Sunday, October 14, 2012

doing the impossible

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May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

That verse from today's Gospel puts me in mind of a summer I spent working with my father. The same year I finished my first year of university my father was made redundant. He had worked in Ford's in Cork and when the plant closed in the mid-80s that was the end of his working life. He was in his mid-50s and this was a time when fresh-faced college grads couldn't get a job. By the time the Celtic tiger rolled around he was well into his 70s.

My Dad didn't feel sorry for himself. My parents had always been careful with money. The house was paid for. The children were almost grown. He and my mother had both worked for many years in England and the US & so had bits of pensions coming in from various sources. He got a very good redundancy package which went straight into the bank as a nest-egg for any rainy days that might crop up. My mother was a nurse & while she didn't have a full-time job, she was able to get quite a bit of part-time work evenings and weekends. So there was no financial worries.

Looking back it is extraordinary to think how well my Dad coped. He wasn't much older than I am now. All of the men from Ford's who lost their jobs that day knew, given the economic climate of the time that there would be no chance of another job for a good many years, until the economy picked up … & those past a certain age knew it meant this was the end of their working lives. I don't know how his peers managed, but I never once heard my Dad grumble.

My Dad had left school at 14 to train as a car mechanic. But the truth was he had always wanted to be a carpenter. There was no carpentry apprenticeships available when he left school, so he took what there was, and worked hard at it, and did very well at it. But he always enjoyed working with wood & was always making little things  … bedside lockers … the box with a lid that sat on our door step for the milk so that the sparrows couldn't peck away the tin foil to get at the cream … little square boxes for nails and screws that he kept in the garage …

But this summer, he really through himself into his passion for working with wood … and he decided to make built in wardrobes in the bedrooms and fitted cabinets in the living room and the dining room … and I'm not quite sure how the decision was arrived at, but it was decided that this summer I wouldn't get a summer job but would be his assistant!

Since my part in the affair largely consisted of carrying and holding things, it didn't require much aptitude or skill … and since my father was always such a neat and precise worker it was a pleasure to watch him work … he was very much a measure twice cut once kind of guy … never once did we end up with a door too short or too narrow or even the tiniest bit off square …

But of course the day came when my Dad wanted me to do a bit more than just watch … I'm sure you all know those fiddly kind of spring-loaded hinges that are used on cabinet doors … I believe that is the technical term for them … the sort that require some counter sinking into the wood of the door in order to fit them … well, with all the doors we were putting up, there was quite a lot of these fiddly hinges … and to speed things up, my Dad thought it would be a good idea to get his 'helper' to put some of them on …

Except, maybe it wasn't such a good idea … because the 'brainy' college student looked at these odd-looking bits of metal, all shiny with springs and adjusting screws and seemingly way too many holes for screwing them into the wood than could possibly be needed and had no more idea how they could ever be attached to the door and frame in such a way that it all worked than he had of flying an alien space-craft … maybe less, because at least I was a fan of science-fiction movies and had seen a variety of those being driven! Try as I might, it just didn't seem possible to make them work.

But what was to the clumsy college student impossible, was possible for the car-mechanic who had always wanted to be a carpenter. Calmly and gently he showed me … the wardrobes and cabinets were finished … where they remain to this day, over 30 years later, working as well now as they did then.

‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
Now, I'm not ascribing to my Dad god-like powers, but I do think what Jesus was talking about with his disciples that day and what my Dad showed me that day with the hinges is a little bit alike. We think things are impossible and we want to give up … but with the right help not only are they possible, we find that we can actually make a good job of it. There are a lot of 'hard teachings' in the Bible … sometimes they seem so hard that we think they can't be lived up to … but with the right help they can be … with God's help … but of course, we have to want his help … 

Saying it is impossible and then neither asking for nor accepting help ensures that it is impossible for us … but if we ask for his help and take it when it is given – always trusting that it will be given – then what seems impossible is possible … because Jesus assured us all things are possible … the hard teachings that we find difficult to accept, and even harder to live out, will not stand in the way of our salvation … because Jesus told us that for God all things are possible … even helping us to live up to that which we think is impossible … and I ask that you will pray for me that just as with my Dad I did what seemed impossible and got those hinges on, so too in my life I will achieve the seemingly impossible things that our heavenly Father asks of us … even as I will pray the same for you: in the name of God: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon notes for 14 October 2012 (19th after Trinity) 

1 comment:

  1. This was impossibly sweet. Your father sounds a lot like my grandfather. True examples of Christ without thinking twice. He, too, loved carpentry. Never, thankfully, tried to enlist me, though. :)