Readings are here.
Paul makes me laugh sometimes when I read his letters. This line from this week is an example:
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.
As good as dead. Paul thinks that being old is the same as dead but praises Abraham's faith nevertheless.
How many times do I limit myself by thinking I am "good as dead" or "too barren" to take on one more thing. All through the Bible we have examples of people who don't think they have what it takes to do a new thing. Moses thinks he can't go to Pharaoh because he has a speech impediment. Gideon thinks his tribe is too small, too week and too insignificant to accomplish anything. David's family thinks he is too young to be the one chosen to be anointed king.
There are people in our world who might allow themselves to think this way - too small, too insignificant, too handicapped, wrong color. Stephen Hawking could have given in to his disability but still he uses his mind and communicates his thoughts that affect the whole world of science. Beethoven became deaf but continued to write music.
On a chilly windy day at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday October 22, Amy Palmerio-Winters, of Meadville, PA shattered another marathon record for female amputee runners. Running on two broken toes not completely healed on her non-amputated leg, and spending Thursday and Friday in the hospital due to anaphylactic shock, Ms. Palmerio-Winters finished the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in a time of 3 hours 4 minutes and 16 seconds placing 34th in her age group and 148th in the entire field of able-bodied female marathoners.
Our new president and his wife could have allowed themselves to be limited because of race but with support from those around them they are now in the White House. Other names come to mind, Lance Armstrong who overcame cancer, Jim Brady who was wounded by a gun shot, Nelson Mandela who spent years in a South African prison did not emerge bitter but became a statesman who continues to try to lead people in the ways of compassion.
Bishop Tutu was born in a township of South Africa - with out much chance of attaining anything in life. He thought as a child that life was just that way. Black people were down and white people were up. One day he was looking out the window and his mother was down on the street sweeping the step. A white clergyman walked by and tipped his hat - the action of seeing his mother treated as an equal changed his life.
These stories make me think that there are two parts to overcoming our limitations. One is not accepting limits but the other is our role in encouraging those who might feel limited by their life circumstances. This is not to say there are not real limitations that cannot be overcome. Before 1974 women could not become priests in the Episcopal Church no matter how much they believed themselves called. People worked for years to make it possible for women to become priests and 20 years ago this week Barbara Harris became the first woman bishop. Black children were not allowed to attend schools with white children before many people died and struggled to open that door. Gay men and lesbians are still struggling to have their relationships honored and upheld in the same way as others. But these examples testify to the need of the community to help open the doors for all to use the gifts the creator has given to each of us.
Faith is what Paul commends and is the source of Jesus' rebuke to Peter. Faith to see that we often limit ourselves and others unnecessarily. As individuals we are invited to step into a world where all things are possible and as a community we are called to make that happen.
Image from Georgia Cawley.
And someone sent me this video from youtube.