methodist Church.

Comments (7)

  • Donna, thanks for your hope. Traveling the US has set me beside some very literal biblical folks and lowered my hope for a UMC moving forward. The One Church Plan seems even too much to hope for. However, I appreciate others holding out and inviting hope. As I often say to those in the midst of grief, I will hold hope for you until you notice it again for yourself. Perhaps we do that in this Advent season of looking for light in the dark: one blind beggar showing another where to find what is necessary for the next moment.

  • Bonnie Parr Philipson

    Thank you Donna for your words and your witness, both full of grace and sorely needed.
    Blessings, Bonnie Parr Philipson

  • We are a Lay-Led United Methodist Church congregation. We have been asked by a bible study group meeting to use our Church for Sunday Morning Worship beginning December 16th. This definitely falls under the “pregnant with possibilities”.

  • One of my favorite scripture verses is Matthew 19:26. The people listening to Jesus talking about the Kin-dom of God ask Jesus, “What must we do to enter the Kin-dom?” The next verse says ” Jesus looked at them carefully and said ” it is impossible for human beings, but all things are possible for God”. In God are all the possibilities we could ever hope for. God is my super hero.

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