I am surrounded by Giants fans. Serious Giants fans. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a rabid baseball fan - in as much as I like sports, football is what stirs my excitement. But with all of me that enjoys baseball, my team is the Giants. And for the past month, the excitement has been building. First, it was whether or not the Giants were going to make the playoffs at all. Then, it was beating the Braves, then the Phillies. Finally, the Rangers, who most people said were the favorites. All along, through what my Giants fan-friends coined "torture," they kept believing, kept hoping, that against all odds it wasn't just possible that the Giants would win, but that they were going to win. Tonight, as I listened to a scratchy AM broadcast on KGO 680 as Brian Wilson threw a final strike to make the Giants World Series champs, I stood to my feet and pumped my fists in the air. Hope had been realized.
But for a lot of people, they refused to believe that the Giants could or would do it, doubting whether or not the Giants could put together enough offense to go with the pitching. If I've learned anything about sports in the 5-6 years that I've cared about them, it's that there's always something to complain about, always something to doubt.
In my bible reading today, I began the Book of Luke. And in reading through chapter 1, I found this same pattern in the responses of Zechariah and Mary in how we respond when God tells us something hard to believe. Zechariah, when he is sent into the temple to offer incense, when he is confronted by God's messenger, Gabriel:
"But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”" (Luke 1:13-18)
Zechariah had every reason to be incredulous - every sign that he could see pointed in the opposite direction! He and his wife both were senior citizens, well past the age of bearing children. But nevertheless, Gabriel tells, Zechariah, what he has said will come to pass - but Zechariah is struck mute because he thought what Gabriel was telling him was too good to be true. How often do I respond with the same incredulity! When God tells me that I am his beloved Child, and that I can call him "Abba, Father," I shrink back, thinking that surely I cannot come so boldly before so amazing a King. Or when Jesus promises tells us to trust Him to provide for our needs, and to "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matt. 6:26), I shrink back, half-heartedly believing, but at the same time making sure that I'm making my own "safety net" in case God doesn't come through. What grace that God loves us through our hesitations!
But juxtaposed with Zechariah's response is Mary's response - who, when confronted by the angel Gabriel and told that she will give birth to the descendant of David, the eternal King of Israel, replies this way: "“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled”" (Luke 1:38). In her response is a confidence - not in herself, but in the God who has spoken. This doesn't mean that she wasn't afraid, or that she knew even the full significance of what was conveyed to her that day in Nazareth. But she knew the one who was speaking, and believed, even though everything in her pointed in the opposite direction, that the God who spoke to her had the power to bring to fruition what He said he would do.
How do we respond when God tells us something too good to be true? I pray that by grace we may, when addressed by the God "who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not" (Romans 4:17), respond as Mary did: "I am the Lord's servant... May your word be to me as you have said." See you soon.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." (Matthew 7:24-25)