Summary: A sermon about how nothing is impossible for God.
The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
October 19, 2008
St. Andrew’s Anglican Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
Our God of the Impossible
In his book, Just As I Am, Billy Graham writes about an encounter in a roadside diner in New Jersey. While he was eating lunch, Graham was “greeted by a big, smiling man whose eyes grew large as he” approached. Graham recounts that the man shouted “Hallelujah,” and grabbed and vigorously shook his hand.
“What an answer to prayer, I was just sitting here praying that I might meet Billy Graham and in you walk. I didn’t even know you were on the East Coast.” The man introduced himself as a preacher from Philadelphia. “I have a great burden on my heart,” he said. “It’s a message that I believe is from the Lord. Billy, you must go on national radio.”
The preacher urged Graham to contact two men who worked in radio. Graham recalls that after that lunch exchange, “I pretty much forgot the whole idea. I was so busy that I could not imagine adding anything to my plate.”
“A few weeks later I was speaking at a conference in Michigan. Two well-dressed strangers approached me and introduced themselves as Fred Dienert and Walter Bennett. These were the two men mentioned by the Philadelphia preacher. They spoke to Graham about their interest in him doing a national radio program.
Graham recounts, “I told Fred and Walter that I appreciated their interest but simply could not do a radio program at the time.” Graham closest advisors agreed – “it was out of the question.”
Later, Graham was in Portland and he reports that “these two extremely persistent men repeatedly lay in ambush to catch me. All they wanted, they claimed was five minutes of my time. I got so irritated with their pestering that sometimes I took a back elevator to avoid them.”
“As I came out of the hotel one night,” continues Graham, “there they were. We want to say good-bye,” one of them said. “We’re leaving tonight for Chicago.”
“All right, fellows, I said laughingly, “if before midnight tonight I should get $25,000 for the purpose of a radio broadcast, I’ll take that as an answer to prayer and be willing to do a national broadcast.”
This all happened nearly sixty years ago and the thought of receiving $25,000 was so incredible that the two men laughed along with Billy Graham before heading to the airport. I went to dollartimes.com and found out that one dollar in 1950 had the buying power of $8.98 in 2008. So, $25,000 in 1950 is equal to over $224,000 today.
That evening, more than 17,000 people gathered at the Billy Graham meeting. Graham told that crowd about Walter Bennett and Fred Dienert and their burden for “broadcasting the Gospel” over radio. He informed the audience of his $25,000 condition and they all had a good laugh.
After the meeting, “a number of people dropped by to greet me,” says Graham. Several of the said they believed that God had spoken to them during the service about helping us go on national radio. They began to leave cash, checks, and pledges. I couldn’t believe it! An associate told Graham that $24,000 had been given that night for radio.
Graham couldn’t believe that this was God’s answer since it was $1000 short, but as he arrived at his hotel the desk clerk handed him two letters. Graham says that the letters were “postmarked two days earlier” and “they were from people I hardly knew.” Two businessmen wrote that they believed Graham should be on the radio and “they wanted to be the first to contribute. Each enclosed a $500 check.”
Still in the hotel lobby, Billy Graham turned to walk to the elevator and saw in his path Walter and Fred. “They had been at the airport, they said, but something told them not to get on the plane.”
That was the beginning of the Hour of Decision. The first broadcast aired on November 5, 1950. “Today it broadcasts the Gospel messages” of “Billy and Franklin Graham around the world” (www.billygraham.org).
Our God routinely does the incredible, even the impossible as we see in our first reading. What might our God of the incredible and impossible do in our lives?
We begin this morning with Abraham at the “oaks of Mamre.” This is the place where Abraham settled after separating from his nephew Lot. Abraham is sitting in his tent when he sees three men. They are standing in front of him, but nothing is said about how they got there or where they came from.
Abraham runs to meet them and bows to them. To one of the three he says, "O Lord, if I
have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. “ (v. 3)