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Inconceivable! Lenten Devotions

Saturday, April 23

Macaw One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. Vizzini, who is in charge of the bandits who kidnap the princess-to-be, repeatedly exclaims, “Inconceivable!” They discover that they are being followed by a boat: “Inconceivable!” Their pursuer follows them up a giant cliff: “Inconceivable!”

Like Vizzini, our lives are filled with moments that make us stop, frozen where we are, shake our heads, and mutter, “Inconceivable!” Something huge happens, and we have to pause to regain our composure and reconstruct our understanding of what’s normal and possible.

Sometimes, we are stunned by the wonder and beauty that surrounds us. Several macaws frequently fly by my office in Miami, and I look up to see their yellow bellies soaring overhead. It’s amazing, inconceivable even, that I live in this (sub)tropical wonderland. 

But other moments overwhelm us with a sense of helpless grief. Every time I turn off the turnpike onto the street that leads to my house, someone walks between the cars at the stoplight, asking for spare change. I try to remember to keep granola bars in my car or to have dollar bills with me, so I have at least a small offering. One day, I had a chocolate cake with me, so I gave that to the man walking between cars. He looked at me like that was ridiculous, inconceivable.

It’s easy to become numb to this kind of inconceivable—the poverty you can’t miss on urban streets, the pain of disease and mental illness, the brokenness of relationships. It’s too much. The ache of so much gone wrong in the world leaves us overwhelmed and paralyzed. And so we try to drown out the growling stomachs of children. We watch YouTube videos of kittens and laughing babies, while we ignore stories of oil-strewn coastlines, tsunami-ravished towns, earthquake-flattened homes, and violent suppressions of uprisings across the world.

In the passage from Luke 18, Jesus tells the disciples exactly what is going to happen during this time. He lays it out for them, plain and simple. But they’re so caught up in the frenzy of Jesus’ ministry—parables, teachings, healings, crowds, and Passover. Jesus’ words about his impending capture, torture, death, and resurrection are just too much, just inconceivable. In the middle of all that activity, how can they possibly understand that what Jesus has foretold will again deliver God’s people, this time from slavery to sin and death and hopelessness?

Because we know more of this story than the disciples did that day, we approach this holiest of weeks knowing that all kinds of crazy stuff is about to happen. We encounter the sacred moments of foot-washing and holy meals with awestruck, humbling wonder. We find ourselves crushed in that garden, stunned at the betrayal of one we love. We hide when things get too scary, buckling under the weight of the pain and hopelessness. We sit in grief—still, silent, soul-wrenching grief. We go to visit the tomb, determined to confront the darkness. And with Mary, we stop, frozen where we are, shake our heads—remembering what we know about Christ, and finally fully realizing that life defeats death, love conquers hate, and God continually makes all things new. And we mutter, “Inconceivable!”

Rev. Beth Bostrom is the United Methodist campus minister at the University of Miami.

Photo credit: dracobotanicus


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